Since this is going to be a long trek into the wilderness, I might as well discuss what it is exactly that we are looking for. And since you have taken the time to come with me, you need to be aware of what the future holds. The process of seeking representation is a long, tedious one. One that will require thick skin, patience, hope and a series of distractions as to not physically assault the post man when he isn’t particularly kind to me in his daily deliveries. They say don’t shoot the messenger, but he’s just standing there, letter in hand, delivering me the news. I’m kidding, of course.
The first step is to create a query letter. If you are not familiar with this term, let me enlighten you. For someone who has spent the time, effort, and research into writing a 300 page novel, it is the scariest thing imaginable. It is your pitch. Your one shot. It is one page that describes why an agent should waste their time on you and your manuscript. It consists of an introduction paragraph, the pitch (something similar to what would appear on the jacket cover of the book when published), a little bit about you (particular daunting if you have no previous writing to mention, contests you’ve won, or a degree that has remote chance of sparking their interest), a thanks for reading, and the end. You must “wow” them in order to reach step two. From my research, this is where a large percentage of your letters will stop. Pollyanna attitude says, “If they weren’t impressed, they are not the agent for me. I will continue to search for the one that believes in my idea and will join me on the path to deliver the book to the world.”
Step two is a request for a partial. The agent read the query letter and either was really impressed, having a slow day (unlikely, I’ve heard of agents going through over 100 query letters in a week), or a momentary lack of judgment; and then requested that you send her more pages. Some want the first 30 or 50 pages, others first three chapters and a synopsis, or any combination of things depending on their personal style. You’re foot is in the door, but you haven’t been asked to sit down; you are just kind of gawking at them awkwardly waiting, waiting on the nod or the shaking of the head. And you may be waiting a while.
Step three is a request for a full. The agent read the partial pages submitted, and asked that you send her the whole thing. This was that nod you were waiting on. This is big. She has asked that you sit down, but don’t get too comfortable. She may need that chair in case something better walks in. She is not committed to you, and you can very easily get a “no’ at this stage as quickly as you could at any other. And from what I hear and can only imagine, this is the most painful no. They read it; can’t just blame it on a poorly written query letter – it was the book that turned them off.
Step four; yea, let’s give it a shot. She liked it! She wants to sell it, and she sees potential. Doesn’t mean a publisher will, but now someone else believes in you. Exhale for a brief moment; this is a proud moment. Book is not on the shelves, but you now actually have a real shot of seeing it happen. She will walk you through the steps from here, not me. I have no idea… I’m still on step one.