Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Query Question: Asking for a referral

I have a realistic assessment of who will want to work with a 40-year-old first time novelist, but I found an experienced senior agent whose interests map well onto my manuscript (science-heavy coming of age romance in a foreign country). I feel too humble to think she will want to deal with me, but I sure would like to know if she has a recommendation for someone less busy who might have more time to invest in a rookie.

Should I include this sentence: I understand that you have a large book of existing clients. If you have to pass, I would greatly appreciate any suggestion you might have for an agent who may be more actively looking for new books.

Or does that sound amateurish/nuts? 


First of all, and let me say this as plainly as I can while striking you on the head with a cluestick: you do NOT have a "realistic assessment" of anything here. Nor could you. You've probably never been inside an agent's office, let alone worked with one.  Repeat after me: "I am clueless."



Then say this: "I will never ever ever again assume that I am less than exactly what an "experienced senior agent is looking for." Repeat as often as needed.

I see this in women more than men, and too often in writers of all genders: some sort of assumption that you are asking for a favor by querying your manuscript. You're not. You're offering your work for representation in what we both hope will be a mutually fulfilling endeavor. Often that turns out not to be the case but it's the starting point for every query.  Don't assume failure. Don't assume you're not worthy. BE FUCKING WORTHY (ie be prepared.)

Oh, and as to your question: don't ask for a referral.  If any agent offers one, you say thanks and act on it immediately but don't ask.  Agents are actually the worst people to ask since most often you know more about what agents are looking for than her friends do.

Now, put the clue stick away and get back to querying.

13 comments:

Stephanie Faris said...

Once an author is published, we get strange questions from other writers all the time. "Can I interview your agent to see if an agent is right for me?" Um...NO. "I'm trying to find an agent who can give me feedback on my book. Can you refer me to one?" What? I'm not sure people understand what an agent does but all of this goes back to one thing--stop and learn the business first. Go to conferences. Read books. Then when you start querying agents, you'll be a professional.

french sojourn said...

Somewhere in the background the dim echo of...

"You are not a beggar at the banquet of publishing"

is reverberating off the belfry, as hooded night winged rats in drag leave their perch.



Susan Bonifant said...

Every time Janet Reid uses the F-word in a response, I know she means business.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hummmmm...I am worthy, I am worthy, Hummmmm...I am worthy, I am worthy, but, but, Hummmmm...am I worthy? Yes little wild flower, you are worthy, because hummmmm...Janet said so, the great Janet said so...

Joyce Tremel said...

The part that got me about this question was her thinking 40 years old was too old to be a first time novelist.

Um. No. A thousand times no. Believe me, I know.

donnaeverhart.com said...

The age thing stuck out for me too... well, and the "f" bomb!

Every day I learn something new, so I'm still beating myself with a cluestick.

Colin Smith said...

As a forty-something as-yet-unpublished novelist, I did a double-take on that first line. I think Janet has previously alluded to the best way for your age not to matter: DON'T MENTION IT! I've yet to come across an agent who requires you to state your age as part of their querying guidelines.

And another pearl of wisdom from the Janet Reid archive: "You are not a g-d beggar at the banquet of publishing."

All of us out here in searching-for-an-agent land come from all ages, colors, creeds, and social skills. The only thing we have to set us apart is our writing. I'm counting on the fact that if I write an awesome book, an awesome agent will want it. :)

William Plante said...

Bam!

Dan McFadden said...

Again, a strong advocate for us writers! Thanks Janet...and OMG, you think 40 is old? Give it another 20 years!

LynnRodz said...

Like Joyce, Donna and a few others reading that first line.... *Sigh* Sometimes I wish I wasn't so damn nice and just say what I think! Sometimes I do, and then I'm called a "sarcastic bitch!" Oh well, those are my good days!

Unknown said...

My question got selected for Query Question! I loved getting beat with the cluestick. And the motivational cursing. Thanks, Janet.

Julie Dawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alaskaravenclaw said...

I was 41 when my first novel was published. I considered myself neither too young nor too old for the job. Why go hunting for reasons to feel inadequate?