A fellow agent, Rachelle Gardner, recently posted a fantastic blog, “The Top Ten Query Mistakes.” She reiterated many things that most agents have said (including myself) at conferences, in rejection letters, and in discussions about the query process. In an industry where there is a 99.9% rejection rate, following the advice of publishing professional is to any author’s advantage.
As for the basic etiquette with agent interactions, please do the following:
1. Use email to contact an Agent initially. Due to the many resources on the internet and in print, any author can easily find what categories an Agent represents. Doing a book pitch over the Agent’s voicemail isn’t the best use of any writer’s time, plus the possibility of getting a returned call is next to nil.
2. Don’t call the Agent once the materials have been received. A quick email asking if the materials arrived will do. Also, assume it’ll be a few weeks before any official evaluation of material is received (depending on the agent & time of the year).
3. Don’t send gifts – please. I am not joking that candy, swag, and even a margherita mix have been included with unsolicited and requested materials. Yes, the thought is nice, but this type of gifting will not influence any Agent’s decision. Agents ONLY care about the writing.
4. Remember that Agents ARE approachable. We can’t do this job without YOU, the writer. However, we only request any writer follows the general submission guidelines for our agencies, that’s all.
5. While Agents are approachable, please respect our time too. I’m not the only person who was pitched a book idea in the bathroom at a conference. It’s good to assume that if there are holidays, a non-literary social gathering, and/or a trip to the bathroom, that approaching an Agent about one’s book idea (and needing an immediate answer) is NOT a good practice.
6. As iterated on the Red Sofa Literary blog already, don’t take the Agent response too personally. This is a business, a highly competitive one at that. Any Agent needs to be highly selective on representative projects, as time and money wouldn’t allow him/her to represent every idea that crosses the desk. Use the many resources available to find the best Agents for your book, and learn (how to improve your idea) from the rejections. Once again, the Author will have a better experience, I promise.