(Blog #2 of 5 Blogs to Agented!)
I have been there, trust me. I have gotten the promising e-mails, I have done the waiting, I have gotten my hopes up, I have revised and resubmitted, I have waited more.... Sometimes it's hard to say where you are in the process (As they say in Vermont, Hard Saying, not knowing...) but there ways to tell you are getting closer to landing a literary agent...
#1: We have all read the kabitzing on various Internet threads and blogs, the 'all I ever get is form rejections' talk. And there is a lot of truth to these comments: When you are not close to getting a literary agent, what you will get in response to your query letter is form rejections and--even worse--the dreaded no-reply. Take this as a sign: Your query isn't piquing anyone's interest. The first sign you are getting closer to finding an agent is getting submission requests. But keep something in mind: getting few requests doesn't mean your manuscript isn't good; it is an indictment of your query letter--revise it. A good query letter is worth ten times its weight in gold, and is very unlikely to be the product of your first attempt at writing it. Here is the link to a fantastic resource on Writing A Query Letter.
#2: After careful revision, your query letter has landed you several submission requests--and raised your expectations greatly. This is where it gets tricky, because the response you get--or don't get--reflects what the agent thinks of your manuscript. Keep something in mind: an agent will request a hundred manuscripts (and sometimes many more than that) for every one she ends up signing. Hearing nothing back (and yes I got plenty of No Responses back at this level) means you are not close; getting form rejections means you are not close. If, however, you get any personalized response, feedback of any kind, this means you are getting close. Agents are busy people, very busy people: If one takes the time to give you feedback, it means your manuscript has real potential. Listen to the feedback; don't get defensive. Listen and Revise.#3 Even better than personalized feedback is getting a Revise and Resubmit request. In this case, the agent is giving you specific guidelines along which to revise your ms and asking you to send the revised manuscript back to her when you are done. This means she has spent a significant amount of time on your work, and it indicates a high level of interest. But keep two things in mind: don't resubmit until you have done the revisions in earnest, and don't count your chickens before the eggs have hatched--she may not like the revisions, or she may have lost interest in the project for a variety of reasons, including signing something similar in the interim (it happens, trust me.)
#4 The phone call. Quite obviously, a phone call from an agent indicates a high level of interest, but the converse of this is the point I am making here: It is unlikely you are going to get an offer without getting a phone call first. The other point I would make is: Getting a call is not a sure sign you will be getting an offer, it is just one of the steps you take along the way to a contract. Phone calls are great signs for three reasons: one, they are unusual in a business done primarily with e-mails; two, they are time consuming in a business where time is a precious commodity; three, they raise expectations in a business where expectation management is taken very seriously. If you get a phone call, you are getting very, very close. Here is a hint on taking the call: be yourself, relax (easy to say) and let the agent do most of the talking. I was very nervous the first time I spoke with an agent on the phone, and I made a mess of it (and didn't get an offer from her.) Be who you are! And let's hope the whole process culminates in a:
And enjoy signing the contract. Use your favorite pen, play Chariots of Fire on your stereo, eat dark chocolate, drink a martini. You've earned it. Congratulations.
I hope you found that helpful, and please contact me if you have any question on the process. I am always happy to help someone in his or her quest to land an agent. In case you missed Blog#1 of the 5 part series, here it is: How to Find An Agent (Without Duct Tape.) And good luck! Cheers.
Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at email@example.com.