Worldcon Panel: How I Got My Agent

with Joshua Bilmes, J. Kathleen Cheney, Courtney Schafer, and Bryce Moore.

There were a wide variety of ways these people gained their agent. Joshua Bilmes is an agent, and he reps Bryce Moore.

Bryce began in a writing group with Brandon Sanderson, one of Joshua’s clients. He spent years sending books to Joshua while he also subbed other agents. An editor ultimately offered him a deal, and Joshua took him on.

Courtney went the route of sending a query, partial, and then full to Becca Stump, who reps her. After some revising, there was an offer of representation.

Jeannette (J. Kathleen Cheney) signed up for a pitch with her dream agent at a convention.

One of the things all the panelists agreed upon is that doing any research into the world of agents is a plus. Many people just send work out into the universe.

Make sure you have a finished book. A finished fiction book. That is your best work. And then you can think about submitting.

Where do you get information about which agents to pursue. Query was brought up, as well as Locus Spreadsheets. Look at agents who rep clients who write like you. Look at agents whose writing you like. The Internet has made this a whole lot easier, although Internet information can be a tad out of date.

It’s one thing to have the right agent. It’s another to have any agent.

There are ways to make sure you are getting a quality agent. SFWA has the Writer Beware page. There’s Preditors and Editors. Also, you can check to see if the agent is a member of AAR.

You can also look in author acknowledgements to see if their agent is for you. You can also ask authors about their agents.

When you send a query, it’s a good idea to know material that is similar to your work.

Joshua mentioned that representation at his agency isn’t just about sales. It can be about passion and communicating.

Getting an agent. PERSISTENCE is key. Write your query. Do your research. Send out in batches of 5-10. Nudging after a certain amount of time is allowed. Don’t forget to keep writing.

Joshua mentioned that his agency, JABberwocky gets hundreds of queries each month. And they ask for material from fewer than 10 percent. And then about 1 percent is selected. JABberwocky is kind of picky.

What should be in a query? It should be one page. It should be formatted like a letter. Talk about yourself as related to the project, and the manuscript. Don’t misspell the agent’s name.

Joshua’s agency focuses on building a relationship that will last beyond one book.

Jeannette mentions the pitch. Interestingly, ninety percent of the people don’t follow up on partial requests from the pitch. Jeannette says if you can’t think on your feet, don’t pitch.

You can meet agents at conventions.

Joshua emphasized that he is making his decision in part based on his perception of you.

Bryce knows you will have nerves, but be yourself. And don’t feel you have to weasel your book into the conversation.

Write a query letter that represents you.

What can an agent do for you?
Negotiates first book, interfaces with publisher, works with cover art, foreign rights, payments. They understand the legalese of publishing. And all this for 15 percent.

Alternately, there is the Dean Wesley Smith method.

Does self publishing help? Jury is still out on that one.

Agents can help you with your backlist.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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