Okay, I've sold a short story to EQMM and my novel is coming out in a few months and a sequel is 80% written, and moving along better than I expected. In the last two years I've probably written more than half the agents registered with the AAR (is that right? Association of Author Representatives?) My return is about 10% and all of 'em have been . . . "We're sorry . . ."
So, my question is, what's my next move? There are a couple of small publishers that are interested in my sequel, so it's not like I can't sell it, but I think an agent would get me a better deal.
While I sip my mojito and smoke my cigar, I will gladly sit here with you and listen to your ideas. I appreciate your time and insight.

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Who's publishing your novel?
Jude, Five Star - Gayle. One of the many small publishers that will look at unagented writers and do it all via email!
With a novel published, you should be able to get an agent. And an EQMM credit is also nothing to sneeze at. If you plan to continue publishing you will need an agent. Some publishers insist on it. Try again.
I agree with Jude and I. J. -- with a published novel and EQMM credits, an agent shouldn't be a problem.

My suggestion, look at some agents who aren't registered with AAR. There are a lot of good agents who aren't members of that organization. Try checking with MWA or ITW, or running a search on either Publishers Marketplace or Writer's Market for agents in your specific genre.

Good luck! :)
Joyce, thank you. I will give it a try tonight. I have checked it out and it looks good. Thanks for the info.
This is true. A great query can make an agent request your grocery list.
Michael, the EQMM sale and Five Star book gives you enough credibility for agents to take you seriously, so it's one of two things:

1) your query letter isn't making your book sound compelling enough
2) agents aren't finding your book commercial enough to want to take on

If you decide the reason is (1), then the solution is easier--keep working on the query letter until you have something that you feel will be compelling to agents--something that tells them why your book will be an easy/lucrative sale for them. Maybe post your query letter here to get feedback. If you decide the problem is (2) then you need to start working on a more commerical book. With every new project you can go back to agents you've queried before--remember, they're looking for books they think they can sell, not to keep new writers locked out (as it might sometimes appear!)

--Dave
Dave, thanks for taking the time to reply. Since I am almost done with the sequel, I think I will come up with a slicker query. I hope that's the problem and not the story. I usually get a reply that doesn't seem copied, but original. Keep plugging away, I guess that's the secret.
Thanks, again,
Michael
Jon, I think we've heard back from some of the same agents! That or they have stock replies.
My understanding is that it's often harder to get an agent than it is to get a publisher, even with a book behind you. Your relationship with an agent is quite different, and I think they're rather selective about who they want to take on because you'll have a lot more communication with an agent. I heard one say on a panel in 2005 at Harrogate that sometimes they'll read a person's work and not be sure, then meet with them and decide "Okay, I can do something with this guy." So it seemed to me personality was a factor for some.

Dave Z's already put down what I would suggest. And Jon has hit on a reality of the business - you can have a book with all the potential to sell and get a contract with a NY publisher and still have agents who don't "get" it. My journey through the selling phase when my agent started shopping my work has been an eye-opener. Most of the responses, completely contradictory. One loves the characters, thinks the plot is weak. The next thinks the characters could use work but the plot is fantastic. Getting everything to line up and fall into place feels a bit like having all the numbers in the lotto draw.
Sandra has a gem hidden in her first paragraph. Have you been to one of the major (or minor) writer's conferences? To many, they probably seem like a waste of time and money, but I found it to be an incredible source of info and experience. You will meet agents and editors who are interested in our genre, get face time with them, give them informal (or formal) pitches. I was at Killer Nashville, which is a tiny one, and I've hopefully met the agent that will skyrocket my career. I am so energized that I'm going to the Columbus Writer's Conference this weekend, and maybe Sleuthfest in February.
Terry, I have been to SleuthFest four or five times and agree with you about the conferences. I believe you get back what you put into them.

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