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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I know some look at them as a waste of time and money, but in my opinion, it's like going to trade school for any other career. What I learned my first few conferences has helped me navigate the waters now with more confidence.
Hey Terry, I'm a speaker for the Columbus conference this weekend. If you get the chance stop by and introduce yourself, or better yet, drop in on one of my presentations. I'm also on a panel with Murder She Wrote writer,Tom Sawyer.

By the way, there are a few agents attending this weekend who are pretty sharp.

I hope to see you there.
Sandra, you are right about the personal touch and what it can accomplish.
Michael, you're getting good responses here. Don't be discouraged. The part of the business is utterly alien to most writers, unless they know both sales techniques and the quirks of the publishing industry. So we have a whole culture to learn, and for some reason the industry guards the knowledge of its secretive ways.

Yes, you need an agent. I'm going to sound like a broken record, but I strongly recommend taking a look at annemini.com, and clicking the right-hand-column index links for entries on query letters, agent acquisition and the varieties of pitching an author must do to find an agent and a publisher.

Anne's expertise in pitch preparation - and the different situations in which each type of pitch is used - is just plain remarkable. She is a firm advocate of attending conferences to meet agents eyeball to eyeball to find the right agent.

And she's fun to read - a cheerful cross between Miss Snark and Miss Manners.
Tom, thanks for your advice. I am going to check out annemini.com as soon as I get home.
While it's absolutely, entirely possible to get an agent without going to conferences (and most authors do), since the subject's come up, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a little plug to the event I'm planning for New York in November - two one-day back-to-back seminars of panel discussions and workshops with ONLY agents on the program - 23 at the moment, along with two editors: Mark Tavani of Random House and Daniela Rapp of St. Martin's (though the program's by no means full, and as soon as all of the agents get back from their August vacations, we're expecting the number to climb to at least 30).

Basically, we're putting a bunch of authors and agents in a room and letting them have at it! Seriously, I learned tons from our last event, and I'm not even looking for an agent. Check it out if you're anywhere near New York:

Michael, I thought this was too much on point not to post (with permission, of course) for the wider audience.

Mini makes the point - often, because most of us don't want to believe it - that even good, saleable work is often rejected by an agency's Designated First Reader (hereafter known as Millicent, a latte-sipping recent grad in Comparative Lit). There are two reasons for this tendency to reject. First, Millicent has to get through one big honkin' slushpile every day, every week, every month. Second, she has reason to believe that if she finds a flaw early in a submission, it indicates more flaws to come - and she doesn't have time to putz, so she stops reading after the first irritant, rejects the MS, and moves on.

It's better described by Mini herself in her blog of Thursday, Aug. 23, exerpted here from annemini.com:

Agents and editors do not read like other people.

Do I hear some guffawing out there? “Come on, Anne,” I hear the odd skeptic calling from the gallery, “give us a little credit for paying attention. Of course, they don’t read like other people, or at any rate don’t read submissions that way: while the rest of us read for pleasure, they read for business. Whether they pick up a book or not is not merely a matter of whether they LIKE it, but whether they think they can SELL it.”
My, but the skeptics are articulate today, aren’t they?
And smart: all of this is indeed true. However, there is another immense difference between the way professional readers and other book-lovers scan a manuscript. When your garden-variety reader picks up a book, she will generally read a few pages, a chapter, or even the entire book before making up her mind about it, right? Even if she doesn’t like one of the characters, or finds an aspect of the premise improbable, she will usually give the book a chance to change her mind.
Professional readers, on the other hand — and that includes not just editors like me, but agents, their screeners, and pretty much everyone in a position to say yea or nay on acquiring a manuscript for publication — read a manuscript line by line, especially at first. Then page by page.
And if something in one of those lines, or on one of those pages strikes them as off, they will stop.
Now, when an editor stops reading a manuscript she’s already acquired, it’s generally to write suggestions on the manuscript page; when an agent is perusing an already-signed client’s work, that tends to be the case, too.
But in a submission, it’s not the agent or editor’s goal to improve the manuscript: it’s to decide whether they want to take it on.
Which is precisely why the VAST majority of submissions are not read beyond the first page.
If this is news to you — in my bones, I felt a number of you clutching your hearts immediately after I typed that — I implore you to set aside a couple of hours before the next time you submit to read through the FIRST PAGES AGENTS DISLIKE category at right.
It may be a trifle depressing to see just how many ways a first page can garner rejection, but winnowing out the factors that tend to provoke a knee-jerk reaction in our old pal, Millicent the agency screener, will improve your submission’s chances of getting past her to the agent of your dreams markedly.
The fact is, agency screeners and editorial assistants are generally told to stop reading as soon as a red flag flutters its nasty little head.
Even if Millicent does not begin her career in submission-reading thinking this was a good plan, after she’s spent a few months, or even weeks, going through fifty submissions at a pop, she’s quickly going to realize that this policy is not about hating literature or making it as hard as possible to pass the Rubicon of landing an agent: it’s about time management.
Which means, as I have been saying for a couple of years now, that yes, presentation counts. It means that it is not only possible that some very small problem will knock a submission out of consideration, but that it is the norm.
Thus the difference in how they read and how we do: they are looking for a reason to stop reading; we are living in hope that the author will wow us.

As you can tell, I find Mini's advice to be quite sage and valuable. It also meshes with my observations during my days as a SAG/AFTRA agent. Read the whole piece at Author! Author! (www.annemini.com) and see if it makes sense to you.

No, I don't work for Dr. Mini. We've never met, in fact.


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