How I Got My Agent: The Hutchings Way
TODAY’S BREW: More champagne! This is getting to be a habit! Okay, it already was.
So, um, it looks like nobody has figured out I’m a hack yet, because I HAVE A LITERARY AGENT. It’s not just any literary agent. It is ERIC FUCKING RUBEN, ESQUIRE. He’s an Esquire, for the love of God and we belong to each other now.
You want to know how I got an agent? (I do love phrasing it this way; I “got him,” like he’s some sort of disease or large fish.) All right, I’ll tell you but you might not like it.
I WAS MYSELF.
I didn’t formulate a query that appeared to be made by the hands of angels and deliver it to him with a manuscript that I claimed would save the world. I didn’t suck up, chase down, play by a bunch of stupid frigging rules to do it. I was me, and we connected. I always knew I wanted an agent that I connected with on a personal level, or I couldn’t really be me. And yes, Eric was the dream agent.
I DESPISE the rigamarole of querying. Trying to tell each individual agent what makes them bright, shiny and special for you when you’ve queried 43 of them that day, and they’ve read 9887 queries is superficial and senseless. Catering to the individual tastes of an agent who you don’t know from a hole in the wall when you come right down to it, is just plain kissing ass. It has nothing to do with your ability.
My queries flopped, every one of them. I had my query read out loud on a projector in front of dozens of other authors and agents and Donald frigging Maass. I live pitched by phone, I did it all. But it wasn’t until I put my work out there in snippets and made a buzz for myself the way I knew how, the way it worked for me, that I caught the attention of the few agents I truly WANTED, and Eric in particular. Being genuine is still the best way to do business.
If you’re looking for tips, I will give them to you. I want you to know that there’s more out there than writing the Golden Query. There’s more than yapping to any agent you can find all day on Twitter. So here are some things I did that made this not a happy accident:
- MAKE YOUR BLOG OR WHATEVER IT IS HAVE PURPOSE. Deadly Ever After was a business plan. We commit to having it say something about us. We watch what our readers like and we post accordingly. If your readers don’t care about your day at the farmer’s market, why do you write a post about it every week? Show that you understand your audience. And plan the thing. If your blog reads like a phone call to your mother, what reason does anyone have to believe that your novels read any better? Also, ASK PEOPLE TO BE ON YOUR BLOG. Writers you know, writers you don’t quite know. Not only have these people become some of my most dear friends in the universe, but I learned from the way they write, and each and every one of them was there for me when I needed help to promote Running Home, which helped to catch the attention of my new agent. All from reaching out and asking them to help out on the blog.
- WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE, NOT WHAT YOU THINK AN AGENT WANTS TO READ. Don’t tailor yourself to fit into a niche. Write what you have to write, and make the niche fit you. You are the niche. You have the product. Don’t make it what someone wants, make it what you have to give them, and it will stand on its own.
- TWEET LINES FROM YOUR WORK. There’s plenty of #amwriting, #waswriting, #hadbeenediting, #willbeoutlining, #editedthenrevisedthenwroteandamwriting hashtags. TELL US WHAT YOU’RE WRITING. Give us something. Trust me, make it the right thing, and it catches the right eyes. I have a habit of making one line at least in every writing session that’s strong out of context, and tweeting it out with the hashtag of the novel’s title and #amwriting. THIS WORKS, PEOPLE.
- DON’T ASK QUESTIONS AT #ASKAGENT JUST TO MAKE AGENTS SEE YOU’RE PAYING ATTENTION.
- 5. ASK PEOPLE TO READ YOUR WORK. Don’t make it top secret. I tweeted out that I had just written the grossest thing I ever wrote, and my good friend, Jessie Devine, one of Eric’s clients, wanted to read it. It was just a chapter, out of context, but it caused a stir on Twitter with a couple of the right people, and before I knew it the man himself was asking to read it. TRUE STORY.
- 6. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, BE YOURSELF ON TWITTER. This does not mean be the ugliest side of yourself consistently. Don’t tell us forty times how much you hate Monday. Don’t complain constantly. Don’t be dull. You swear? Go ahead, swear. Give us a little of the person that throws themselves into that manuscript and comes away feeling like they just made magic. BE THAT PERSON ON TWITTER. Make people listen.
- 7. GET INVOLVED. Eric was speaking about the state of publishing at a Mystery Writer’s meeting. So we crashed it. And we took notes, and spoke to him. We treated him like a regular, awesome guy, which he is. Be the face that’s remembered if you have the opportunity, and learn something along the way.
I hope this helps all of you looking for that perfect agent to find them. Know the rules of querying, but know when you fit outside them. Know that there’s more than one way to skin an agent. Figuratively.