Literary Agents #1: What You Should Know About Them (Tips on Writing Tuesday #6)

You’ve got your novel ready.  You have written, rewritten, revised, edited, lost sleep, written and written some more.  Beta-reader after beta-reader has torn it apart and you have made the appropriate changes.  Is your manuscript perfect?  Probably not, but it’s as good as it’s going to get.
Now what?
You are either going to self-publish or try to get picked up and published traditionally.  If you are planning to get picked up traditionally, most likely you are going to try to get an agent to represent you. 
What kind of agent do I want?
How do I get one?
Will they even know I exist?
I want to share with you some of the experiences I have had over the last few months as I have a) been researching agents and b) interacting with agents at local writing conferences I have attended.
The very best way to sum up the whole process of trying to get an agent was said by Rachel Dugas, a literary agent for Talcott-Notch, who said these wise words at Hampton Roads Writers Conference in September, “Trying to get an agent is like speed dating.”
Say whuuuu?
I can tell you she meant it figuratively, because the moment you send an agent flowers, you have taken a step backward:-)
No, what she meant was that, just as in speed dating, when you are trying to find an agent it’s all about making the right connection with the right agent.  There is not just one agent out there for every writer.
I repeat, it’s important to make connections with the right agent.  And believe it or not, those same agents are out looking to make the same connection with you.
“Are agents really interested in making a connection with me?” you ask.  
YES!  
Question: How do you think agents make a living?
Answer: By building long-term, professional relationships with writers they feel they can represent.  
That means YOU!  That means right now, this minute, there is an agent out there who wants to work with you, now you just have to find them (which, I admit, is the tricky part).
But the first thing you have to remember is that they are people, just like you and me.  Just like you want to find the right agent to represent your book – your baby – they want to find that story that they can fall in love with and they can share with the world.
You don’t have to be scared when you talk to them and you don’t have to be nervous and you don’t have to hope that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime.  
You DO have to be professional and you DO have to do your homework.  If a particular agent isn’t right for you, more often than not they are going to give you positive feedback to help you improve your work so it’s even better for the next agent that you approach.
As I mentioned, in the past six weeks I have talked to a total of five literary agents (and one editor) and every single one of them was approachable, willing to answer questions, and wonderful to work with.  They were regular, everyday people that I was able to have a professional conversation with.
You can too!
To find out more about the agents that are out there, try some of the sites listed below:
To find out more about some of the conferences that may be in your area where you can talk to an agent face-to-face, try some of these resources: 
Do any of you readers have experiences with literary agents at writing conferences?  I would love to hear about them!
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