Several years ago at the RWA Conference in Florida, I, along with several other fantastic agents ran a session called query fest. Not only did we have a chance to talk about writing query letters and discuss what we like or hate in queries, we also had a chance to do a lot of cold reads to let you into our minds. At the end of the session, one writer came over to me to thank me for the session but then she followed it up with an interesting comment. She had been submitting to one of us for some time with projects she truly thought were right. As she listened to us talk, she had now realized why the story was never going to work. It wasn't the query. It wasn't the story. It was the simple fact that she had now had a better understanding of the agent after two hours of listening to us. This was a relationship that would never work.
She had gotten to know the agent better.
I do believe that moving into the digital age like we have, while it does seem to speed things up a bit, creates a huge sense of not knowing the person on the other end of the Internet. We can look up a lot of different pieces of information out there but we never really get to know the person. Think about it. If I get on LinkedIn, Query Tracker, Publishers Marketplace or any number of other sites that have lists of editors and agents, I can quickly search anyone who might be "acquiring" my genre. It doesn't take much. I can get their email, I can get mailing addresses and so forth. The one thing I can't get is learning who this person is.
If you are someone reading to take that plunge and start sending projects out to editors and agents, slow down. Take the time to learn a few things first:
- What is this person's personality?
- How "aggressive" are they when they promote books?
- Where do they like to send projects? Where do they avoid?
- What is their approach to "marketing"?
- Do they like certain genres over other?
- Do they have pet peeves?
- How do they interact with their authors?
Look, I don't care how "connected" you get out there with your social media and your networking, to truly be successful, you have to take it that additional step and get to know those editors and agents first!