Learning From Agents

This post contains both advice and an announcement. Some while ago a writer friend mentioned a particular agent who blogged. After reading a few posts, I subscribed to his blog because I realized I was getting insider information.

Over time I began to follow a half dozen or more agents, some representing clients only to the general market and some to the Christian. At least one represents to both.

Reading what these agents have to say has been one of the most helpful things I’ve done recently. Writers are always longing to have an industry professional give them some feedback over their writing. The information in these blogs is the next best thing.

Here are the agents whose blogs I read more often than not: Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency, Janet Reid and Query Shark of FinePrint Literary Management, Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary Agency, Steve Laube and company of the Steve Laube Agency, Jessica Faust and company of BookEnds, LLC; Janet Grant and company of Books and Such.

If you haven’t hung out on agent blogs, I encourage you to pick one or two and give it a try. See if you don’t glean some pointers fairly soon.

From one of those I read, I took a piece of advice recently which brings me to the announcement portion of this post. The advice was for writers to post more than an excerpt of their novel on their web site.

The thinking is that an agent who might be looking at your site and who might read your excerpt needs a context in which to put the writing sample. To have any clear sense if this is something they might be interested in, there are some basic things that would be helpful, like the genre and premise (I’d give you the link to the article, but I’ve forgotten who wrote it! 🙄 ).

I stopped reading right then and came here to A Christian Worldview of Fiction, to the page where I have my novel excerpt — the first chapter of HUNTED, Book One of The Lore of Efrathah, and I immediately updated it to include the things the agent suggested. Please feel free to take a look if you’re interested, then come back here if you’d like to leave a comment (I have comments off for that page).

Finally, don’t forget to vote in the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award poll.

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm  Comments (9)  
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  1. Good links. I added them to my feed reader. I seem to find a lot of anti-agent writers blogging about self-publishing, so this will help balance my reading 🙂


  2. Hi! Gulp, sigh…some of these agents declined to represent me…But you know, that doesn’t mean I can’t be open to learning from them. Applauding your openness to suggestions! Must go to other page for what you’ve done…


  3. Hi, Peter, glad this gave you a different perspective. I don’t know that I’ve seen anti-agent posts, but I’ve picked up on a fair share of anti-traditional publishing. I’m guess some see agents as part of that process.

    Maria, about half of them have rejected my work too. But I still respect them and think they have valuable things to say. I think they’re generous with their time because they’re helping a lot of us who aren’t their clients. I’m happy to benefit from their knowledge and perspective.

    I appreciate your kind words. I’m serious, though, that I think these agents are giving me the next best thing to immediate feedback on my manuscript/query letter/pitch. It’s a writer’s goldmine, I think.



  4. Becky, this is a Christian perspective, gratitude that really sees.
    Peter, we’re all in this together, growing, learning.


  5. I looked at your list of agents and laughed, because I’m subscribed to all the same ones. I’ve learned so much from them, even the agents who don’t represent my genre. They still have wise words to offer, and I want to glean as much as I can.

    I like the way you handled your book excerpt (though I’ve heard some conflicting advice about posting sample chapters). It gives the right amount of “grounding” for the story without giving away anything vital. 🙂


  6. Thanks, Maria.

    Sarah, that’s too funny that we’re subscribed to the same ones. Yes, I’ve learned so much from them, too.

    Thanks for the feedback on the excerpt. Yes, I’ve heard conflicting things, too, but I think I’d rather have my writing available than not. Most people are coming here for the blog, so if anyone does want to read the short stories or the chapter, or even my bio I’m always excited. 😆



  7. Becky,

    I’ve looked at what you’ve done: genre, then premise, then excerpt. The setup will make sense to any viewer, including a potential agent or publisher.

    The chapter ended at the right place to sustain suspense.

    It was a shock to get a closer view of the ‘imposing figure.’ There’s a disjuncture between ‘imposing’ and then that face…Good!.

    The language of this world seems real.

    A new twist all together on ‘down the rabbit hole’ to wonderland, that is, a door into another world. Did Alice’s fall influence you, do you think?



  8. Maria, thanks so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it. I’m still reworking the opening — those oh, so important first 100 words. I can’t seem to get it, which is probably why I’m hooked on posting those polls about openings. 😉

    I don’t think I ever read Alice in Wonderland. We had the condensed version, probably a Golden Book, so I know the story, and honestly I thought it was nonsensical. It would fit in quite well with today’s postmodern thought, I’m guessing. No, I was influenced by other portal stories, but not that one.

    The idea actually was originally a very vivid dream. I tend to forget dreams almost at once, so when I woke up with that feel of realism, I grabbed paper and wrote the scene down so I could hold onto it.That led to a map and the map led to a story, and The Lore of Efrathah was underway, though I had no idea it would take on epic proportions!

    Again, thank you for giving your reaction to the intro and excerpt. Very helpful.



  9. Becky, you’ll get to the place where you’re satisfied with the opening, I’m sure.
    I mentioned Alice because of Jim’s half-floating, half-plummetng entry into the other world.
    Happy to help!


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