Friday, 19 February 2010
Guest post by Kirsty McLachlan - Step out of the slush pile and into the hands of an agent
For a few weeks now, I’ve been raising the issue of the slush pile in our agency meetings on Monday mornings (when we discuss new authors, deals and Other Business). SAE’s seem so last decade and isn’t it time we geared ourselves up towards the digital decade? And just how many people have we found in the slush pile anyway? For the past few years, many of our clients have come to us through the ‘back door routes’ – those routes that ensure a manuscript lands firmly with a loud plop and a bit of glitter on the desk instead of the floor. Those authors haven’t asked for their work to be returned – either they are too cool for that or they assume – quite rightly – that we will agree to represent them.
So what are these ‘back door routes’? Let me name a few:
1/Friends of friends of friends – or just-who-do-you-know? Think about six degrees of separation – someone in your circle of friends, your family, your work colleagues will know someone in an agency or in publishing – it’s just inevitable. It might take a bit of working out – a bit of detective work but I reckon 50% of writers, will be able to locate a name with more than just a whiff of publishing about them.
2/Get noticed – start platform building - start a facebook page, start blogging, start twittering. I’m meeting an author this week who I found via twitter. Get your readers following you now, even as you write your book – get them involved in the writing process. Ask them questions. By making a name for yourself, you might just get an agent approach you.
3/Rules are for fools – start breaking them. I work in a busy but small agency. We have guidelines but there are times when people duck under these and aim straight for David Godwin, the agent, they email him and grab his attention. He’ll respond straight away if you ‘seduce’ him with your email – I’ve known him to read a synopsis that day and respond. So don’t feel you have to always tow the line. Be a bit daring.
4/Do your homework – target each and every agent you send your work to. Look for hungry agents – those with small lists and who have just moved agencies or have just been made an agent. They will be the ones who will read your work quickly and get back to you with a response.
5/Stalk your favourite agent – get to know them – who do they agent? Look for author events where the agent might be present. Learn what their likes and dislikes are. I’m obsessed with books set in snowy locations – so when a book came to me set in a cabin north of the Arctic circle, I leapt on it. It’s a personal business, so get personal – each agent will have their own little quirks and patterns so you need to find out what they are.
6/Get involved in a writers’ community – writing is no longer an isolated occupation. We’ve found at London Writers’ Club that writers love to network, chat, compare notes and use each others experiences to take their writing to the next level.
7/Get on your soap-box – start talking – shouting – about your book. Someone, somewhere just might overhear the conversation and will help you get your manuscript to the desk of an agent.
So it’s time to be a bit canny, a bit bold and a bit tricky. Look for the gaps and you might just bypass the slush pile completely. Be passionate and that passion will take you places, I promise.
Kirsty McLachlan is an agent with David Godwin Associates and co runs The London Writers' Club with agent Jacqueline Burns.
The next LWC Live which is on Tuesday, 23rd Feb. (next Tuesday) details here: www.londonwritersclub.com