Louise Buckley is an agent at Zeno Agency. She became an agent after spending six years working at Pan Macmillan and Dorling Kindersley publishers. Here are her top five tips for attracting an agent’s interest.
1) Address your covering letter to the correct agent
I’m going to be brutally honest here, but it’s in the spirit of being helpful: if a submission is sent to me addressed ‘Dear Agent/Editor’ or even ‘Dear Zeno Agency’, I’m unlikely to read further. It suggests a blanket submission approach and indicates to me that you’re not actually interested in me representing you.
2) Keep your covering letter concise
Focus on telling me about the book you have written, and keep your own biographical information to the bare minimum; the book needs to be allowed to speak for itself.
3) Focus more on honing your novel than writing your synopsis
I’ve met many people who fret over writing a synopsis. I can understand why; it’s difficult to distill your novel into a synopsis. But it’s pointless spending energy doing this if your novel isn’t the best it can be – agents are first and foremost looking for the ability to write well in the genre the author is ascribing to. The truth is that the synopsis isn’t nearly as important as making sure your first few chapters (indeed, your entire novel!) sing off the page.
4) Seek advice from beta-readers
I cannot stress this enough. It’s ESSENTIAL. You’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into this novel. You’ve spent a long time writing it and it feels like a child you’ve given birth to. But, as it’s your child, that also means you might not be able to be objective about it. You love your child. But what you love, someone else may not. Or rather, for example, there’s so much extra padding in there that it’s hard to see the actual story. You need someone who is going to be brutally honest – not friends and family who are worried about offending you - but someone with an objective head, who can offer you good, solid, constructive feedback. Even if this means cutting 30% of your story or adding in a whole different sub plot. If we go with the analogy of raising your child, it takes several people other than the main parent(s) to teach them what is right and wrong, give them boundaries and make sure that they become a fully rounded person. The same is true of a book – the end result is a collaboration between the original writer(s) and everyone else who has shaped it.
5) Don’t give up
Agents give this piece of advice all the time and it’s because it’s true. Most published authors were presented with hundreds of rejection letters before they finally landed an agent. More often than not, the reason they landed an agent was because they shelved their first or second or third novels, took what they had learned from that writing process, and used this knowledge to create something better. The more you write, the more you will develop your skills and the more likely you are to secure an agent. So don’t lose hope – get out there and continue writing!