You’re done writing The Best Romance Ever Written and are ready to send it to the publisher of your dreams. You go to look at the submission guidelines and see: Agented Submissions Only. You have that sinking feeling, like maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to toil away until all hours, ignoring family and why is the world against you? Then you think: Maybe they’ll make an exception for me. Sure, that’s a chance you could take, but consider strongly that Agented Submissions Only means just that–get an agent first.
The downside to going against these guidelines is that the Romance publisher might open your project, log it into their database and then send it right back. Following directions is generally a good idea. Everyone wants to send their manuscript to this publisher and you need to find someone to represent you–no exceptions.
Where to start? The publisher would love to help you because they do want to read The Best Romance Ever Written, but finding you an agent isn’t where they shine. Furthermore, it’s not ethical for them to recommend agents. Every editor works with different agents and they all would have different advice. Can you imagine the chaos?
Where do you turn? Agents are choosy about their projects, but they are also looking for the next big star. Your book may be exactly what they want…or not. That doesn’t mean your project isn’t worth representing. Their time is valuable and every agent is different. So just go for it. Here are some tips that will help put you on the path to Agent Bliss:
- Talk to your writing friends. Do they have agents? Do they have recommendations? This can be a subjective business, but by asking around you can get a vibe for who’s out there, who is actively seeking new projects and who kinda isn’t.
- Read acknowledgements. This is super-sneaky but your favorite authors often thank their agents in their books. Keep a list, check out guidelines and then take a chance. It may be a long-shot but what do you have to lose? At the very least, you can find out where the agent works and if he/she has other colleagues who might be interested.
- Go to conferences. Find out which agents are attending and then talk to them–and not in the bathroom or while they’re eating. Be fully prepared to communicate, schmooze, and pitch at the appropriate time. Don’t beat yourself for not saying the perfect thing at the perfect time.
- Scour agent blogs and lists. Even if you do a simple Google search with the words: agents, romance writers, you will see 2,710,000 results. Go through the results and make a list.
Take action and be informed. Steel yourself to receiving rejections (you will get them). Follow submission guidelines to the letter. Know that it is a long process to get published, so don’t rush and make mistakes. Be brave. If you do one thing each day to push yourself forward, you’re further along than you were yesterday to scaling that “Agented Submissions Only” wall.
Best of luck climbing!