This is a guest post written by Giacomo Giammatteo, author of Murder Takes Time.
Selecting the Right Agent
If you are a writer, and assuming you’ve sent out enough queries, partials, and full manuscripts, you have, inevitably, gotten rejections. Lots of them. • ‘Writers need thick skins,’ the sage advice goes. • ‘Writers must learn to deal with rejection.’ • Writers must do this and that, and yes, the other thing. No matter what the advice, no matter who says it, or how many times you get rejected—it stings, chafes, burns, even hurts…when someone tears your masterpiece apart.
Some people couch their critiques in honey—‘I loved the book, but…’ Okay, that doesn’t sting so much. We’ll categorize that as a honeybee sting. Others are not so tactful. ‘I thought the story started off good, but…’ Wasp sting. And others… ‘The characters were one-dimensional.’ Full-blown African killer bee assault.
How to Deal With the Rejection
Back when I was searching for an agent, and I got those wonderful rejection letters, here is how I dealt with it.
I marched to my wife’s bookshelf and randomly selected a book. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that whatever book I picked up I would not like. I’d get a few pages into it, fifteen or twenty at best, before the criticism began. Too much description. Too much emotion. That’s ridiculous, nobody would act that way. My adventure into reading my wife’s books ended the same. I’d close the book, gently place it back on the shelf, and think to myself, I can’t believe someone likes that.
So, why did I do this?
To remind myself that everyone has different tastes.
People don’t like the same foods, drive the same cars, wear the same clothes—or read the same books. My daughter reads only non-fiction. My two sons restrict themselves to magazines on nature or science, or health and fitness. My daughter-in-law has a lot of the same books I do, also a lot I couldn’t conceive of reading.
What’s the Point?
The point is, that agents and editors are no different than other people. They have specific tastes, likes and dislikes. Certain styles they like to read. Voices that appeal to them. Plots that keep them turning the pages.
You cannot write a book that will appeal to all readers. As a writer you know that. It stands to reason you cannot write a book that will appeal to all agents. Just because they are agents doesn’t mean they will recognize your masterpiece.
What’s the Answer?
You can increase your chance of success by customizing your query list. Put more effort into your research on which agents to query.
We will assume you have a solid query. If not, go to the many sites that offer advice and critiques and/or get some critique partners who can help you polish it. Janet Reid at Query Shark has a great site: and Rachelle Gardner always has wonderful advice:
Who to Query
◆ One of the biggest mistakes writers make is assuming that all agents want to see their book. They don’t.
◆ And don’t assume all agents who represent fiction want your particular genre. They don’t.
◆ Don’t assume that if they represent mystery authors they want yours. It might not be the case.
Some agents might love cozy mysteries but be appalled by your hard-core blood-and-guts detective who keeps one foot on the wrong side of the fence. And I’ve always found it odd that science fiction and fantasy are lumped together. I read a lot of fantasy, but seldom read science fiction. And the preferences go even deeper. There are hard-core science fiction people who want the intricate details of how a technology might work, and others who want a love story couched in a make-believe world of fantasy, or a futuristic setting on another world. Or a time traveler, and they don’t care one bit how this person travels in time.
In the mystery genre, there are readers who need the details of what forms a detective fills out when he/she arrives at the scene, what caliber of bullet killed the victim, and who touches what first at the scene. These readers worry about how much blood has pooled at the base of the victim’s spine and how congealed the blood on the floor is…you get my point.
There are other readers who simply need to know the person in the story is dead. Content that the corpse isn’t going to spring up with a ten-inch butcher knife in their hand and strike out at the detective, although that would put it in the horror category, two aisles over.
Researching Your Agents
Invest some time in researching your targets. The internet is a magnificent tool. Look up the agents on any number of query tracking sites, on the agency’s own website, Google them, check out Publisher’s Marketplace, anywhere that will give you a good idea of what this particular agent is representing, and what they are looking for.
I have found that Googling an agent will often turn up results of interviews that someone has done with an agent. Reading these interviews can be invaluable, providing detailed insight into the agent’s likes and dislikes, far more information than is available on the website for that agency. If the agent has a blog, follow it, read the archives, learn about them. The more you know about the agent before you send the query, the better your chances of getting a request.
It takes a long time to write a novel. Sometimes it takes even longer to find an agent. Help yourself out and spend a little extra time researching the agents before you send out that query. You’ll be glad you did.
About the author:
I live in Texas now, but I grew up in Cleland Heights, a mixed ethnic neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware that sat on the fringes of the Italian, Irish and Polish neighborhoods. The main characters of Murder Takes Time grew up in Cleland Heights and many of the scenes in the book were taken from real-life experiences.
Since this is a bio some of you might wonder what I do. By day I am a headhunter, scouring the country for top talent to fill jobs in the biotech and medical device industry. In the evening I help my wife tend the animals, and at night—late at night—I turn into a writer.
Go check out my website: www.giacomogiammatteo.com. Look around, click some links, and, if you’ve got time, tell me what you think. Contact me at email@example.com.
In honor of his new book, Giacomo Giammatteo is generously giving away a Kindle Fire! Simply enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The author is also giving away an iPad 3. Be sure to enter both giveaways! Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received no compensation for this publication. icefairy's Treasure Chest is not responsible for prize fulfillment.