How to Get an Agent, Step 1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Over the years, I’ve often wondered how writers get agents. It's always seemed mysterious to me, kind of like watching someone do koundinyasana in a yoga class. I mean, I know it's technically possible. But how?

 
 Image courtesy of Yoga Pose Weekly

Image courtesy of Yoga Pose Weekly

 

Well, I recently underwent a quest to find an agent, and after plenty of research and blog-reading and forum-lurking, I’ve discovered that the process isn’t quite as impossible as it looks. In fact, there’s a pretty basic formula for agent-getting, once you get comfortable with the fact that you’re playing a game with really horrible odds. 

Step 1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.

Step One is a pre-step, really: Step Zero. This is the step that takes months and years, where you draft and revise and polish ‘til you think you can't draft and revise and polish no more.

In this stage, DO:

  • Get feedback from trusted readers.
  • Revise.
  • Take your manuscript through multiple drafts.
  • Do a polishing draft.
  • Get your manuscript proofread – professionally, if possible.

In this stage, DON'T:

  • Have the agent be the first person who's ever read your manuscript.
  • Get stuck forever in revision.
    • (I know, I know. I just said to revise like a maniac. But don’t wait forever because you don't feel exactly Pulitzer-ready. Keep in mind that the agent will most likely give you some revision notes after she offers representation. And later on down the road, your editor will too. So your manuscript doesn't have to be letter-perfect – just as good as you can possibly make it).

Once you've finally made it through preparation – the longest stage in the process – it's time to move on to Step 2: Cheat, If You Can.

Jaime deBlanc-Knowles is the founder of Fresh Ink Consulting, an Austin-based company offering top-notch editing and writing services.