Saturday, October 30, 2010

Special Guest Saturday: Camy Tang

Tips for Picking an Agent
By: Camy Tang

Picking an agent #1—FINISH THE MANUSCRIPT

Yes, I’m shouting.

Before I go into some tips on how to pick an agent (and possibly receive an offer of representation), I want to point out this very important part of the submission process.

For some people, this is a no-brainer, but I’m always amazed at people who’ve never heard this piece of advice.

Before you query that agent (or editor, for that matter), finish the manuscript. There are TONS of writers who never finish that first manuscript, and agents know this. Therefore, if they are interested in your story, they are going to want to see the full, completed manuscript.

For one, they want to know you finished it.

For two, they want to know if you can sustain your brilliance in the first chapter throughout the rest of the book. Many novels sag in the middle because the writer loses steam. If that’s the case with your manuscript, it’s not ready to submit. Period.

You want that manuscript ready to go if they come back with a manuscript request. You won’t want to make them wait for a few months.

Sometimes, the agent is interested in your particular idea because it’s hot in the marketplace right at that moment. If you wait, they might receive 20 other manuscripts of a similar idea and sell one of those instead. Or the market may be saturated. Or the market changes (which it always does).

Agents are also typically much faster than editors. They won’t often leave you hanging for months at a time.

Strike while the iron is hot. Make sure that puppy is primed and ready to submit.

Picking an agent #2—Do you like them?

This might seem like a dumb question, but think about it—here is your chance to choose who you get to work with. You want someone you get along with and who has the same work ethic as you do. You won’t necessarily be buddies, but you want to at least be happy to talk to them.

That’s why it’s good to research the agents you query. Read online interviews or buy CDs from conferences of workshops the agent gave, or agent panels the agent was on.

If you can afford it, go to conferences to meet them and talk to them. They don’t bite. Just get to know them, even if you don’t have anything to pitch to them.

You will get a good feel for who you’d like to work for, and which agent has the same types of goals you do in terms of career.

Picking an agent #3—To brand or not to brand

I’m going to flash around the b-word, so if you’re easily offended, skip this post.

Some writers agree with branding, some don’t. Some writers like finding a marketing niche, others feel it hampers their creativity.

There’s nothing wrong with either opinion, but your agent should agree with whatever your opinion is.

Some agents are heavily into branding. They not only pitch your manuscript, they’re pitching your brand, you as the writer. They’re pitching you so that the house will take you on and develop you as an author with that particular flavor of writing.

Some agents are more open to writers who want to branch out into different areas. They encourage creativity, no matter where that may take the writer. They can recognize good writing and push whatever genre manuscripts their authors put out.

There is nothing wrong with either side. But you as the author should decide which type of agent you want to target. That’s why reading their online interviews or listening to workshops on CD or meeting them at conferences is so important.

For more tips on picking an agent, check out the full blog post here:

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous romance series (Sushi for One?, Only Uni, and Single Sashimi) and her romantic suspenses, Deadly Intent and Formula for Danger. Originally from Hawaii, she worked as a biologist for 9 years, but now she is a staff worker for her San Jose church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She has coordinated the ACFW Genesis contest for 5 years and runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in online classes and book doctoring. On her blog, she ponders knitting, spinning wool, dogs, running, the Never Ending Diet, and other frivolous things. Visit her website at  for free short stories and to join her quarterly newsletter YahooGroup!


Casey said...

Love this post, Camy! Very clear cut and helpful, thanks for posting here today!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks, Camy. This is so helpful, even for those of us who aren't quite ready yet. :)

Camy Tang said...

Thanks guys! And thanks to Casey for posting this!