Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Agents Wish You Knew - Or Why You Should Wait Until Your Book Is REALLY Ready To Query!

When I was just a fresh-faced Midwesterner, brand new to LA, I thought, hey, I'm in LA, maybe I should be an actor! (Because, you know, everyone was doing it.) So I started going to these Casting Director (*Casting Directors are the ones who go out and find actors, and audition them for roles in movies) workshops where actors would get a chance to hear a Casting Director speak about what they're casting, and give out some acting advice. One of the things I heard over and over from Casting Directors was "We want you to be good."

No one believed them.

The veteran actors who had been auditioning for years were sure that it was just some line they used to make them sound good, (because Casting Directors only wanted already famous people, anyway). And newbie actors thought, why would that famous casting director care about me? I'm nobody, there's no way they'd ever cast me.

It wasn't until I became a Casting Director myself and was faced with casting 6 major roles in my own film that I understood. It's true, Casting Directors are praying that every single actor that walks through the door is so amazing that they're THE ONE. They get excited by each new face they see. They really truly want actors to be good.

Here's why:

1. Auditioning actors is very time-consuming.
- First they have to sort through hundreds (literally) of headshots to find the ones who look most like what the role requires.
- Then they have to schedule auditions for all those with the right look (that might be a hundred again).
- Then they have to sit down with each one of those actors and have them read through the scene, narrow down the good ones, and do it all over again until they have 5 or 6 of the best that they can take to the director and producers.

If an actor comes in who is so amazing that they get immediately skip ahead to the meeting directors and producers stage, think of all the time the Casting Director has saved!

2. When a Casting Director finds the perfect actor for a role, that actor and film can win awards, which means more recognition and more money for the Casting Director. It's not in their best interest to cast their Uncle's cousin's best friend's kid. It just isn't.

Hmm... Does any of this sound familiar?

If you substitute Writer for Actor, Agent for Casting Director, and Editor and Publishers for Director and Producers, (and okay, obviously, books for movies) it sounds a lot like the publishing world, doesn't it?

So this is what I want you to know:


Before they click open your email they probably say a silent prayer like, Please God let this one be THE ONE!

Even though they might complain about their overflowing inboxes, they secretly thrill at all of those potential bestsellers just waiting for them.

How You Can Take Advantage Of This Knowledge:

Then, write a query letter that SHOWS your book is THE ONE. (Don't write "This is the book you've been waiting for!" Just. Don't.)

Don't let yourself think, It doesn't matter anyway, it's not like that agent will ever really rep me, I'll just send my query/partial/full and get the rejection over with. (WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?? WHY WOULDN'T YOU WAIT AND SEND SOMETHING YOU BELIEVED IN 100%?)

Because trust me, that agent isn't looking at their inbox thinking I can't wait to reject all of these losers today! They're thinking, PLEASE let this next one be THE ONE!


  1. That's such a good perspective - I know as authors we can get so paranoid, thinking the world is against us. But why? I mean, who doesn't want to read another really good book?

  2. This is so true and a great reminder to make your work the best it can be!

  3. Thanks guys! One day maybe I'll even take my own advice!

  4. I think a lack of patience can be a writer's worst enemy. There is nothing worse than hearing about someone querying that you know is still in the revising/critique phase.

    If you're still revising and getting critiques for you work...IT. IS. NOT. READY.

    I know how hard it is to wait. It's hard because sometimes we NEED to feel like we're moving forward. But querying prematurely isn't the answer. Just wait until you know it's the best you can do and you can move forward with the porcess with no regrets. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  5. Great advice! Write your best book and then shop it around. Might I add to get good feedback from beta readers before you take it to an agent as well.

    Thanks for the tips. I loved the parallel with acting and casting directors.:)

  6. until i'm sure it is good? yikes!

  7. Excellent advice. It's so hard not to feel impatient and want to send work out when it's maybe 80% ready and you know, deep down, that's it not quite there yet. Because there's a chance it might be discovered. But it's so much better to wait until it's the best you can make it, and show off your real skill as a writer.

  8. An excellent point. I think that the world of writing and acting is quite interchangeable, especially since when you tell people you're a writer/actor a lot of people give you the 'OH really...' response. Yeah... The best thing is to just be passionate, be thorough and make sure you've got a good final product. Plus, writers have a one-up on actors as they can go in with an already complete manuscript and don't have to improv. I feel really pumped to write now!! I'm hopping on a plane soon...and then another plane...and then another one. Here's hoping I can get some good writing done in all that air time. ♥


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