Every Friday I'm trying to post an update of my trying to find an agent.
As I see it, there are three "standard" ways to get an agent in the literary world.
First, there's the traditional way of going through the slush pile. Based on agent information we can find online, we submit a query letter and maybe a few pages if the agent asks for it and see what happens. Several weeks ago, I did my first round of querying. Out of three agents, one wasn't interested based on the query and 5 pages, one asked for a partial and then said no, and one told me that she was no longer accepting new clients at this time.
Upon discussing this with some other writers, I was basically told that 2 of the 3 agents that I had tried -- even though they said they represent literary fiction -- don't actually represent that much literary fiction. I had been going by their guidelines, but I've been convinced now that it's better to actually look at the books they currently represent. The one agent that does represent quite a bit of lit. fic. was the one that told me she no longer accepts new clients. So, on this front, I'm actually holding back and doing more research so that I can be more systematic in my approach. I also may revise my first chapter since multiple reviewers have said it's the weakest chapter in the book. I hate beginnings!
A second way to get an agent's attention is to publish short stories in prominent literary magazines. I've had a few short stories that I was working on, but I neglected them as I was finishing my book. So, this week, I focused my energy on wrapping up some stories. I had one that was a finalist for a contest held by Glimmer Train. Glimmer Train is one of the biggest journals you can get into as a literary writer. They usually have several of their stories longlisted in Best American Short Stories. So, I have faith in this story and I finished getting it polished so that I can send it out again. I've also been working on a second short story that I'm hoping will be publishable.
The third way to get an agent is, of course, through connections. I don't have many connections right now, but I realize that I do have a few distant ones. In other words, I'm about three degrees removed from two of my favorite agents. Whether or not that will open any doors, is up in the air. But, I do think this is something to keep in mind as we all try to publish. The world is smaller than you think.
Does anyone have other ideas or tips for publishing? What are you all trying to do besides submitting queries? (Let's assume that you have already focused on the WRITING part of the journey, which admittedly, is a never ending process.)