Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alex Glass Gives Advice on Snagging an Agent

Agent Alex Glass works out of the Trident Literary Agency. He prefers to handle literary fiction of many types and narrative nonfiction. He had some great pointers for any author not only those writing for the literary market.

One of the first things he delineated for us was his definition of the differences between commercial and literary work. In his opinion the success and quality of a literary work in completely reliant on the quality of the writing. Commercial works are concept driven and more reliant on the plot and story lines.

He gave three pointers for reeling in an agent. Number one was the right a great query letter. Be concise and short and for literary work you needed include the plot. Explain where your book will fit on the store shelves. Compare your work to other authors but not to the greatest well known ones. Include any specific background you have if it relates to the work. Also mention any awards or recognition you’re received for previous work.

His second point was about building a platform. Alex recommended joining communities of writers and social groups. You should get your name out there with blogs, go to conferences to meat agents and editors, take classes where you’ll meet and learn from others in the business. Network, network.

The third point is one we all know but it never hurts to be reminded. Polish, polish and polish so your work is the best it can be when you send it out.

When it comes to non-fiction writing, Alex thinks those authors who are famous in their field before they become famous as writers are the most likely to be picked up by an agent. In the boiling cauldron of digital publishing, Alex thinks the sales of literary ebooks probably lags behind commercial fiction.

The title of Alex’s workshop was, ‘Tossing the Dice, Why Agents Gamble on New Writers.’ I’m not sure he gave us real insight into that but he was an interesting speaker. He did tell us he takes only e-queries and doesn’t even send a rejection note if he doesn’t want it. So if you’ve submitted to him and he hasn’t answered you should move on to your next choices. He stated numerous times that there were so many agents we shouldn’t wait around for one to get back to us or be too upset by a rejection.

How do you feel about an agent not responding to a query? Do you agree with Alex that the literary marking is lagging behind in jumping of the digital train?


  1. Thanks for sharing this Susan! Not responding in any way to a query seems rather unprofessional, to me. He could at least send a form rejection so the author will know to move on. Unfortunately, professional courtesy seems in short supply on that side of the biz all too often.

  2. Sounds like an interesting speaker for sure.

    I don't mind an agent not responding, as long as it's clear on their site that they don't. If a site says to assume a no if you haven't heard in 3 weeks, then I'm okay with a non-response.

  3. I also do not mind a 'no reply' response. If it's a particular agent I'm interested in, I'll wait to hear back a certain bit, but otherwise I'll be sending out several agent queries at a time anyway, so if I get no response after a set amount of time, the next flush of queries will go out on schedule.

  4. I have a number of 'still waiting for a response' in my record keeping journal for submissions. I move onto the next also but it does mess up the books. On the agent panel, the other agents did jump all over Alex when he admitted this. He vowed to change his ways. It was funny.

  5. I would be okay with an agent not getting back to me -- as long as I knew ahead of time that that was the way the agent did business. If he did not make that clear on his website, I would not be okay with it. Writers who respect and really want a particular agent will wait months and months, hoping to get a positive response, if they believe the agent will eventually get back to them.

    Straight From Hel

  6. A lot of authors don't seem to get what "hundreds of queries a week" really means. I totally understand not responding if they aren't interested. My only problems with it:

    1. Those agents with that policy should really have an autoresponder so we at least know the e-mail was received.

    2. It makes no sense to me that if you snail mail some agents, they'll respond, but they won't respond if you e-mail them (and yes, e-mail is their preferred query).

  7. I totally agree, Helen. If they make it clear on their guidelines they won't respond if not interested and especially if there's a set number of weeks you can expect to hear from them I can understand.
    Natalie, Alex did say he had an autoresponder but then he stopped doing that.