Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Loved Your Wedding Ceremony; the Decorations Were Gorgeous! Want to Read My Manuscript?

I have finished a novel and think it's ready to go out to some agents. My question may not pertain to a lot of your readers, but I value your opinion (and straight-shooting style). One of the agents I'd like to send it to is someone I used to be acquainted with in a past career (I worked with her husband, and was at their wedding), but I'm not certain she would remember me right off the bat. I haven't been in contact with her or her husband for several years. I don't want to come across like "Remember me? Wanna be my agent?" but I also think it would be silly/stupid not to remind her of my connection. After all, the novel deals with said past career, and the content is solidly within the lines of the things she represents (meaning I would submit to her regardless of a connection or not). She's a pretty big agent, and I want to remain professional. How would you recommend handling this?
It's tricky to remind someone that you know them without making it sound like you're asking her to treat you as a friend rather than as a hopeful client.

First, be sure that's not what you really want. If it is, go ahead and make that plain, so that the agent knows better than to sign you as a client. People who enter a relationship with the idea that they deserve special treatment because they're a friend end up expecting special treatment all the way through the relationship, and that's unreasonable and untenable for the agent-client relationship. An agent ought to be doing her best for all her clients, so being treated like any of the rest of them in every way shouldn't bother you.

If you don't mind her treating you in a solely professional manner, then make that clear in your letter to her by letting her know that while you remember her and her husband, you certainly don't expect her to remember you. Then go on to be very specific and convincing about why you're querying her with this manuscript-- reasons that have to do with the manuscript and with her taste and specialties as an agent, not with who either of you are as people.

Make your letter friendly, but very professional. That will tell her she would be working with a pro who won't expect more of her than what she can actually give.

Come to think of it, that's good advice for everyone.
Good luck!


Stephanie McGee said...

Fabulous advice, as always. I very much appreciate your straight-shooting style and the plain and clear advice.

Anonymous said...

I think I would mention it, but not because you want brownie points with the agent. Better she knows sooner rather than later that she knows you, even if it's in a round about way. Maybe you can put it in your personal stuff at the end of the query:

"... If my name sounds familiar it's because I'm a former co-worker of you husband's from job X, and met you briefly at your wedding. After I left job X, I attended Y where the setting of this novel takes place..." Or whatever.

I think I'd feel weird if someone knew me but didn't let on, I'd feel like they were hiding something.

Martina Boone said...

These types of situations are never easy. I think keeping it professional with a gentle reminder is terrific advice. Thanks for the post!


Andrea Coleman said...

It might even be a good idea to make the reminder part of the conclusion of your query. That way it's clear you're not holding back information but you've also given her a chance to consider your query cold before being made aware that she knows you. That way it seems less like you're asking her for special treatment because she had the same chance to consider your project for its own merits as she would with any other query before having to consider a past acquaintance.

Good luck!

Catherine Stine said...

Always tricky, but okay to mention if done with tact.

Anonymous said...

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