Here’s the basics on what is and isn’t a referral.
This is a referral: An agent’s client who says “Hey you should query my agent, and use my name.”
How to use it: In your query: “Client XYZ raves about you and suggested I try you with my novel, GENIUS WORK.”
This is not a referral: An agent’s client who you know on Twitter/blogs/writer’s group, but who has not offered to put you in touch with his or her agent.
How to use it: In your query: “I like your Client XYZ’s blog and am in Client ABC’s writer’s group, and so I wanted to be in touch about my novel SERIOUSLY IT’S AWESOME.” (Not a referral, not strictly necessary, but certainly doesn’t hurt, and can help personalize your query if that’s your bag.)
Referral: An editor I know emails me your ms, or an editor/film agent/etc I know emails me to see if I’d want to see your ms.
Not a referral: An “editorial service,” whose staff members I don’t know, provided a list of agent names. Apparently, this happens–but if you put this source in your query, that person’s name won’t mean anything to me. Save your money and visit QueryTracker or Agentquery or the site of your choice to do your own research.
Referral: Another agent suggests my name and says to say s/he sent you.
How to use it: Include pretty much exactly that in your query.
Not a referral: Another agent passes on your query.
How to use it: No quotes from someone else’s pass, no matter how complimentary. For more on this see Jessica’s smart post.
Not a referral: Finding an agent listed on an agent search site.
How to use it: You can mention where you saw the agent listed, if you’d like, but it’s not necessary for me, anyhow.
A referral, if you legitimately have one, is a lovely thing. But it’s not a golden ticket, and a “referral” from someone I don’t know, whose word has no weight with me, doesn’t help. I request materials from authors with no referral or connection all the time; you’re not down before you begin. So rather than trying to snag a referral (or worse yet, badgering someone so badly trying to get one that the author couldn’t say anything pleasant were their agent to ask), just focus on writing the best novel & query you can.
If the referrals come as a result of the relationships you’ve formed in the writing community in the meantime, great! You’ll do your referrers proud. And if they don’t, you’ll still have a strong query that will catch an agent’s eye, no introduction necessary.
Filed under: Holly Root | 13 Comments