This is going to be an example of do as I say, not as I did in the beginning. I have made every mistake in the books where finding an agent is concerned. I don’t know how many years I spent looking at outdated info in one of those giant agent/publisher books you can get at a library or a bookstore. Waste of time–the information changes far too quickly for a book!. I piddled and twiddled away another year or two wishing and pining for an agent, but only sending out maybe one query every month or so. I even queried agents before my manuscript was complete! And then, after I made ALL the mistakes, I got real. And I got an agent. A GOOD agent. (There are lots of bad ones waiting to prey on you; more on that in a later post!)
First, a few hard truths:
- Most (but not all) publishers will not even look at your manuscript if you don’t have an agent.
- Getting an agent can be just as hard as getting published.
- The chances of rising from the slush pile and getting a reputable agent interested are actually pretty small. Here are my agent’s numbers from last year:
Now, for the GOOD NEWS!
1. There are a few really clear steps to take that can make the process of finding an agent easier.
2. There are many useful online resources that can help with your search.
3. Most agents accept (even prefer) email queries and submissions, so you can do most of your agent-finding efforts from your own home!
If you search hard, search SMART, and you have a great manuscript, you WILL find an agent
What DOESN’T Work (most of the time, anyway)
- Picking up a huge, 1000 page book from the store or library that contains fifty-million outdated agent listings
- Sending bulk emails to anyone who claims to be a literary agent
- Thinking about trying to get an agent/making plans to try and get an agent/hoping that somehow you’ll magically get an agent
- Having only your husband, friends, children, or grandma look at your manuscript
- Staying uninformed about the ins and outs of your genre/not reading the genre
- Sending out a great manuscript with the world’s worst query letter
- Sending out an awesome query letter with a terrible (or simply first-draft, not ready) manuscript. It may seem obvious, but it’s a good idea to make sure your book is absolutely as good as you can get it BEFORE you query
How can you be sure your manuscript is ready?
- Read read read (Know the genre)
- Here are two websites I used to get to know my genre well: kidlitosphere.org and ThePictureBookReview.com
- Critique groups! A good one is worth its weight in gold.
- Look at writing texts and writing blogs! Here are two I use: http://www.darcypattison.com/blog/ http://resourcesforchildrenswriters.blogspot.com
There are several smart ways to begin your search for an agent. The first one is what I did—well, it’s what I did after I decided to do things the smart way—and the rest are great first steps, too.
- querytracker.com–a great resource, it links you to the agent’s website so you can get the most up-to-date info. It also features comments from community members so you can really see the agent’s activity and habits. And, it will keep track of your queries for you!
- publishersmarketplace.com So much great info on here–just a wealth of info–it’s well worth the monthly fee!
- Lists of agents on writing blogs–for example, in the original genre I was querying for:
Kidlit LIVES on the internet—follow those agents! Choose maybe 10 to follow—Twitter will suggest others! Follow them ALL. Take 20 minutes a day to quickly peruse through the agents’ feeds, looking for anything useful.
- Agent Blogs/Blogs About Agents: Once you have your list of around 10 agents who accept YOUR genre, visit their website and look for a blog. Read it! Do your homework! What are they reading? What are they selling? There are lots of great blogs about agents—my favorite is
- Follow #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) on Twitter for what agents are looking for.
- Pitch events on Twitter Pitmad, Pitch Wars, DVPit, etc. There are lots of these out there!
- Conferences and Workshops where agents will be present–
SCBWI regional and national conferences are a great resource Online Query Contests, Twitter pitch Events, etc.
- http://writeoncon.com/ –an online writing conference that has all sorts of opportunities for your manuscript to get seen by an agent.
- http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/p/secret-agent.html Miss Snark hosts a great pitch/first page contest that numerous agents see. It’s fun and is a good way for your work to get seen.
- Notice the authors you like and who have a style similar to yours, and find out who their agent is!
Most importantly, don’t give up! After the first round of queries, get another list of agents or submit a new manuscript. It can take years. Don’t give up after just a few months! Once you get real and get serious, you WILL find an agent. (Well, IF your manuscript is well-written, marketable, and appropriate for the genre.)
Write on, friends! If I managed to do it, you can, too!