Now we get to the fun part of querying—hunting for agents. And it’s something you can do before your book is complete. Searching for agents before you’re ready to query has its perks:
- Need a pick-me-up or a little break from writing or revisions? Spend a few minutes hunting for agents. WARNING: Sometimes you forget it was supposed to be a little break.
- It moves you toward your goal of getting published. When you’re feeling like you’ll never finish writing the darn book, researching agents makes the goal of publishing real and reachable.
- Each agent you add to your list is special because you realize This might be THE ONE!
- When you decide your book is ready for the big leagues and you can’t wait to get the ball rolling, you have a list of agents ready to query.
What to look for in an agent:
The most important factor in agent hunting is focusing on agents that represent your genre. A pet peeve of agents and editors is getting queries for things they don’t represent. “Oh,” you say, “I want Diana Gabaldon’s agent. I know he doesn’t represent YA, but he’ll love my novel.”
No, he won’t. Stick to agents who represent your genre.
Before jumping into the agent pool, you need to weigh the pros and cons of the following and decide what qualities you want in your agent:
- Editorial agent vs. non-editorial
- Big list of author clients vs. small list
- Large agency vs. boutique agency (smaller, specialized)
- One book representation vs. career representation
- New agent vs. established agent
Hunting for agents:
- Literary Rambles, a blog written by Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre, spotlights agents and has tons of information about them. It was an invaluable tool in my agent hunt.
- Search the internet for literary agents in your genre.
- Find a book similar to yours and look for the agent’s name in the acknowledgements.
- Find articles on agent stats, such as lists of top-selling agents. You can find lists like this for YA, PB and MG at Darcy Pattinson.
- #MSWL—Manuscript Wish List. Agents and editors post what they’re looking for in submissions. Searching #MSWL will generate hundreds of results, but here are a few sites dedicated to it: MS Wish List, and Manuscript Wish List.
Look at more than stats and agent profiles. Find interviews with agents. Read what their authors say about them. On Google Books, you can search the name of the agent that interests you. If he/she was mentioned on an author’s acknowledgement page, it’s usually in the search results. You can learn a lot about an agent by the acknowledgement (or lack of acknowledgement) in their clients’ books.
On Query Tracker (which I’ll be covering more in my next post) you can search for agents using a wide array of search filters, including genre. A search generates a list of agents meeting your criteria. You then click on an agent to get their profile. An agent’s profile has multiple parts. Here’s a list of some of the more pertinent information you can find:
- Contact info including links to agency websites, agent blogs, social media accounts
- Reputable links where you can find more information, such as Literary Rambles, Predators and Editors, and Google Books
- There is a page for member comments concerning that particular agent. It’s very helpful.
A few things to keep in mind:
Legitimate agents will never charge a fee or try to sell you something. Also remember, information changes and becomes outdated. Always check the agency site and the agent’s profile one last time before submitting a query. And never, ever, ever, ever query an unfinished novel.
Please feel free to share any resources you’d like to recommend.
The Beyond the Book series was first posted in the SCBWI newsletter, The Mitten.