Beyond the Book-Agents

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
Courtesy Sharon L. Cook

Courtesy Sharon L. Cook

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.

Query Tracker:

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.

More resources:

Writer’s Digest: Guide to Literary Agents

Predators and Editors

Agent Query

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.


27 comments on “Beyond the Book-Agents

  1. Fun part… I think that’s the hardest part.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post and article. I was picked up and published directly from my Blog but I have found limitations in being represented by a small publisher from another continent and so am determined to find an agent and new publisher for my third book. This article was therefore very interesting to me although identifying my “genre” has been an ongoing problem for me, and still is.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I shared this with my writing group.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was really helpful! Thank you!!!


  5. This had so much good info in it, I bookmarked it for future reference. (Maybe I should refer to your post on using the passive voice, too.)

    On Mon, Jan 18, 2016 at 7:28 AM, Dawne Webber wrote:

    > Dawne Webber posted: “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? Spen” >


  6. Great post, Dawne. Maybe you should give a presentation on this at one of our SCBWI meetings.

    In my case, I’d probably look for an agent that’s good at editing. I need as many eyes on my manuscript as I can get.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a wonderful post! I’ve done a ton of research already on Agents and these extra places will get me that much closer! Thanks bunches Dawne!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great information (as always), Dawne. I subscribe to the Writer’s Market, but it’s nice to know that there are other resources out there. I’m bookmarking this blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear Dawne Webber,

    This is a helpful article with good resources listed. Thank you for posting this. Best wishes for 2016!

    Janet Ruth Heller
    Author of the award-winning book for children about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006), and the middle-grade book for kids The Passover Surprise (Fictive Press, 2015).
    My website is http://www.janetruthheller.com


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