Finding an agent takes time, so it’s best to start the process before you’re ready to submit.
When you get tired of writing for the day, or editing, take a half hour and work on submissions. It utilizes the right side of your brain, and refreshes the left. At least it does that for me.
Where to Hunt Agents
Here are helpful websites I’ve found:
www.guidetoliteraryagents.com - from Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest fame. Wonderful research site. He also interviews new agents, who are hungry for clients. New agents are a great starting place for the unpublished author.
everyonewhosanyone.com – An odd, aggressive guy who prints personal editor and agent email addresses (which they may not want you to have.) WARNING: proceed with caution with this info. It could hurt more than it helps. At least look at it though. He includes his rejections from the agents/editors, and he’s hilarious.
There are lots of great sites out there – if you know of some I’ve missed, please post them in the comments section.
Predators & Editors - pred-ed.com/pubagent.htm - Before querying any agent, check out this website. There are scammers in every field, and you need to run everything through a filter. P&E is the most trusted site out for this. In case you’re new to submitting – here’s a rule. NEVER pay an agent to read your submission!
Some agents are now editing and acting as publicists for hire, and the practice may eventually become the norm as the new model of publishing emerges, but I’d be cautious, and understand exactly what you’re getting into.
Organization's not your thing? Right-brained? Does the thought of keeping track of all this make you queasy? Never fear. I have a solution for you.
Writers Market.com – It has a huge, up-to-date database on agents. It costs $40/year and is worth every penny. I used it for my first submission experience, and it was wonderful. It has all the tools needed to find and agent and track submissions, plus items the others lack. First, search by genre, then narrow the quest. I found the following criteria invaluable:
- % of clients that publish in fiction
- # of clients – of those how many were new authors
- If member of AAR
- Submission guidelines
- How long it takes for response.
- Agent/agency websites
- When they were established
One of the best things about Writer's Market is the “Query Tracker.” Select the agent to submit to, note the date, and when you should hear back. After that date, it posts a reminder, so you can follow up.
Simple, organized, unintimidating.
DO: Follow agent’s blogs and follow them on Twitter. Not only is it a good way to “know” an agent, they also post excellent craft and market advice. Most agents have links to other agent’s blogs.
- Follow them into bathrooms at conferences, or on their way to work
- Call them
- Show up at their offices.
The above will not only spook the prey and earn you a bad name; it could get you arrested! And have you seen how people look in mug shots? You thought your driver’s license photo was bad.
- If an agent doesn’t state that they rep what you write – don’t bother. You’re wasting time.
- Research agent submission guidelines and follow them – to the letter. Irritating an agent makes an impression, but a bad one.
- It helps to know something about the agent and can reference it in the query intro. Research the authors the agent represents. Read their blogs. It will help you connect and catch their attention more than “Dear Agent.”
- Which reminds me – don’t ever write “Dear Agent.”
- If you don’t know anything about them, don’t fake it. They’ll know, trust me. Just launch into your hook, instead.
- Remember your business panties from Part 1. A submission should be businesslike. At first contact, I always use the agent’s last name: Dear Ms. Agent.
- Be sure the query is crisp, short, and correct. This is your first and only shot at catching their attention.
- Double and triple check every word before you hit ‘send.’ It’s hard for them to think you’re sincere and professional if you misspell their name.
- Agent's response guidelines are almost always on their website. If they say they’ll respond in 4 weeks, and it’s been 8, send a polite follow-up email. Here’s mine:
I put in the subject line "Query Follow up YYY(Title)"
I sent the below query for my novel, YYY, on 12/18. I hadn't heard back from you, so I'm just following up. Thank you for your time and consideration.
If the agent requested a partial or a full submission, and they’re a couple weeks beyond their self-imposed deadline, I send the following:
Requested Material Follow-up YYYY (Title)
Dear Ms. XXX (may or may not be on 1st name basis at this point)
I sent the partial/full manuscript you requested of my novel, YYY on Dec. 12, and haven’t heard back from you. I know you’re very busy. Could you just give me a timeframe so I can manage my expectations?
Thanks for your time and consideration.
- Many agents (sadly) are now simply not responding if they’re not interested, and you’re to assume rejection. I hate this, but can live with it, as long as they state that in the submission guidelines.
Share with us all your submission tips and experiences!
Next up in The Great Agent Search: Organizing this mess.