I’m amazed on how services online I’ve seen which promise “We can get you an agent!”. All of these services are well-intentioned, but they ignore a crucial standard. I don’t just want any agent – I want a great agent.
Of course, I haven’t actually found that great agent yet, but here are my thoughts on the matter so far.
First off, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, the publishing industry has changed. In the past, writers almost always needed an agent to get published. Now times have changed. I can just as easily put up a relatively small amount of money to get my book published on Amazon. So how do I justify giving someone fifteen percent of every book sale? That’s the million dollar question. Some say you don’t need an agent at all. (Check out J.A. Konrath’s awesome blog on self-publishing). But right now, as a new writer, I think my best bet is teamed with an agent and publisher backing me up. (You can read more about my reasoning here.)
So how am I going about finding agents?
Check Publishers Marketplace, Writers Digest and the backs of your favorite books. Publishers Marketplace has been an invaluable tool for finding agents. It costs $25 a month, but you can cancel any time. The website has listings of every agent in every genre, and you can see which agents are making the highest sales in your respective genre. Writer’s Digest also has listing for agents occasionally in their magazine. WD also includes quotes and full interviews with agents on what they are looking for, what frustrates them and what some of their favorite books are. It’s a good way to get insight on a potential agent’s personality, especially if their interest lines up with yours. Lastly, check the back of your favorite books. Most writers will thank their agent in the acknowledgements, giving you a view of who represents who. Just be sure that agent is still representing the author (sometimes it changes) before you query them.
Submit Simultaneously (As Long As It’s Okay with the Agents). Submitting to agents is a number’s game. It’s not practical to give one agent two-to-four months at a time to read your book. I was actually doing this, and it tied up the submission process for over a year. It is okay to submit simultaneously unless otherwise noted in the agent’s or agency’s guideline (check both just to be sure). If it is noted, respect it. You don’t want to get multiple offers to represent you if you can avoid it. This is a business where many agents have lunch together, and you don’t want any hurt feelings early on. But by the same token, you shouldn’t be expected to take five years querying 20-50 agents one at a time.
A “No” is Better Than No Answer At All. You will get rejected. While it’s disappointing, I’ve found the biggest frustrations are the agents who never reply at all. I keep a list of when I submitted to an agent and when they reply. And I have to be honest – I like the agents who reply, especially in a timely manner, even if it is with a courteous rejection. I know they at least read my query letter. I don’t take it personally – I might not be writing what they are looking for, or my writing skills might not be up to their standards yet. Whatever the reason, I’m going to submit to them again, because I respect their professionalism with regards to my submission. I can’t say the same about the agents who never respond at all.
Do Your Due Diligence. Make sure you do your homework if you get an offer of representation. This is going to be tough for someone as anti-confrontational as me, but it has to be done. First, check Preditors & Editors for any red-flags on your agent’s practices. If you can, reach out to current and previous clients to see what their experience with this agent was like. The industry is a business like anything else. Just because an agent and writer parted ways doesn’t mean there’s something wrong, but speak with the writer just to be sure. Sometimes personalities don’t mesh, which is why it’s good to interview the agent thoroughly to ensure their vision of your book lines up with your own.
So that’s what my gameplan is so far. What about the rest of you? What are your tips for finding representation in the writing landscape?