Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finding The Right Agent

As I read through submissions, I am often intrigued by the variety of authors out there. There are also a lot of days that I really have to stop and question why on earth the author is submitting this project to me at all? I find myself saying a lot of time, "This isn't what I am looking for. Why did you send this?"

I want to talk today about the idea of finding the right agent to represent your work. Now yes, I do understand you can "do this without an agent" so if you're one of those people, feel free to move on to the next daily blog you read. For those of you looking for agents, how in the heck do you decide>

In reality, you will likely develop two lists for agents, although at first, it will seem like only one. The first list is those "dream agents." These are the rockstars of the publishing world that writers tend to follow like puppies and are just happy to be in the same room with them. They might be the agents in the larger agencies. They might be the agents who represent your favorite authors. Now the second, and this is the one that we are going to focus on, will be the agent that is best for you as a writer. Yes, this list can and may include the "dream agents" but these are the people who are probably better suited for your writing at the present time in your career. I should also add that with both of these lists, you likely have them listed in some sort of an order as well.

This is a good start. You at least have a list. If you aren't at that phase yet, don't worry, you'll get there.

Now before you go sending out queries to all of these people, it is time to do some homework. This is the research phase of finding an agent and it starts with you. No, don't start looking at the agents, begin with a personal look at your personality and your writing.

On the personal level, you have to consider a few key elements:

  1. What do you need for support from an agent? 
  2. Are you someone who works best alone, or someone who needs to have that additional pair of eyes?
  3. Are you a big person in a small pond or small person in a big pond type or writer?
  4. Are you an optimistic or pessimistic person?
  5. Are you someone who wants to be aggressive with your writing or do you take the passive approach?
The reasons these are important all revolve around the idea that the author-agent relationship is really a marriage. You want to be working with this person to advance your career and you will be hopefully doing this for a long time. You have to make sure that your personalities really do work together. There is nothing worse than getting paired up with an agent, only to find that working together is worse than a root canal.

Now you need to examine your writing. This goes beyond the genre you write. It is a matter of voice, subject matter and approach.

I do think a lot of writers submit to me because I represent certain genres. Yes, this is a good approach because I can promise you a rejection letter will be coming if you submit something like a YA to me. If the agent doesn't represent it, then don't submit.

As you look at your writing, however, look at the style of your writing. Does it have a category or single title tone to it. What publishers does the writing sound like? Along the same lines, examine the issues you tend to bring up in your stories?

At this point, you have a good idea of who you are and what you need. Now you start the researching of the agents. This IS going to take time so don't rush it.

Obviously we start with the genres the agent represents. Looking at their submission guidelines will tell you exactly what you need. DO NOT just go through the Writer's Guide of Literary Agents. Yes, you can get some names from their, but remember that information may be out of date. Agents change from time to time what they are looking for. Go to their websites!!!

Oh, and one side note here. DO NOT just go to those websites that have their personal lists of agents. Like the Writer's Guide, these lists don't give  you the complete picture.

Now that you have found the agents that represent your genre, start looking at everything out there you can find on them. Read their blogs. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Read articles they have written and interviews they have done. Attend conferences and listen to them speak. The idea is to get to know them. This also gives you some insight into the type of stories they like and the type of stories they will always reject. As you do this, you will find that your list will shift a lot.

After you have done your research, the odds are you will have a list that is much smaller than what you started with. That's OK. Look, their are a lot of agents out there, but they are not always right for your needs. My bet is you end up with 5 or so.

And one final note. Your final list should be the agents that if they offer to represent you, it will be fine. It is always frustrating to offer representation, only to receive a reply that says, "I would like a couple of days to think about it and see if the other agents I queried would like to offer first." Wow, that tells us where we rank.

The key is. Slow down and do your research. You will be much happier in the long run!


  1. Thanks for this post. I'm currently researching agents. So I'm super excited to send you my MG novel. wink. Seriously though. Great advice.

  2. Thank you for the words of wisdom. Excellent post.