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Weekly Writers: How To Find Agents
A few tips
Here’s the Weekly Writers Monday post. Thanks to my paid subscribers, this post is open to everyone. Last time I covered How To Get A Big 5 Publishing Contract, so this time I’ll give a few tips on finding a literary agent.
How To Find Agents
My approach used to be the printed Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, an annual directory which included a chapter on literary agents. It also covered publishers, and had useful articles on many topics. At one point I’d buy the new edition each year. It is also available in many libraries (and if not, you could ask them to order a copy, since it is useful to so many creatives). There are probably regional equivalents to this kind of directory in other countries, such as Writer’s Market in the US.
There are many online directories such as the one hosted by Reedsy, which lets you narrow down by country and genre. There are also regional ones, such as the Scottish Book Trust’s list of literary agents in Scotland.
Another approach is to identify authors you admire, in the genre you want to write in. The contact section of their website may well have the name of their agents for rights enquiries. Of course, that doesn’t mean the agent is taking on new clients, but you’d at least have a lead for checking the website of their agency to see what their submission status is.
Some big book and genre conventions or exhibitions can be good ways of making contact with agents and publishers. Obviously the main reason to go is because you love the conference theme, but if you’re friendly with everyone you meet, it could well leave a good impression, and make future communications easier.
Lastly, I learned a lot from Query Shark – a blog by literary agent Janet Reid where she receives real critiques and points out where they do or don’t work, and how they can be improved. Janet’s snark is legendary, so it is funny as well as educational.
Here are some extra tips for when approaching agents (or publishers):
Find out about who else they represent, what the company is like, what their approach is. It will make it easier to pitch how your work will fit into their portfolio. Yes, there is research involved here.
Follow their guidance on submissions. If they don’t provide them, then follow industry standards instead. You want to appear (and be) professional, and for everything to be presented clearly and concisely.
It’s fine to be passionate about your work, and to list any relevant successes. Awards, reviews, sales figures, or whatever else might point towards you being a worthwhile investment.
As long as you don’t break the bounds of being professional, remember to be yourself. Let some of your voice come through (especially if it is also how you write). We don’t interact with names, we interact with people. Be friendly and polite, the kind of person you’d be happy to meet and consider working with. Interesting can be a bonus, something marketable.
Next week I’ll talk about small and independent publishers (probably a post just for paid subscribers).
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