How to Find the Right Literary Agent
Ah literary agents, every time I think about the subject my heart races. The whole process of trying to land a literary agent can be overwhelming at times. You have to deal with querying, rejection, and a lot of patience. Yet, once you land your agent it is the best feeling in the world.
For people who don't know what a literary agent is, a literary agent works as the "middle man" for getting your novel published in a traditional publishing setting. Their job is to send your manuscript off to many different publishing houses, making sure you are getting the best deal for your story, handling all the legal paperwork, and more. A literary agent is your right-hand man (or woman).
A lot of people don't realize, though, literary agents are looking just as hard for you as you are for them. It is like a relationship. You both are looking for a match to fulfill each others' needs. In this scenario, your needs are your manuscript and how you want it to be treated. So, when you are searching for a literary agent you want to find the "right" one, but how do you do that?
Determine Your Genre
By figuring out what genres your manuscript matches with, will help you when searching for literary agents. Genres can be tough sometimes especially when your manuscript can be considered multiple genres.
Figuring out genres are sort of like a tier. First, you are going to want to determine your main genre: fiction or non-fiction. If your story is based on real factual events and you have the proof to back it up then you wrote non-fiction. If your story is something you crafted your own way with creative dialogue and story plot lines then you wrote fiction.
Next, you are going to determine your first sub-genre which is based on your characters. If your characters are between the ages of 10-12 your story is considered Middle Grade. If your characters are ages 13-18 then your story is considered Young Adult. If your characters are between the ages of 19-25 then your story is considered New Adult. If your characters are 25+ then your story is considered Adult.
Lastly, you are going to determine your final sub-genres. This part is tricky because there could be more than one. It is all based on what your story is ABOUT. Some sub-genres are: fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, horror, contemporary, historical, and the list goes on and on. You are going to want to think hard about your story and jot down the ones that match. If you feel stuck, ask a friend for a second opinion.
Although, this is just a brief overview of genres, having some idea about what your story fits in will help you when choosing agents. Some agents only represent one genre. Other agents represent many. It all just depends.
Fining a Literary Agent
The most important part when finding a literary agent that is right for you is knowing where to look. There are four ways that you can find a literary agent and that is through websites, #pitmad, writing conferences, and the Writer's Market 2017 book.
You can use online resources to look up agents. The most important thing though is to make sure you are using reputable sites that are giving you accurate information on each literary agent. The last thing you want to do is follow incorrect submission guidelines and ruin your chances of grabbing their interest.
A few websites that are well-liked and trusted in regards to searching for a literary agent are:
This website does a really good job a displaying the authenticity of what literary agents really want in their inbox. It really is a "Manuscript Wishlist." Agents can even go on the website and edit their information which is great because that means that the information provided is always up to date.
I love this website simply for the fact that it goes beyond just listing agents. Query Tracker also provides resources for you to organize your queries and track the statistics of things like when agents normally respond and their preferences in terms of manuscripts. You just simply go online and create an account!
Chuck Sambuchino has a blog segment on Writer's Digest called "A Guide to Literary Agents." The reason why this website is so great is he makes sure to announce when there are newer agents looking to build their list and articles on what literary agents are looking for. You get a nice mix of literary agents and advice on querying them.
Ok, so your first question probably is what is #PitMad? #PitMad is a phenomenon that is held on Twitter quarterly throughout the year. This pitch party is a way for writers to use Twitter's 140 characters to pitch their story to both agents and editors. A bunch of agents and editors attend these pitch parties and if they like your pitch, then you are supposed to send them your query based on the submission guidelines they post on their Twitter profile. There are rules, though, you have to use the #PitMad in your post and the categories your novel pertains to. For example, if you were pitching a young adult fantasy novel your tweet would be "your pitch #PitMad #YA #F." You can find the dates of the next #PitMad here.
Writing Conferences is probably one of the best ways to pitch your novel to an agent. Why? Because instead of sending out query letters you have the chance to do it face-to-face. Most writing conferences give you the option during registration to sign up for the literary agent pitch session. You normally get a list of the different agents and you get to choose which agent you want to pitch to and what time. By being able to pitch face-to-face, you really get to gauge who the literary agent is as a person and your personality gets to shine through. This allows the both of you to connect better than an email would.
Here are some upcoming writing conferences for 2017:
- Minnesota Writer's Conference
- San Francisco Writer's Conference
- Michigan Writer's Conference
- Seattle Writer's Conference
- Writer's Digest Writer's Conference
The Writer's Market 2017
This is my all time favorite book and the reason I knew the slightest thing about publishing when I first started taking my writing seriously. Every year Writer's Market puts together this book compiled of writing and publishing tips, agents and editors, templates, publications, and contests (just to name a few). This is THE handbook if you are looking to get published. It answered all my questions about branding myself, what a query letter is, how to submit to certain places. I will always recommend this book to every writer I meet. I even gave Rachael one of my old copies! Plus another cool thing about this book is that once you get it you also have access to their website where you can look up more agents and editors and access even more cool info.
Is it a Match?
Ok so you've done your research, you found some literary agents, and you have an idea of who you want to send some query letters to. So, is it a match? What I mean by this is can you see yourself working with that person? This is an important question because you are going to be working with this person very closely for a long time. The last thing you want to do is pick the wrong agent and find yourself back to square one hunting for another one. I know if an agent chooses your manuscript it is exciting and you just want to jump, but it is important to see if you are a match first. How do you do this if you haven't even sent them a query yet? Take a look at their bio and their social media accounts. Research a little bit about them. If you find something you are both compatible on then you can use that to your advantage and add it to your query letter. On the flip side, maybe you find something about them that disturbs you or makes you feel like you two wouldn't get along. That is ok! Remove that person for your "to query" list and keep on searching. Having a literary agent really is like a relationship. A book relationship.
Having a literary agent really is like a relationship. A book relationship.
Put Yourself Out There
Now is the time you've been waiting for, go send some queries! You have completed the research portion. You know what you want and you know what your potential literary agents want. Go craft that awesome query letter and blow them away with your knowledge about them, your passion about working with them, and of course, your amazing manuscript!
By following the steps above you are guaranteed to land a beautiful literary relationship.