How to Get a Literary Agent, Part 1: Research

Hi everyone!

I’m kicking off a series of posts in the blog on how to get an agent. It’s a list of resources and questions and everything else you need to know about the process of getting an agent.

The first thing you need is: you have to write a book.

Seriously, do not think of querying before your first draft is finished. It has to be complete, and you must have told a story and everything is set in place. Now it’s time to revise.

Do not, under any circunstances, query a book that has not been through heavy revisions. You should get CPs, beta readers, and everything in between to make sure your book is in good shape. The great thing about revisions is that they take a while, and you can write another book while you’re waiting for feedback. But you can also do your research on who you’re going to query once revisions are done.

Most agents will only look at a book once, and not if they’re revised. Don’t throw away your shot! If your book is in the best shape, then your chances are high of requesting. But first: resarch.

What does research consist of? It makes sure that your book gets into the hands of the right agents. That means: if you’re writing an YA fantasy, don’t query an agent who only represents adult literary fiction. He will not be a good fit for you, and you’ll end up only getting rejections you could have avoided.

While you’re waiting for the feedback, start looking at sites like QueryTracker and Manuscript Wishlist. They compile a great list of agents and what they’re looking for. Note down the agent, the agency, whether the agency accepts multiple submissions  (meaning is if a ‘no from one is a no from all’ agency), their e-mail, response times, and anything that might look useful to you. When I was ready to query, I had a list of over 150 agents I could look at.

My own agent list looked like this:


You can see here AGENT NAME, WHERE (which Literary agency they’re with), GENRE (meaning which genres in writing they represent), READING LEVEL (YA, MG, Adult), SUBMISSION GUIDELINES, CURRENTLY SEEKING (any MSWL relevant to my book), EDITORIAL INPUT (whether they do revisions with their clients or not), RESPONSE TIME (how long does it take for them to consider a query), and REPRESENTING (the clients they currently work with). Of course, this list can change, and I had a separate excel sheet for when I was querying, but this helps you keep track of people in the business and who you want to work with.

Doing your research

Doing your research can be hard, and here is a list of interesting websites to look at:

  • Manuscript Wishlist. Manuscript Wishlist is an awesome resource for querying writers that has the profile of each agent and exactly what they’re looking for and what they represent.
  • Query Tracker. Query Tracker is an excellent website that offers info on agents and how long it takes for them to respond. It also lists when agents are open and closed to queries, and you can make your own to-query list when you create a profile.
  • Publisher’s Marketplace. Although it’s a paid resource, it can be invaluable to know what deals agents are brokering in PM and what exactly is going down on the inside of things. This is a complete and excellent website for any serious querying writer.
  • Literary Rambles Agent Spotlight. The Literary Rambles Agent Spotlight has a complete set of interviews with agents and what they represent, as well as compiles a list of other interviews with agents that could be interesting to look at.
  • Facebook groups like Sub it Club. Often Facebook groups talk about agents and good resources to find them. Be a part of them and participate on the community to have good insider info on agents and publishing professionals.

Researching is extensive and complicated, but it pays off. That’s the first thing you should be doing with your time. Friends may even have a list they’ve already compiled. Follow agents on twitter and make sure you’re up to date with news. You can also look at the ‘Acknowledgments’ part of all the books you love — writers will usually thank their agents, and you can start from there. If you look at the page for book deals from Publisher’s Marketplace as well as Publisher’s Weekly you’ll also find agents who have recent deals.

This list will really help you when you get to the querying stage. It’ll guide you and facilitate a lot of the work when you’re ready to query.

In the next post of this series, we’re tackling what stops a lot of people from getting an agent: the query. Read part 2 here.

Stay tuned!

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