Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch an agent by the toe, if he hollers … blah blah blah.
The past month has gone by in a complete blur of utter confusion and chaos. But enough about my personal life, we all know life is hard, boohoo, Waa, Waa. I’ll stop now. This last week I’ve been mulling over my manuscript after receiving feedback from my beta readers, and even though there are some fixes I need to address, the query letters and other submission guidelines are nearing completion.
This is the part where many of us begin to look for agents to pitch our book. Except not all of us follow that approach. In fact, I argue no one should follow that approach, ever. Try to push your anxiety and eagerness to get published aside for a minute and consider this, finding the right agent is better than finding any agent. With this thought in mind, don’t you think you should probably put a little more thought into it? Finding the right agent is just as important as finding the right book cover, or the right book title. So why would you rush into it? Because you’re desperate. I get it. You just want to get that book out there.
But getting your book out there won’t happen, or if it does it might not be the smoother process, if you don’t have the right agent backing you up. But how you may ask, how in the world will I find the right agent? Well, let me tell you. I don’t know. No one knows who the right agent is but you. Which is why you need to research the heck out of all the possible agents representing your genre out there. Research agents, then research some more, then research again, then, and only then, you can go ahead and submit, after you have compiled your list, narrowed it down, and done everything in your power to follow their guidelines to a tee.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. Let’s try it out together. Right now I am on step three. I guess I should break down the steps first. Allow me.
Step 1: Research
I have three steady sources I like to follow to find potential agents. The first one is Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents email list. He always includes at least two new agents seeking representation in his monthly newsletter. My second source is Writers Conferences’ agents. You can find what agents are going to your Writers Conference on their homepage and from there you can look into what they represent and whether you’d be interested in pitching to them or not. Lastly, I love to look at the acknowledgment pages of books in my genre. Sometimes that specific agent isn’t open to new submissions, but other agents in their firm might still be an option. You can also look here for more options.
Step 2: Compile Your List
This step I do at the same time as step one. I begin my list and start compiling the names of every agent that sparks my interest. I keep a pretty straightforward list. Agent’s name, Agency’s name, a link to their query requirements, and whether they are opened to new submissions. You can download my PotentialLiteraryAgents excel template.
Step 3: Prioritize
Narrow your list down to the agents most suited to your book and organize your list based on their priority level, who’s your first option, second option, third, fourth, etc.
Step 4: Customize Submission Guidelines
Follow their submission guidelines to a tee. Do your homework. Otherwise none of them will accept your book and the work you’ve done so far will be for nothing. There are many sources on the internet that give advice on how to approach agents, how to draft your query letter, what to say, what to do, what to avoid, etc. Some of the most helpful ones I’ve found here, here, and here. One more here.
So back to not taking my word for it and trying it out for yourself, along with me. I’m currently on step three, and quickly moving into step four. Since I already have an idea of whom I would like to submit my work to, customizing my submissions shouldn’t be so hard. I’ll admit that I have never submitted to an agent. In fact, I am expecting the same rejection letters so many before me have received. But let’s be honest, if we put forth our best work, follow guidelines, and really endeavor to be professional, respectful, and patient, the rejections that will come should only serve to strengthen our resolve to find the right match, the right agent, not only for our book, but also for us as writers. After all, finding an agent was never meant to be as simple as singing a children’s counting rhyme.