Do you have advice for writers who are looking for an agent?
By Eric Smith
The first bit, and maybe the most important when you’re starting your search, is to do your research. This is assuming your manuscript has been polished to perfection and reviewed by colleagues and friends. If you haven’t done that yet, do that before beginning your search.
Now, there are a lot of amazing websites that make this process infinitely easier. Manuscript Wishlist is one of my favorites. Writer’s Digest is a great resource as well, often showcasing new agents and publishing roundups of agents looking for specific genres.
And of course, Google certainly helps. Every agency has a website, which details agent bios, what they are looking for, and the like.
If you’re feeling a little more analog, you can spend some time in your local bookstore, checking out the books that you feel are solid comparative titles for yours. Are you writing Young Adult contemporary? Look at those reads, flip to the back, and see who agented that particular book. Just like that, you know that agent has an eye for that genre.
What are you looking for though? Well, you want to make sure the agent you are pitching is interested in the sort of books you want to write. Do they even represent books in your genre? Are they open for submissions?
Don’t just go pitching everyone and anyone. Take your time. This is someone you want to have a long, working relationship with. You’ll become friends.
Now, say your research is done. You’ve found a handful of agents you think you’d have a good working relationship with, your manuscript is polished up, and you’re getting ready to pitch.
How do you do that?
At a conference not too long ago, one of my favorite agents (yes, agents can be fans of other agents), Gordon Warnock, mentioned how someone once told him the best query letter is “the hook, the book, the cook.” So, a hook to get the agent interested, a bit about the actual book, and then of course, who YOU are.
Curious about how to write a query letter and make it shine? Here are a few solid posts that might help you out.
- Susan Dennard: How I Got My Agent (Susan is one of my favorite YA authors ever, do pick up Something Strange & Deadly and Truthwitch)
- Chuck Wendig: Don’t Fear The Query (And Chuck is one of my favorite authors period, his latest, Invasive, is incredible).
And last, one of my favorite ways to tell people to look for agents, is to utilize social media.
There are so many excellent online pitch events for authors to connect with agents and editors, that it feels almost impossible to list them all, but keep an eye out for Pitch Madness, DV Pitch, AD Pitch… all of which encourage authors to tweet out quick details about their books for agents to potentially favorite and pick up.
Me, I found Samira Ahmed via one of those contests. I signed her a few days after requesting her book, and her debut, Swimming Lessons, sold to Soho Teen quickly after.
- Samira Ahmed and Swimming Lessons (This shows off her query letter too!)
Spend some time looking into those. Can’t hurt. Though be aware and be careful of who is requesting and checking out your work. Remember the research portion? Make sure the person requesting your book is an actual agent or editor!
Though, I do understand social media isn’t for everyone. Don’t feel like you HAVE to do this. There are scores of agents who don’t even use Twitter. That said, don’t let an agent’s social media presence sway you career wise. Yes, some of us are charming and funny on there… but that doesn’t mean you’ll gel businesswise. Personality is important, sure. But so is having that professional relationship.
Now, good luck out there writers. Remember:
- Do your research.
- Master your query letter.
- Play on social media, if that’s for you.
You got this!
Eric Smith is an author, blogger, and literary agent living in Richmond, Virginia. His debut humor book, The Geek’s Guide to Dating, came out with Quirk Books in 2013. His YA series, Inked (2015), is available now with Bloomsbury’s digital imprint, Bloomsbury Spark, with a sequel, Branded (2017), coming soon.
Tattoos once were an act of rebellion.
Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin.
And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can’t escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice.
But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves.
Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.
The Geek’s Guide to Dating
You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your bedsheets are officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall. What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from Eric Smith in The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer leads geeks of all ages through the perils and pitfalls of meeting women, going on dates, getting serious, breaking up, and establishing a successful lifelong relationship (hint: it’s time to invest in new bedsheets). Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.
A huge thanks to Eric for taking the time to write out this awesome guide to landing an agent! I highly recommend all of the above suggestions and resources. Check them out, and if you have any other questions about querying, I’m sure Eric and Kelly are more than happy to answer. Also, keep an eye out for Eric’s new book called Welcome Home, a short story anthology about the “emotional complexities of adoption”, coming out in 2017!
As always, a huge thank you to everyone who participates in this feature. Your words of wisdom and stories never go unappreciated by tomorrow’s writers.
Have a wonderful weekend!