When it comes right down to it, how do we know which agents to query when we finish a manuscript? Where do we find them? Who should we pick?
After completing my last round of edits for my middle grade fantasy, I knew it was time to send it back out into the insane world of agents for representation.
I tried my hand at this last year (with a much less impressive draft, might I add), so I wasn’t going into it blind.
Here are a few tips:
- Edit your manuscript. And when you’re done editing. Edit again. And again. And send it to editors or freelance editors or beta-readers for testing. Then edit some more. Your own opinion is not enough.
- Make a list of agencies that accept your genre. Not all agencies accept everything. So DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I’ve read so many comments by agents and publishers that are frustrated because writers do not take the time to research each agency individually. Yes it takes extra time. But if it gets you one step closer to a contract, why take the chance at looking unprofessional?
- Narrow down your list to favorites. I narrowed my list of 90 potentials to 30. I know it is tempting to send your baby to every living agent who accepts your genre, but resist!!! Read up on the agency. See what books they represent, what authors they love, even their agent bios. It tells a story of the agent we might not otherwise know and points us in a good direction. It may seem like we’re taking away chances at publication, but why would you want to be represented by someone who you don’t have anything in common with or who won’t do their best by you?
- Avoid agents who charge you for printing or reading. THIS IS A SCAM!! I’ve read it over and over. This is supposed to be part of their services, not another charge to you.
- Try for agents who are members of a national association. Especially the AAR. Association of Authors’ Representatives. If they say they’re a member, they’re obligated to follow a code of ethics as an agent and do their best for you, the writer.
- Prep your submission package to within an inch of its life. Again, professionalism is everything here. There are certain requirements and formatting guidelines that are required when you submit, and so few people know about it. Don’t be someone who sends an unwashed draft of your story. Get informed. And tailor your submission to the agency’s demands. If you don’t, they will literally throw your submission away or delete it from their inbox. Do EVERYTHING in your power to make sure they are impressed with you.
- Be patient. Most agencies do not appreciate it if you keep calling or e-mailing them. If you don’t hear back within two months, assume they’ve rejected you. If you keep trying to contact them, they get annoyed and might get rid of your stuff. Don’t take that chance.
- Breathe. It’s okay to be rejected. I was rejected 12 times last year, which sent me on a massive re-writing tour through the past year and produced a novel that’s 100 times better than it was a year ago. Remember, all your favorite authors were rejected. Yes. All. (Unless self-published).
There you are! A few tips for those ready to submit your manuscript. Did I miss anything? What do you think?
My own personal field guides to agents and submissions are:
Writer’s Digest. Seriously, folks. It’s a wealth of information, and they have a zillion articles literally titled, “How I Got My Agent.” Hello?!?!!? Free advice for getting an agent! Score!
Guide to Literary Agents. Which is a book updated and published every year with contact information of hundreds of agencies, as well as tips and tricks to increase your chance of publication.
Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd ed. This is an amazing resource for any writer. It has submission guidelines for articles, poetry, short stories, novels, screenplays, etc. I don’t know how I ever lived without it.
Good luck in your submissions!