Even though I’ve decided to self-publish (!), I still want to help those of you pursuing traditional publication. I’ve had literary representation for two of my novels (one never sold; the other never got the chance), so I’ve learned a lot over the years.
Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Be very careful which agent you select, because…
It’s better to have no agent at all, than to have the wrong one.
I’ve had it both ways: the right agent and the wrong one. Guess which is more fun?
Let me explain. Each agent was affiliated with respected agencies; both had clients who spoke highly of them. The wrong one had even represented a friend of mine for years. She was great for him, but not for me.
Honestly, I don’t know what I could’ve done differently because on paper, we looked like a great match. If you want more details on my backstory, please read Who the Hell are You, Marcy?
Where to Find Agents
1. Turn to your favorite books – In traditionally-published books, read the author’s acknowledgement section. Sometimes, they thank their literary agent. If you query that agent, be sure to mention why you love this book because it gives you common ground. If your book compares to that one, say something like:
“My book is similar to (other book’s name), but is unique because (list the awesome ways your book stands out).”
2. Query Tracker – This online goldmine is where I found the right agent for me and where I believe every writer interested in representation should be. It’s FREE. You set up an account to join the site, then gain access to tons of insider information about each agent, such as:
* Their accepted (and preferred) method of querying: snail mail, email, online forms, etc.
* All their contact information, which genres they represent, their client list.
* Comments made by other writers (how fast the agent responds, if they provide helpful feedback, if they asked for a partial, offered representation). It’s a warm and welcoming community. Join in, then add to the conversation.
* Reports – Who Reps Whom (which agent represents what author), Success Stories (QT members who landed agents), Top 10 Agents, Top 10 Genres, etc.
* Premium Membership – for a nominal fee of $25 per year, you can receive even more incredible information. It’s worth the cash because you receive so much historical data about each agent. The extra perks include:
* Agents with Similar Tastes Report – this is how I found my agent. It works like Amazon, but instead of giving buying suggestions based on what you’ve purchased, researched, this shows agents who like the same genres as you.
* Historical Data – people who like statistics love this feature. You analyze an agent’s preferences in manuscript lengths, delivery methods, genres, etc.
* Responses – learn how many total queries each agent receives from QT members, the number of positive and negative responses, rejections. It also gives these breakdowns in percentages. This is important because it tells you the most/least receptive agents, the busiest, etc.
* Genre Response Rate – it’s like the above report, but by specific category.
* Ability to track multiple query lists (up to 20 different projects at once).
I cannot speak highly enough of Query Tracker and hope you’ll try it!
3. Social Media – We live in an amazing time where you can
stalk research most any agent who interests you. Look on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The fun aspect of this is you also learn their personality and interests, too.
4. Magazines/Blogs – Agents are interviewed all the time. Google their names and see what you find — good and bad.
5. Writing conferences – This is a great opportunity because you can watch how they interact in person. Attend their workshops, try to schedule a 10-minute appointment with them (if they’re offered), watch how they act at the meet-and-greets. Strike up a conversation with them (but don’t be that creepy person in the bathroom). You can get to know them, as well make a positive impression about yourself.
Finding the right agent is like falling in love. You must find the one for you. How they treat you during the querying process says a lot about how they’ll treat you during representation. And, NEVER give an agent money to read your work. Those are not legitimate agents. They’re scam artists preying on desperate writers.
Don’t be afraid to query these publishing professionals. Remember, you both want the same thing – for YOU to be the next New York Times best-selling author.
I hope these tips are helpful. As an added bonus, here’s a great post by Writer’s Digest explaining what to do in the exciting situation of an agent wanting to represent you: 10 Questions to Ask An Agent Before You Sign.
What are you thoughts on literary agents? Do you have any other helpful tips to find representation?
Please leave a comment. I’d love to chat.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.
My book turned into a three book series and I’m hoping to pitch and query in April or May. I love QueryTracker, but what I really love is your reminder that we should choose wisely.
Marcy Mason McKay
Great to see you, Susie.
You connected to the biggest takeaway: Choose your literary agent WISELY. Just because they want you doesn’t mean you want them. Do your homework and only query the agents you’d be THRILLED to have.
Since I was lucky enough to meet you last year @ the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference, I know firsthand you’re polished and professional. You’ll do great with your series. Go get ’em!
This is solid advice Marcy, thank you! I’m bookmarking this post for the (hopefully) near future 🙂
Marcy Mason McKay
Thanks, Dana. I’m honored you’re bookmarking me, but you know where to find me if you have more questions. Good luck.
Great advice, Marcy. It’s so important to find the right agent, and that might not be the first one who says yes! I want to work with someone who really ‘gets’ my writing and is also enthusiastic, positive and kind. I’ve found following agents on Twitter is a great way of getting to know them a bit and seeing if we’re a good match.
Marcy Mason McKay
That’s great you’re being so proactive in researching these agents. Believe me, you’ll KNOW if an agents gets your writing because they’ll tell you all they love about it and you’ll swoon. It really is like falling in love. Keep up the good work.
Heya Marcy 🙂
I have a book that I feel is ready for publication but.. it is only a small thing like your Writing Naked book and i haven’t the foggiest idea on what to do with it. I know I want it to be published but I’ve never published a book, nor queried an agent or any of the things that are part of publication. I’m not even that sure on how to get my book ready. I’m sure I will use all of these tips or look at them in the near future.
Hope you are well 🙂 and thanks for the post
Marcy Mason McKay
How EXCITING for you, Miriam. Congrats. Just become a Google queen: how to write a query letter, how to pitch your book, etc. Plus, I’m always here to answer your questions! Good luck!