Monday, January 27, 2014

Finding an Agent

Years ago I thought the process went like this; you wrote a book, you mailed the whole manuscript to the most well known publisher you knew, and you waited by the mailbox for that big advance check.

It had to be that simple, how else could there be so many books in the libraries, the bookstores, the magazine stands? Hmmmm?

Turns out the process is slightly more detailed, like a Boeing 747 is "slightly more detailed" than a paper airplane Uncle Gallant folded for you. In fact, I've been told that an author should spend decent time searching for the right agent, comparable to the amount of time spent writing your novel. After all this book is your baby are you really going to leave it with your great aunt Bertha's mailman's daughter?

This is what I've been doing so far to wade through the sea of folks who might represent me.

I piled up all the books I've read in the last two years that are in the same genre as my novel. Then reading the credits I searched for names of agents the authors wished to thank. I cross referenced those names with agent listings in The Writer magazine, in 2104 Writers Market, 2014 Guide to Literary Agents as well as the websites for each agent.

What I discovered is this; agents move around.

So before you send them a query letter, be sure they still exist in the same city on the same street , in the same building as they did when they represented Harper Lee  in 1960, who by the way never published another novel after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Other hints include:

     After identifying 5-10 agents you feel might be a good match for you, start flowing their blogs. (Not all agents have these but many do) Then make sincere comments on these blogs. Was their advice helpful? Did you learn something new? If so tell them. But don't just spill out fluff covered compliments in order to get your name in front of their eyes. Agents are smart I've heard. Do the same thing on their Facebook page.

     Attend writers conferences, meet and greet events, book fairs etc... Last year I attended the Printers Row Literary Fest in Chicago and met writers, agents, publishers and bookmark makers. One cool event. I shook hands, handed out my business card, bought bags of books and asked lots of questions.

     After you've attended a workshop, lecture or other event; drop a personal Thank You note in the mail. Do not go on about your upcoming book, instead just mention that you enjoyed meeting them and/or appreciated the advice they may have given you. Emails are effective but cold, whereas a handwritten Thank You says that you care about detail and relationships.

This is what I've done so far. To date I have not secured an agent but I'll let you know when I do. In the meantime, please leave your own comments about this process. I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface.


  1. I can't help with experience about the process, but I think your post will be very helpful for those looking to go this way.

    1. Just writing it helps me Leigh. I learn best by repeating information given to me be it by reading it out loud, sharing it with others or by reading my own post late at night. "Hey that's good. Who wrote THAT?"

  2. I'm going to enjoy this blog. btw, my irishfarmerette link isn't working so am using my google account which brings you nowhere!
    That's partly why I self published - cos I hadn't a clue how to go about getting an agent and didn't have the patience to wait. Having said that, I am going to send my book off to one as I need an American publisher to help me edit it for American readers and get it out there.
    Going to click some of those tabs above now to see if they tell me more about this masterpiece you are writing - well done my dear xx

  3. Lorna, one of the things I love MOST about your book is that while it is Ireland specific it speaks universally to the woman who marry farmers. I enjoy all the references that are clearly Irish, the terms, the language the history and I do hope the changes they make on this side of the ocean are very minor. Just my humble opinion.

  4. Laura Ingalls Wilder was published at 67; you will be published!
    ~ Maggie