While in graduate school for Literacy, I had phenomenal professors who treated us like coworkers and friends instead of simply students. I expressed to one of them (who knew I wanted to be a published author) I felt “stuck” with my first novel — I didn’t know what to do with the manuscript when I was done. Unfortunately at the time, not knowing where to go murdered my motivation to finish it in the first place. Our conversation was fated — she was, miraculously, good friends with a local traditionally published author. I can hardly convey how excited I was when she gave me his email address to ask him questions about the publishing process. Long story short, I got the answer I needed to move on!
For those of us who’ve been at this a while, we know the next step after writing, editing, beta reading, and more seemingly endless editing is querying. Even when we know that, it can still be overwhelming figuring out who to query. I’m hoping my list of resources to find agents might help someone currently in a querying rut, so here it is:
“100 Best Agencies with the Biggest Book Deals”
When I finally felt comfortable with my second novel to start querying, I had no idea where to start. There are so many agents out there, with so many resources to wade through, it’s daunting. I don’t remember what I Googled to get there, but I eventually discovered “100 Best Agencies with the Biggest Book Deals”. I figured it was as good a place to start as any. Some of the agencies mentioned have changed their names, disbanded, or partnered with other agencies, and some don’t accept every genre/subgenre, but overall, this is a great starting point if you’re otherwise clueless like I was.
The Directory of Literary Agents™ is also a trusted resource for writers with countless, valuable querying tips, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not the agencies are “legit”. They are. Obviously, though, you’ll want to do your own research to pick the right agent for your project. In addition to their bios and submission guidelines available on their agency websites, I tend to check agents’ Twitter pages, websites/blogs, Publishers Marketplace profiles, and Manuscript Wishlist profiles (if they have them). I want to see the other books they’ve represented and if our personalities would be a good match — seeing if my story might be a good fit isn’t enough. Think of it like online dating… for a business partner instead of a romantic partner. I don’t want to work with someone for the length of my career if we, for whatever reason, wouldn’t work well together. I’ve actually gotten a few surprisingly nasty/demeaning rejections, which is absolutely inappropriate and unprofessional, that I’ve been grateful the process didn’t go any further with them. Even after researching them enough to feel comfortable sending them my query!
If you’re this far in your authoring journey, I’d be surprised if you didn’t already fall upon Jane Friedman’s “The Complete Guide to Query Letters”. It’s a very popular how-to article on query writing. At the end of her article, she links AgentQuery as an agent-directory resource, which is, luckily, how I knew where to go next when I was finished with “100 Best Agencies with the Biggest Book Deals”. It has a wonderful agent search where you can check off which genres you’re querying under. It’s definitely another great place to start your querying journey, or a great place to continue it.
Authors in the Same Genre as Mine
If you’re a writer, I imagine you keep up with the trends in your genre, and you know of other authors in that specific genre (at least, I hope so). Look in the Acknowledgements of their books to see who their agents are.
Along that same line of thinking, you can check those authors’ Twitter bios (if they have them) to see if they reference their agents. Sometimes they do, and that’s another excellent way to find someone to query. You can even branch off from those agents to the agencies they’re affiliated with in case another agent would be better for you, or branch off to other algorithm-recommended agent profiles from the original agents’ Twitter pages.
Twitter’s Writing Community
As much as my Twitter feed annoys me when it’s cluttered with posts from people I don’t follow because someone I do follow liked, commented, or retweeted their posts, there have been plenty of times I’ve actually been grateful for this feature. Since I belong to the Writing Community, I follow mostly writers. Occasionally, a post someone interacts with is a post from an agent! I can’t tell you how many agents I’ve found this way, and I’m always delighted when it happens. It’s a little less work, and a little bit of (possibly) fate. 😊
Clearly, I don’t have foolproof advice. If I did, I wouldn’t still be querying! 😂 However, as much as querying can be frustrating to the max, it just takes that one special person, like anything in life, to believe in you. Everything happens at the right time for the best reasons. Alas, we don’t see those reasons until a particular journey is over, but it’s worth it.
Remember, the Writing Community on Twitter is incredibly supportive if you need to vent or need some advice to stay positive. Sometimes you need another writer’s perspective to keep you going strong.
Good luck, and drink a glass of wine if you need it!