By Katrina Moore
A writer’s journey is full of waves. Some knock you down. Some push. Some pull. Others wash over you with warmth and glimmer with hope. And on this journey, landing the right literary agent can provide both a powerful wind to to push you in the right direction and an anchor to keep you grounded. So how do you get there?
Shall we set sail?
There is a sea of excellent and in-depth resources to surf through online. So instead of restating what’s already out there, I’ve fished through and organized links with boat loads of information.
But first . . .
Are you really ready?
Do you have at least three to four “ready manuscripts?” Ready as in, ready for agents’ eyes and ready for editors’ eyes?
Why is this important? Honestly, your first manuscript might not sell. Your second manuscript might not sell, either. Your agent has to know they can get behind your body of work. And the wider range you can show them early on will ensure that they will be able to be a champion for your career, and not just this one book.
If you’re not sure if you’re ready or not, check out these articles:
Yippee! You’re still aboard!
Let’s journey on . . .
How do you research agents?
Research is so important. You want an agent who can be your champion. Who will sail with you through the ups and downs, keep you afloat when you feel you’re sinking, who is so passionate about your work that they’ll practically jump off the boat running to shore to share your work with editors. And yet, finding the right agent is such a personal thing. Not only should they check the list of qualities you’re looking for in an agent, but there are also so many intangibles that you can’t know until you at least talk to the agent on the phone. Just like with dating, sometimes a person can check all the boxes and yet, they end up being all wrong for you! (More on how to gauge this in “What Should You Ask Before Accepting Representation?” below)
Here’s advice that Senior Agent Jen Rofė recently tweeted on researching agents:
So back to that list. . .
Have you made a list of the qualities you’re looking for in an agent?
Doing this will help to narrow your search down. Once you make your list, here are a few different ways you can go about researching agents:
This article provides a wealth of information including whether you might need an agent or not, how to research agents, how to tell if an agent is “real”, how to write a synopsis, etc:
And here are some more great links to check out:
Ready to take the plunge and Query?
What to put in your query letter:
I would add that you should tell the agent why you are querying them (succinctly) in your query. If an agent knows that you specifically took time to think of them because of xyz, they may be more excited to consider your submission.
And when rejections start rolling in, because most likely, some (or a lot, a lot, a lot) will, don’t get salty (I know, nearly impossible). But, it really is about being a good fit for each other, otherwise the agent won’t be able to best serve you. So if they’re not passionate about your work, they really shouldn’t be your agent.
Here’s what agent Molly O’Neill recently tweeted regarding agents not "saying yes":
QUERY LETTERS THAT WORKED! There are real examples of query letters that landed agents and book deals here, plus an analysis of why they’re so great:
What should you ask an agent before accepting representation?
How do you know if it’s the right agent for you?
"Is It Normal?" A great twitter thread by Amy Tintera on what to expect from an agent:
Best Practices from Agents and What an Agent is Supposed to do Podcast from senior agents Jennifer Laughran and Kelly Sonnack:
And finally . . .
How do you prepare for this long and arduous journey?
The 3 Ps! I originally shared the below advice on my “How I Got My Agent” post on Julie Hedlund's Blog:
Patience – It’s about the journey. It’s a long, long (rollercoaster of emotions) journey. But have patience and faith that you will find that great match. It’s worth waiting (and researching).
Perseverance – There’s so much you cannot control in this process. I kept my mind off the waiting by focusing on the only thing I could control: my writing. I continued to hone my craft so that every time my work was viewed, it was my best.
Positive Thinking – Eye on the prize! (The prize being that you continue to grow into a better and better writer. There are so many different paths to take. What is perfect for someone else will not be perfect for you. But you will get where you want. Keep going!
And if you’re worried that you’ll fall off the boat,
that you’ll be unable to find your way to land . . .
**P.S. If you have links, questions, or advice to add, please do so in the comments!**
Katrina Moore writes and teaches in New Jersey, outside Philadelphia. Earning her M.A. in elementary education, she has been a teacher for almost a decade in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. Her debut picture book, ONE HUG, illustrated by the talented Julia Woolf, is a lyrical celebration of the different ways that hugs bring people together, forthcoming from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in 2019. The book follows an Asian-American boy as he and his family prepare to welcome their immigrant relatives. When she is not teaching elementary kids or writing, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pomapoo pup, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
Katrina Moore writes for all, teaches many, and raises two young children. She holds an M.A. in elementary education. She's the author of ONE HUG, GRANDPA GRUMPS, SOMETIMES LOVE (Penguin/Dial, '22), and the forthcoming chapter book series, TEENY HOUDINI (HarperCollins/Tegen, '22), and more. Connect with her on twitter!