So, you’ve been to the Gold Conference. Took classes on how to write. Went to RMFW Saturday talks and bought several books on the craft of writing. You then went to work on your novel. That story that’s been bugging you since your sophomore year of high school. That novel. You wrote it! Congrats.
You could self-publish. Nothing wrong with that. But something in your heart says you want to go traditional route. OK. It’ll be hard, but your game. You came this far, right?
The next step is to find an agent. An agent who will use their contacts in the publishing world and fight for your book. An agent that will love your novel. How do you find that agent? How do you contact them without sending money to unscrupulous people promising to deliver you to hungry agents?
This is where technology and our awesome modern world can help you find that agent.
Now I do have to warn you that just because you’ll have the technology on your side doesn’t mean the process I lay out will be simple or fast. It will still take work on your end. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Internet access
- Spreadsheet software
- A Twitter account
- A Linkedin account
They are very easy to use. Linkedin will take some time to put together a polished profile, but Twitter is really fast.
What you are going to do is use the search function of Linkedin and Twitter to compile a list of literary agents to put in your database. You are also going to read the agency profiles to determine if it will be a good fit for you. You’ll then comb through the individual agents, determine which ones accept the kind of novel’s you’ve written, and begin compiling their information in a spreadsheet you will create. While you research agents to query too, some of their sites will mention their twitter handle.
Many agents have Twitter accounts. If you find an agent you want to query, then follow them! Read their posts and figure out what they like! Remember, a query letter is like a resume for a book. Today you’re supposed to tailor your resume for every business you apply too. The same is true for a query letter. (Why query an agent who loves women’s lit when you’ve wrote an epic fantasy with traditional gender tropes? Do your research!)
You could try to friend them on Linkedin, but you’ll probably get a lot of rejections. Also, NEVER query someone through Linkedin. Linkedin is a way to make professional business contacts, NOT sell yourself. (Which is what a query is supposed to do.) If they decide to friend you, great. But don’t make it a priority.
Have you made your Linkedin & Twitter accounts? Good. Now, start a spreadsheet with columns for the following:
- Last Name
- First Name
- Agency website
- Agent Contact info (or, simply an email address)
- Submit guidelines (Optional)
- Phone number (Optional)
- Twitter handle (Optional)
- Submit window (Optional)
OK, we there yet? Awesome! Now have three tabs of your favorite web browser open, along with your spreadsheet. Go to Linkedin and type in “literary agent.” You should get 3000+ hits. This is where it gets monotonous and hard. You have to go through every profile that comes up, find that agents company webpage and visit it. (Hence the second browser tab.) Most agency websites will have bios of their agents with their past sells, a little back story and what they like to represent. Read that part carefully. If you believe working with this person will help you, put their info in the spreadsheet. If not, move on. Many of these agents will share their Twitter handle there, too.
Don’t think this can be done in one day. Also, think big. Compile a list of at least twenty agents to query. You can put that agencies submit guidelines in your spreadsheet, or when you’re ready to query, visit the site again and follow the instructions at the time you send it.
Remember, this will not get done in one day. Take it slow and make sure your query is top notch. (Look for Query blogs on this site, or websites that explain it.) I wouldn’t query more than 1-2 agents a day.
Most agency websites say expect 3-6 weeks before you get a reply. Every agency is different, however, so read their guidelines carefully.
Finally, be a professional. Don’t nag, or complain to people. If you get a rejection letter (or no letter at all,) please do not take it personally. There will be plenty of other agents willing to read your manuscript and one of them is bound to love it. It might just take time.
Don’t harangue agents on twitter or Linkedin. Create business relationships with these social sites. Agents get thousands of queries a year. Many of them don’t even bother to follow the guidelines the agency or the agent have set up. If the agent doesn’t get back to you quickly, they are probably working through the hundreds of queries before yours. Be patient. Be polite. Even if you don’t get your dream agent, be kind to them. You will be surprised how supportive the writing community can be if you have the right attitude.
You can read Jason’s blog at Jason-evans.net
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