Agents and Where to Find Them

by Marylee MacDonald in For Writers Ready to Publish

Where can you find agents willing to represent your book? And, why should you try to find an agent when, these days, it’s easy to put your book up on Amazon?

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Here are six reasons:

  • The only way to have a major New York publisher “bring out” your book is to have an agent on your side.
  • The only way to get into bookstores is to have an agent pushing the publisher to spend money marketing your book.
  • The right agent can get you an advance.
  • The right agent can negotiate foreign rights and movie deals.
  • Your deal with a big time publisher will put you in line for reviews in major newspapers and for literary awards.
  • If you find the right agent, she or he can hold an auction and sell your novel to the highest bidder.

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A Twitter follower sent me a note saying he’d finished his first novel and wanted to find an agent. First of all, he should congratulate himself on having the foresight to join Twitter. That’s one of the best places to find an agent.

Find Agents On #PitMad

Authors who can reduce their “book pitch” to 140 characters, can join the frenzy at #PitMad. This is a day long event in which authors pitch their books, and agents drop in and out, trolling for authors and manuscripts.

During #PitMad you will use hashtags for the type of book you’re pitching: #HR for historical romance; #HN for historical novel; or #LF for literary fiction.

Here’s an example of a #PitMad pitch.

#A #HR GONE WITH THE WIND Feisty southern belle falls for the wrong guy and disses only man who can tame her, all to save Tara, the land she holds dear.

Work on your tweets well in advance. Space out the tweets over the course of the day, and study the instructions carefully. You need to be on the alert in case an agent responds positively. Above all, make sure your novel is actually finished.

You’ll find the rules for #PitMad at brenda-drake.com.

The dates for 2016 are as follows:

March 17
June 9
September 8
December 1

Find Agents By Looking In Novels Like Yours

#PitMad costs nothing. It’s the cheapest way to see if your novel “has legs.” If no agents express interest, then maybe your book doesn’t sound “market ready.” No problem. Learning how to write a pitch (or three of them) takes time. Even if you’ve written a terrific novel, you still must learn how to frame your story in a way that will appeal to agents.

If that’s the case for you, know that you can always approach your agent-hunt the old-fashioned way.

Your objective is to develop a preliminary list. You can do find agents by looking on the acknowledgments’ pages of your favorite novels. Most likely you’ll learn that the agents you’ve identified aren’t taking on new clients. Either that, or they’ve retired, switched firms, dropped out to raise children, or opened flower shops.

There is huge turnover in the agent business. The publishing industry is changing so rapidly that I’ve heard agents say the industry is confusing and scary, even to them. Many are leaving. But don’t worry. New agents are eager to try their hand.

Your goal is to identify 70 to 80 agents who handle books like yours. When you have that list, rank them A, B, C, or D, with D. Make a spreadsheet to help you keep track of what each agent requires. Start with the Ds, the agents you’re least likely to want. If your cover letter is a dud, you’ll find out soon enough.

Find Agents On Publishers Marketplace

Let’s say you find it tedious to open your favorite books on Amazon and flip through to the acknowledgments. Isn’t there another way to get that info? Well, yes, there is: a site called Publishers Marketplace.
Publishers Marketplace costs $25/month. You can cancel any time, but meanwhile, if you go on the site, you will find a searchable database of publishing deals. Let’s take a look at how to do a simple search. This will help you zero in on agents’ names. It’s especially handy if you’re the author of a debut novel.

Finding an agent on Publishers Marketplace

Finding an agent just got easier. Go to Publishers Marketplace and search “deals.”

Look in the left hand column and scroll down till you find deals. Click that.

A panel with The Latest Deals will open.

Over on the right hand side, you’ll see categories. If this is your first book, click and find debut.

Finding an agent by searching for debut deals or searching by genre

Search for debut novels or search by genre.

Now hit search. That will tell you which agents have succeeded in selling books for first-time authors. You can also search by genre. This will quickly tell you which agents are willing to “take on” new authors.

Three Other Sites to Check Out

Here are three other sites that can get you up to speed on searching for an agent. Some help with query letters. Others help with pitches. You’ll learn which writers in their forums have successfully sold their books and how long agents took to respond.

Agent Query

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America

Query Tracker

Make Sure You Send Your Very Best

Are you getting the idea that searching for agents is a full time job? Well, it is, and you have to devote yourself to the hunt the same way you devoted yourself to finishing your book.

Remember this. You only have one shot with an agent. Once agents have taken a first look at your book, in most cases they will not take a second look.

Send them ONLY what they want. And, make sure you have your novel professionally edited and proofread.

That’s it. That’s how to find an agent. But, if all of that sounds like a lot more work than you’d anticipated, then stay tuned. In an upcoming post I’m going to cover the “third rail” in publishing—independent publishers. These folks publish five to forty books per year. In most cases you won’t need an agent.

Going this route might serve you well. However, you need to watch out for the pitfalls. That’s what I’ll be covering in next week’s blog post.


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