My novel manuscript is finally done and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and inexperienced with how to go about finding an agent. If you have any tips or have had a good experience with a particular agent, please let me know.
Thanks for your help. Sorry for my hiatus from the site but my wee one is just 8 months old and between him, working full-time and squeezing in time to write, I'm super busy!
I hope you are all having tremendous writing motivation and success as we move forward into 2012!
The Writer's Market is an excellent source for finding agents and publishers. It's been around since 1921 and is updated every year. You can get a copy at your local bookstore, on Amazon or even find it in the resource section of your local library.
I've attended a couple of classes -- don't know if you have them in your area -- offered by San Diego Writers, Ink and led by an actual literary agent, who deconstructed a good query letter and showed us how to write one that an agent would respond to (or at least not immediately toss in the trash).
Basically, it should be no more than 1 page long and always addressed to a specific person in the literary agency, never To Whom It May Concern. Always mention the word count -- 80,000 to 100,000 words is standard for a novel; more than 150,000 and the agent begins to feel resentful about having to read such a long manuscript
The first paragraph is your hook, that entices the agent to read further: mention the highlights of the plot, what you think might be included in a blurb for the book.
The second paragraph is a brief summary of the novel - specific enough to give key details but still withholding enough info to intrigue the editor;
The third paragraph talks about your qualifications - if you've been published elsewhere; what specific work experience or personal history enables you to write your novel; if your novel has been workshopped in a class or critique group. What classes you've attended, which prominent writers -- if any -- have mentored you or even better, vetted your work.
The fourth paragraph is your call to action - say something like you're looking for literary representation, and would be happy to send a copy of the manuscript upon request. Mention whether or not you are sending out multiple queries. Write down all your contact info - cell phone, home phone, email address, home address.
One last thing, check out the literary agency's website and follow their submission guidelines TO THE LETTER. Some agencies prefer emailed submissions; others want to see only the first 30 pages;give them what they want, whatever it us. And don't ever ever send anything but the letter. The agent mentioned an author who mailed their agency a large brass apple, which had something to do with their book. She didn't get representation from them and the agency is still wondering what to do with the apple.
Oh, so how do I know all this? Well, I followed all that advice and when my manuscript was ready, I sent it to that same agent (whose acquaintance I'd cultivated over the years while writing the novel). She read the novel and liked it but because she only deals with foreign translation rights now she had lost her contacts with local publishers. But she passed my novel on to another agent with a very strong endorsement. That agent signed me on and four months later I landed a book contract with Penguin Books. Am working with an editor there on revisions and the book is scheduled for release in May 2013
I hope this helps!
P.s. If you want to read about the whole process, please consider visiting my blog at
Best of luck!