Your manuscript is finished. It’s been edited, sent to beta readers, edited again, read aloud, another edit, and now you are ready to find an agent. Where do you go next?
This is a scary and exciting time in your writing career and you want to do it right. I’ve spent months combing the internet, reading books, checking conferences, and talking to other writers. It is grueling homework and I wanted to share my findings with other writers and save them some time. Don’t be deceived. You will still be doing a lot of research.
Let’s begin with your query letter. Query letters sound like they should be easy to write. In fact, they are hard. It takes a lot of research and re-writing to meet all the criteria while still keeping your voice. Here are a few sites that will give you all the information you need to write an awesome letter.
Writing a query letter is going to take some time. Some sites recommend giving it two months to make perfect. Don’t be in a rush. You’re only allowed one query per book, per agent (some agencies even say when you query one, you query all so it’s only one per agency). Make it count. I recommend having someone else proofread (several times) before sending it out. Getting someone who hasn’t read the book, and who will be brutally honest with you, is invaluable at this stage.
Next, you need to prepare a synopsis. I found this easier than the query. Being allowed a few more words to describe my book was great but revealing the ending and trying to make it compelling without subplots was tough. Generally, these are 2-3 pages in length. Some agents will request a specific length, but usually you are good with 2-3 pages.
Sites for writing a synopsis:
Searching for agents that represent the genre/category of your manuscript can be overwhelming. Especially when you realize some of the websites are vastly out of date. That’s okay. You are going to start out with a “rough” list of agents and then refine this list as you query.
Databases for Agents:
Writer’s Market – When you purchase the book, you get access to the online database.
Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents – Book for purchase.
Don’t forget to check websites for warnings on agents:
Now, research each of the agents on your list by going to their agency website. When reviewing the agency website, be sure to take the time to read ALL of the agent bios and decide if anyone else is a better fit for your work. You may discover new agents or notice some agents have left. Pick the best match for you. Don’t be intimidated if it is the founding agent. If they are open to queries, represent your genre, don’t let fear prevent you from trying to land the best agent for your work.
You’re not done yet. You want to find the most up-to-date information possible. This is going to take some patience on your part (get used to it, the whole business of getting published is a lesson in patience). While looking at the bios on agents, note any upcoming conferences they may be attending. If they are attending a conference, find the website for the conference and the bios for industry professionals. These are usually more current than agency websites.
If you’ve never used Twitter, I recommend wholeheartedly embracing it. Look up the agents on your list and start following them. The information you glean from posts is invaluable. Many agents post query status (what date they’ve finished reading queries to) along with things they are really looking for. Others use the #MSWL for their manuscript wishlist. I also suggest searching #Query, #Querytip, #Askagent, #Pubtip. Several agencies will host ask agent sessions with their own hashtags, so keep a look out for those. It’s a great time to get all of your questions answered. (Do not pitch during these, it is against the rules).
If you are completely opposed to Twitter, you can still go to manuscriptwishlist.com and see agent profiles there. This is the most current information I’ve been able to find for agents.
These sites should get you started. If you find other sites you really love, please share them. We are all in this together.