Researching Lit Agents: Some things to think about

8025427_1Here’s some inside scoop from my intern, Tara Slagle…

In order to find your dream agent or editor, you need to know who likes what, and what they’re accepting. If you do this, it could save you a lot of time and disappointment.

Finding the appropriate agent or editor can be tough, but luckily there are many resources that can help you in your search for “the one.” Helpful and trusted websites like Publishers Marketplace and Poets & Writers offer search areas where you can discover agents and editors based on what they represent. The annual edition of Writer’s Market or Guide to Literary Agents also offers advice and lists of editors and agents for your perusal. With so many listings though how do you know what to look for?

  • Determine your category: To begin, determine what category or genre your work fits into. Is it Romance, Fantasy? Children’s or YA? Whatever it is, you can filter out some agents and editors based upon what they represent or publish. If they don’t read what you write, there’s no use sending it to them; you’ll just end up with an inbox full of rejection letters and a lot of wasted time—who wants that?
  • Check individual sites: Once you’ve weeded out the professionals who won’t be interested in your work, check out what the remaining contenders are currently looking for. A great way to find this out is by checking their individual websites and blogs. Many agents and editors post what types of work they’re currently accepting—if they’re open to submissions at the present time. If that information isn’t available on their website or blog, look at recent publications they’ve represented or edited. If you’ve written a Middle Grade Sci-Fi Adventure novel that takes place on Mars and the editor recently published a Middle Grade Sci-Fi Adventure novel that takes place on Mars, unfortunately they might not be looking for another one so soon.
  • Think about market trends: Something else to consider when submitting is current market trends. This is usually  visible in the bookstores or on the bestseller lists. Here’s an example. Recently—as many of you know—dystopian novels have been very popular and successful (looking at you, Hunger Games and Divergent). Publishers rode the wave and dystopian novels flooded the market, with everyone hoping to find the next big book. But now, after reading countless submissions, and maybe even working on a few, a lot of agents and editors are tired of reading dystopian submissions. They just don’t want them.
  • Set it aside (if needed): What should a writer with, for example, a dystopian (or vampire/demon, etc) do with their manuscript that they feel is hot and ready to submit? If the market is saturated it’s likely you’ll get more than a few rejections. That’s the unfortunate truth, but there is hope: even if you’ve missed a trend, most things come back around. Just because you can’t send it out now doesn’t mean you never will. Sometimes you just have to set a manuscript aside and work on something else until the world is ready again for what you’ve written.
  • Submit: But once you’ve got a list of potential agents and editors, check out their submission guidelines. Publishers Marketplace, Poets & Writers, and the annual Guide to Literary Agents usually have up-to-date instructions for how to submit to each individual. Follow the submission guidelines and hope for the best! If you’ve done your research correctly, you may just get the good news!

Here is a list of helpful links:

Poets and Writers: http://www.pw.org/

Publishers Marketplace: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/

Writers Market: http://www.writersmarket.com/

Query Tracker: http://querytracker.net/index.php

Writers Digest forum pages: http://www.writersdigest.com/forum/

Agent Query: http://www.agentquery.com/

0Tara Slagle is Linda Epstein‘s current intern. Tara is working toward her M.S. in Publishing at Pace University. After completing her degree she plans to work in the publishing world as either an acquisitions editor or literary agent, focusing on YA and (the emerging) New Adult titles. 

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Researching Lit Agents: Some things to think about

  1. Pingback: Checklist to See if Your Manuscript is Ready for Submission | The Blabbermouth Blog

  2. Kevin A. Lewis

    I’d say marketing trends is probably the most vital part of this post; (and realize that most of what’s flaming onto the bookshelves now was news-flashing on the agent end 1 to 2 years ago. (allowing for the printer’s timelag) It’s also good to spot what trends are cyclical (vampires, dystopia, teen heroines of any kind) and which ones are largely nonrefundable; (cancer ward romances, and anything involving teenage boys as heroes-this last seems to be a deep gatekeeper antipathy which isn’t going away anytime soon-it’s why I stick to girls like glue) It’s as much an art as a science, so courage, and shuffle your cards…

  3. Chris

    Excellent advice, thanks.

    I’m querying an adult sci-fi novel set in a dystopian world (although I’m not mentioning the D-word in the query). Is adult dystopian dead, or just YA?

  4. M-E Girard

    There are great tips.
    And to the links, I’d add literaryrambles.com for anything related to querying agents with kid lit manuscripts. That was my starting point, then I moved to some of the links you shared.

    Also great advice to put something aside if it’s not the right time. Looks like trends do fade then come back around. I’ve always moved on and kept myself working on something new when I think I’m done with a current project. And I’m sure if you end up with a fan base later on, you could probably end up publishing that vampire YA (even as a hybrid author).