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Querying: Part 1 - Finding an Agent

Hi! Today's post is the first in a multi-part series. It's in response to a question that was asked in my writing group from someone starting to query: How do I find an agent? Anyone got ideas? Of course, my response was that there are MANY different aspects to finding an agent, from simply researching to writing the queries to sending them and beyond. So part 1 - how to find (aka "research and nail down") literary agents. You might want to write your query letter first (which will be part 2 of this series), but since the question asked was directly about finding an agent, I though I'd start with that). First, you need to determine your genre. Now this might sound super simple, but actually, it is CRITICAL. Critical! Knowing not only your target audience, but the specific sub-genre can make or break the query, because it will determine who you need to send it to. Is your book adult? What kind - Romance? Thriller? YA historical? Sci-fi/fantasy? Once you've determined the genre, then you can start looking for agent who represent that genre. There are quite a few great ways & resources to do that...

#MSWL (Manuscript Wishlist) - This is a hashtag that agents use to tweet what genres they like in general, and those will be listed on their MSWL pages. But then they also tweet in live time using the hashtag for more specific things - like if they are really wanting a mashup of two books or "I wish my inbox had this in it right now..." And you don't have to have a Twitter account to look at it (I don't!), but it's definitely an incredible tool for querying writers. You can also search for agents by genre, which helps narrow things down.

Publisher's Marketplace - you can also search for genre-specific agents on PM, and each agent's page has a ton of info... previous sales, clients, what they like, submission guidelines (although always check their actual agency page to confirm). Great resource!

QueryTracker - this website it AWESOME! You can not only search for agents, but read other's writers queries and track their submissions. This is helpful because you can see how particular agents respond (how long it takes/ what they might be interested in). Plus, it's so awesome to read other queries and see how many partial/full requests they get, or even (fingers crossed) offers of representation.

If you write YA sci-fi/fantasy like I do, here's a great list of agents who represent that genre... Research each, because some are out of date (it's an old list):

Okay, now that you've compiled a list, you can start researching. Don't leave this part out! Don't just mass query every agent in the world. You will want to! Believe me, I KNOW!!! You have just finished this book that you want so badly to send out into the world, and you just want to get an agent. But you have to stop and think, for just a moment. It's better to have no agent than to have a bad one (or one that isn't right work your work).

So look through each agent's website, read their biography, and then dig some more. Find interviews, look at their clients - just find out a little about them. Would you want to work with them? If they called and offered representation, would you want to say yes? They will be a partner for your career. You'll work closely, talk frequently, be friends. Make sure it's someone you'd get along with. Also, if you send your project to someone who says they're looking for contemporary, sending them your sci-fi is only a waste of time (most often). If they are open - like if they just say YA or YA fiction - then by all means, send away :) Also, sometimes an agent might find a fantastic manuscript outside their regular style, and fall in love with. Kristin Cashore's agent Faye Bender never thought she'd rep sci-fi or fantasy, until she fell in love with Graceling. So you never know!

Alrighty, so now you have made a list, narrowed it down, and decided on which agents to send to. The next thing on the list is a killer query. Part 2 - writing the query - will be coming soon! Stay tuned!

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