Scrounging for Agents

It’s Wednesday – Marketing Day here at Sara D vs. Reality – and I’ll tackle the topic of finding agents and researching them (both to avoid scams and to help determine if they’re a good fit for you and your project).  Now, to start with, it’s different with fiction than with nonfiction.  With nonfiction, you can start querying prior to completion of the book (how far along it needs to be seems to depend on the agency/publisher).  Working with fiction, however, you need to have a complete, tip-top manuscript written and revised and rewritten and perfected and gone over again and then polished some more – in other words, make it as good as you can possibly make it before you even Google an agency.

Once you have your manuscript finished, it’s time to find an agent or a publisher.  You can get an agent after your manuscript has been published, or you can get an agent first and they’ll help you place your manuscript with a publisher.  Either way, an agent’s job is to negotiate your contract with the publisher, getting you more money and more exposure.  No agent should ever ever ever get any money from you up front – they get paid when YOU get paid by the publisher, and industry standard commission for an agent is about a 15% cut.

Here is my method for agent hunting:

  • Google search for literary agents plus genre of project
  • Look over the website of a given agency
  • Check (Predators & Editors guide to agencies and publishers) to see if there is a warning or a recommendation for the agency I’m researching
  • Google the agency name and/or the specific agent I want to query from that agency, checking for interviews, articles, or horror stories on public forums about working with the agency/agent in question
  • If the agency/agent looks good after my “background check”, I personalize my query letter to them based on information I found in any interviews or articles from my research

And that’s how I roll.  Any additional tips & suggestions?  I’d be happy to have ’em in the comments section!