Finding an agent is hard. I’ve been through the grueling process many times (I wrote three novels that didn’t get published), and if I have my way, I’ll stay with my current, wonderful agent until the day I die!
I’ve never been one to believe there’s some magic trick that will get you an agent (unless you consider “good writing” a magic trick): I once had an agent I found through a blind query, and I had another who found me after reading my work in a literary journal. My current agent is one I solicited several years after I met her briefly at a writer’s conference. So, no magic wands involved…just a lot of hard work and perseverance are needed to succeed in an agent search.
Becky Wolsk, one of the members of my recent novel workshop at the Writer’s Center, is currently undergoing that process of hard work herself as she searches for an agent. Becky is a talented writer and a generous person: not only did she immediately volunteer to bring her work in on the first day (a teacher’s dream!), but she has already started organizing a fall reunion for our class so we can catch up and see how our novels-in-progress are progressing. Now, she’s also kindly offered to share the results of her research and the helpful resources she’s discovered in her agent search:
An Information Junkie’s Recommendations for the Agent Search
1) Check the acknowledgement pages of similar books to yours/books you like--most authors thank their agents.
2) Publishers Lunch Deluxe: ($20.00 per month, unlike the shorter, free version called Publishers Lunch) I think the “Deluxe” version is worth the cost because you get access to their “Who Represents” and “Deals” databases, and to the complete version of their “Lunch Weekly” deal report, which comes out via email each Monday. While I wrote my first novel, I collected deal blurbs from these Lunch Weeklies and whenever I saw an agent who had sold something similar to mine, I cut and pasted the blurb into my “Agents to Query” file.
3) Agent Query is free and has a huge database of contact information and submission references. They also provide how-to articles about query letters and all aspects of the submission process.
4) Most literary agencies have web sites that give you a feel for their style in addition to providing the latest contact information, client lists, and submission preferences.
5) You can search specific agents’ names on Amazon.com using the main search field.
6) "Preditors and Editors" provides a directory of agents and, in many cases, flags agents with “recommended,” “not recommended,” and submission preferences.
7) Writers Market used to have a free “Ask an Agent” resource that has morphed into “Agent Q&A” under their subscription program. I can’t vouch for the current format but they only charge about four bucks a month, and they say you can cancel at any time, so if you want to see how agents are answering common questions, this might be worth checking out.
8) Mediabistro.com’s witty and informative "Pitching an Agent" profiles. You need an AvantGuild membership to access these--currently $49.00 per year.
9) Before composing your query letter, Google the individual agent’s name even if you already know his or her contact information and submission preferences. How else are you going to find out Big Fish Agent is an avid water polo player--and hey, you just happen to have three chapters devoted to water polo!
Hope this helps and happy hunting. ~~Becky Wolsk
About: Becky Wolsk's short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Flashquake (where her story was distinguished as an editor’s pick), Literary Mama, What If?, Glass Quarterly, Brain Child, Imperfect Parent, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, and several arts and humanities databases. Her professional background is in library science and education, so she's quite the research maven. She's currently seeking representation for her first novel, set in Washington, DC’s “bourgeois bohemia.”