On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Resources for Finding a Literary Agent

You want to find agents that represent works similar to yours. In other words, don't go to an agent who exclusively takes nonfiction if you are trying to sell a novel. Don't go to an agent who has literary-type authors if you're trying to sell a blockbuster adventure story.

Remember that you want to make a list of at least fifty agents to whom you can submit your manuscript. The only way to find this many is doing lots of (mostly) internet research. Fifty is a big number. You should determine competing similar books to yours, then research these books on google and amazon to find agent and other information such as sales. Research the authors. If you can afford it, go to appropriate writer's conferences or seminars to meet like-minded writers, authors, or business people who might have suggestions. Enter contests, especially judged by professionals. Ask, seek, knock.

Do google searches for "literary agents" or literary agencies" or your genre. Also check out blogs about writing, publishing, or by the individuals whom you may be interested in. The following specific websites may also give you a few leads:

www.publisherslunch.com -- this newsletter is offered in both a free and paid version, and gives lots of information about recent deals and the agents who brokered them.

www.publishersweekly.com -- the website for Publishers Weekly has a "Deals" link that describes recent major deals, and also has a free weekly e-newsletter for which you can sign up.

www.writersmarket.com -- they offer a free newsletter that may contain valuable tidbits.

www.writersdigest.com -- this website has a number of good articles and links, including the 101 best annual websites for writers, and provides a free newsletter for which you can sign up.

www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog -- helpful blog.

www.agentquery.com -- a free searchable database of agent and agency information.

http://michaelhyatt.com/literary-agents-who-represent-christian-authors.html -- Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, has compiled a list of the 40 top literary agents with whom his company works. Since Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher these listed agents work with Christian works either partially or exclusively, but if your work falls within the "Christian" category by all means check it out.


Now for a few quick don't as you submit your material to literary agent:

1. Short is definitely sweet. Unless specifically requested in submission guidelines, just send a one page query, no matter how good you think your stuff is. If the submission guidelines request other things, send only exactly what is required. Don't put in extra pages just because you think the person is going to *love* it. Instead, be respectful and winsomely entice the person to ask for for.

2. Snail mail is probably better than e-mail. Unless the agent definitely wants e-mail for submissions, snail mail seems more formal and to be taken more seriously, at least to me. REMEMBER TO INCLUDE YOUR SELF-ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE (SASE) and contact information.

3. Don't be a pest. Don't call or drop in to visit the agent -- everything should be done through the postal or internet services. Make sure that your manuscript is in its final version, and don't send updates or modifications until you get an interested response -- then, talk about it.

4. Don't be weird or desperate. This means type your stuff on regular typing paper, with a regular font. Don't hide little gifts or money between the pages of your manuscript, or have sparkly things pop out of the envelope when it's opened-- if your work can't stand on its own, then you shouldn't be doing this.

I was furious with one person I was trying to help, whose manuscript had a l o o n g way to go. I told him to work on it, but also since he asked I told him, sure, he could start thinking about agents. I gave him Michael Hyatt's list, a golden document as far as I'm concerned, and warned him it was for reference only at this point. The next week he dang submitted his manuscript, and a week after that called every agent on the list to tell them he wanted an answer because he was sure his book would sell a million copies. Thank goodness he didn't use my name. I'm sharing this information with you, dear friends, and I'm trusting that you'll be careful.

One more story: having no agent is definitely better than having a bad one. I made the mistake of signing with a well-known agent whose unfortunate tactic (as I learned later) was to sign many writers, then make the rounds and throw as many manuscripts to the editors as possible. If the manuscript didn't sell after about six months, he cut off all contact. This happened to me because my manuscript wasn't ready for the big leagues, but sadly this man didn't even have the courtesy to tell me who had seen it. I know it was seen, BTW, since I received a call from one editor and was given the names of a few other houses which I have no reason not to believe were accurate. When I'd severed the relationship and finally figured out how to whup my book into shape, no other agent wanted to touch it. I finally decided to go the self-publishing route which has been a real education and good in some ways, but frustrating as you can imagine in other ways.

So there you go. Email me if you have any questions.

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