You now have a completed manuscript and a killer query letter! Excellent! The question now is, who do you send it to? Step one is to make a list of agents who may be interested in reading your work. Ideally, you’ve already been doing a little of this while you worked on your query, but now is the perfect time to start if you haven’t already.
Here are some quick things to keep in mind while you’re compiling your agent wishlist:
- DO read the agent’s bio and follow their blog or Twitter. Agents will list their preferred genres or mention books or authors that they like. Look for people whose tastes closely mirror your work; there’s a better chance that they’ll take your work on.
- DO NOT submit your work to someone who expressly says they don’t represent your kind of story. No agent will thank you for sending them something that squarely falls outside of their interests or expertise. First of all, they probably don’t have the contacts they would need to sell your story or to effectively represent it. And, secondly, it’s just plain rude.
- DO research their most recent sales in Publisher’s Marketplace or similar sales listings. You want to be sure that the agents you’re targeting are making regular sales in genres and markets that you want to break into.
- DO NOT query agents who expressly say that they’re not accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Some agents already have an established client pool and aren’t looking to expand it. Don’t push them.
- DO attend literary conferences and pitchfests, if you can afford to. It’s a great way to connect with agents, editors, and fellow authors and to garner interest.
- DO NOT, if you are lucky enough to go to a convention and meet an agent there, give them your whole manuscript or even a paper query or teaser to carry with them. Instead, get their card and ask if it would be okay for you to send your work (or part of it) to them after the convention.
- DO look at agents from all stratospheres. Lots of authors dream of getting the big-name agent at the top-end agency. Very few actually land those gigs, and even fewer work well in that atmosphere. You might fit better at a smaller agency or boutique. Don’t count them out!
- DO NOT pay an agent up front for any kind of reading or submission fee. Any agency who asks you to pay before the book is sold is likely a scam!
- DO research every agency and agent that you want to query on the Absolute Write Water Cooler or Preditors and Editors and look for red flags. Selling to a lot of vanity presses, taking reading fees, or offering to send your book to a freelance editor–among other things–can be signs of a scam.
- DO NOT let fear get the better of you! I know it’s a scary step to take, and that there’s a lot to do before you can even start, but you can do it!