Looking for an agent

I posted this discussion in the Fiction group, but wondered if it might be a better discussion within this group:

I have been pitching and querying agents for a little while now, and I'm wondering if it would be effective to attend a conference in the hopes of meeting people face to face. Are there any conferences that would be beneficial for a first time novelist with a completed manuscript to attend? Is there any way to get face to face introductions with agents as a means to further promote our work as writers? I kind of feel like I'm spinning my wheels at this point, and I'm just wondering if there is a more effective means of getting my manuscript in front of people.  Any thoughts?

Thank you!

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  • You've already received some great advice. I have some ideas to add.

    I love Jeff's book because it is the most comprehensive collection out there. However, I also use http://literary-agents.com/ to search for genre specific agents. (I've never used his coaching services, so I can't vouch for them, but he has a lot of free stuff on the website that I have found helpful.)

    Attending conferences is a wonderful way to gain contacts (and hopefully requests) but my advice is to be sure you are attending one in your genre. If you can't find a writers conference that includes historical fiction, don't waste your money or time. Instead, look at the websites of established authors in your genre. If they are members of a certain group or association, consider joining (if you haven't already).

    While you wait for those editors and agents to respond, I suggest you work on building your platform. Follow agents and publishers on Twitter and Facebook that seem like a good fit (don't bug them, just follow them). They love to post #querytip (i.e. what they hate to see in queries) and #mswl (manuscript wish list) tweets. This will help you find THE ONE (or two or three - hey we can dream right?) that's right for you.

    You can also subscribe to agent and publisher blogs. Don't pitch in the comments (unless they ask for it), but keep an eye out for contests and pitch parties they are participating in. If they are judging, enter! It puts you at the top of the slush pile. :)

    My last piece of advice is to start working your target market now. For example, you could join a book club that enjoys similar titles to yours, or submit a nonfiction article to a magazine that you hope will be advertising your book someday. You've written historical fiction? How about joining the historical society in your area. Or if you live in an area rich with history, then participate in reenactments, help with community cleanup, or volunteer at the library. In other words, put yourself where your readers are. 

    Good luck on finding a place for your novel and I hope to see you on the bookshelves.

  • It looks like I have a literary agent now that specializes in getting clients big advances, so we'll see. 

  • Thank you all so much for your responses! I have Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents, and so far I've been focusing only on the agents portion of the book, but perhaps I'll branch out and begin querying a few publishers directly.

    It is frustrating, because I've had two different agents read my manuscript and they loved it and felt like it would be an easy book to publish, but unfortunately both of these publishers work solely in the Christian publishing market, and my book is historical fiction, not Christian lit, so it's not a fit. I just need to find that one person who will be willing to see the potential and help me run with it! :)

    I'll keep trying. Thanks for the encouragement, and the words of advice. I appreciate it greatly!


  • Hi Kelli, I understand that attending a conference can be helpful in finding an agent for your manuscript. However, it has never been convenient for me to do so. Thus far, I've had no luck in querying agents and am a little tired of their standard excuses. For example: Despite the quality of your work, they must reject it because they receive thousands of queries and can accept only a few of them. Another standard rejection is that you have a good story, but it's not a fit for them. Instead, I'll echo Mary's advice. Querying small publishers has certainly worked for me. Just be sure to pick those that publish your genre.

    Good luck,

    Joan Diehl

  • Hi Kelli,

    Yes, if you can afford it, go to conferences. As far as which ones to attend, there are lots of reference guides out there to help you narrow your search down to the ones specific to your genre Jeff Herman's Guide is a good place to start.

    I agree with what both Mary and Janet said also. Show agents you have potential and aren't afraid to do some work on your own, that you mean business and by promoting your self and getting published (even small press) shows them just that.

    I've begun entering chapbook contests and poetry competitions and winning manuscript gets a publishing deal and a certain number of printed copies of the book. One of the contests mentioned that a well known agent will be viewing the submissions as well!

    Good luck!


  • Kelli. Welcome to the world of publishing - it's never been easy, but it seems that getting a book on the bookshelf is harder these days than ever before for many reasons - the economy, the state of the world, and people are downloading books more than buying them at bookstores. That said, I agree with Mary's comment, but I also suggest that you just keep searching. Follow Jeff Herman's book "A Guide To Agents" and keep sending out queries. It's sooooo much easier these days because you can email your proposal, too. It's worth the work because a good agent is very important. If you are lucky enough to highly respect one another's roles in this "hurry up and wait" process, you will have a life-changing relationship with your agent. It's worth the wait to find agents that you really really respect. A good agent will make all the difference in the world. keep on it.

  • Hi Kelli, I'm traditionally published with 3 novels out. Honestly, it's harder to get an agent than to get published. I'm not saying give up, enter contest that speak of agents and of course if you can afford it go to conferences, but above all query publishers with your manuscript.

    Perhaps you will have to take the road 50 % of authors do. Get published with a publisher first. A small publisher is a good stating point, then seek an agent. They pay more attention to published authors.

    Good Luck in your endeavors,

    Mary L. Ball



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