Question of the Week: How do I get an agent?

Getting an agent works the same way as finding an editor. You have to do tons of research to try to find the agent best suited for your work. Now you could go straight to Literary Marketplace or any of the other indexes and just start writing down lists of children’s agents. However, these listings can be vague. Just because an agency says they do children doesn’t mean they do children’s historical fiction. Writer’s Digest’s Children’s Writers & Illustrator’s Market does have more detail, but it is only put out once a year. You have to be careful to double check that nothing has gone out of date.

So, before you even touch these guides, you want to narrow down your search in advance. How? Well, the absolute best thing to do is to find authors in your genre that you admire and respect. It also helps if they are in the same country. Then, look in the acknowledgement section of their book to see if they mention their agent. You’d be surprised the number that do. This is also an excellent way to discover editor names. This method isn’t perfect, though. Some authors don’t do acknowledgements, and picture books rarely have them. Then I recommend looking at the authors’ websites. Again this is not fool-proof. Some authors just don’t mention it. Then you have two choices, you can give up and query the agents you have been able to uncover, or you can ask the author. Personally, I’m chicken and would never have the guts to email an author through their site. But I encourage braver souls to try. The worst that can happen is that they don’t respond or tell you to mind your own business. In the best scenario you start a fascinating correspondence with a person you admire.

Now, that you have agent and agency names, go to the various indexes to get those agents’ addresses and submission guidelines. Be sure to doublecheck everything on their websites. Every agent has different submission guidelines, so be sure to follow them. You don’t want to be rejected because you didn’t follow directions.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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