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How to find an agent
Linnea Ren
Posted: Sunday, March 2, 2014 2:34 PM

 Alright, so originally I planned to self-publish The First Nine, and most of my other books, but when I mentioned this to my librarian friend, she told me she'd never forgive me if I self-published because I'm too good for that or something and she wants to see a full on publishing company on my book. Also, apparently self-published books rarely make it to libraries. As a librarian, it's a big deal to her. My only problem at this point is I don't have an agent, and I don't know how to look for one.



Yes, I know I could just do a google search, but I don't know if I can trust any of the sites or the people I find. Another friend of mine has a connection in the agency world from when she was a model (apparently they're connected?) but can't get in touch with her for at least a few months as she's out of the country, so I'm lost. Does anyone have any advice for me? Where did you find your agent if you have one and where would be a good place to start looking?






--edited by Linnea Ren on 3/2/2014, 2:35 PM--

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014 1:28 AM

You'll find what you need here: http://www.agentquery.com/


Before you query, though... Publishers aren't looking for writers who are as good as those they have. A new writer has no following, so they need the great reviews that bring in readers. So first, your work should be at a level where if they took your submission and mixed it with that of ten writers currently with books in the stores, an acquiring editor couldn't tell, just by reading, that yours is the one unpublished writer's submission. And in fact, yours must be the best of the bunch. So be certain you are writing on a professional level before you submit. It saves postage and prevents heartbreak.


Your librarian friend is right. Self published work never gets placed on the library's shelves, It also doesn't appear in the chain bookstores.



Linnea Ren
Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014 1:33 AM

Thank you.


Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 10:15 PM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78

Great site Jay, have found that to be an invaluable resource when seeking and selecting agents in my genre.  They also have great resources around what the process could look like, what major publishing houses and their imprints are and other smaller publishing houses.  I've spent a lot of time there before coming to learn about Book Country.


Your advice is also spot on.  Many agents on twitter have said nearly exactly the same thing to me.  Makes sense too, a new work must speak for itself in a crowd not simply blend in.  There are hundreds of agents out there Linnea, keep on revising and querying.  Use peer review from Book Country to turn your WIP into that exceptional work.  Master your craft by learning from published authors in your genre and other literary resources.


You may also consider literaryrejections.com.  They don't have a nice search feature like agentquery but their information is much more up to date and includes links to relevant interviews and social media accounts.

Linnea Ren
Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 10:22 PM

Thank you DC I'll be sure to look there if things go sour. I've actually found an agent I'm going to send a query too. She actually lives about a ten-fifteen minute walk from where I do, so it's close, and she's had a lot of success. She's also looking for a book that fits mine to a T. I'm writing a query letter right now (and it is HARD), but I'll also take a look at your site and think of sending my letter to more than one person. 

Again, thank you!


Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:13 AM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Hi Linnea,

Don’t mean to staunch the great discussion you guys are having angel, but I just wanted to point you to some of the blog content we've had on agents and the query process that I think applies to you.

  • Query Letters 101 post -- it has a lot of good real-life examples of query letters that worked 
  •  Query analysis by agent Jennie Goloboy. We posted her writer (and BC member!) Jamie Wyman's original query letter, with Jennie's comments interspersed throughout. This is, I think, particularly relevant to you as it's an urban fantasy submission. Note that different agents rep different genres, so you want to only query the ones that rep fantasy. 
  • Also, I love this post by agent Sara Megibow (who is, btw, BC member Mike Underwood's agent). It's called "Before You Query a Literary Agent." LOL
  • In a different post, Sara also answered questions about recent publishing trends, and I think her answers about SF/F submissions at the end would apply to you. 


Good luck!



BC Coordinator 

--edited by Nevena Georgieva on 3/5/2014, 10:13 AM--

Linnea Ren
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 11:05 AM

Oh wow! Sara Megibow isn't the agent I was looking at, but her partner, Kristi, is. That's a weird coincidence. 

Anyway, thank you! I'll have to read through those blogs more in depth when I'm not trying to rush out for class, and I'm sure they'll help me a lot I appreciate it the help!


Linnea Ren
Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:18 PM



Just wanted to post again and say thank you so much! I tried looking at agentquery.com for advice on query letters, and it just confused me more. But the blogs you've linked, with plenty of examples, have helped clear up a lot and I feel more confident about writing one. Summarizing my entire story into fiveish sentences is still going to be close to impossible, but I have a lot of people to help me. 


So thank you! I feel so much less stressed now!


Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:57 PM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78

Sara is a good agent and an even better person.  She is very active on twitter and a huge resource who is willing to chat with people, answer questions and give you general insider tips that other agents may not.  I had a successful query but after considering my partial unfortunately she passed, but such is life.  Even still she's a fun person to talk to.  Many of the authors she reps, like Michael R Underwood that Nevena mentioned, are also active in social media and very forthcoming in answering questions.  One of them I actually exchange regular emails with now, its been a huge learning experience for me.
Lucy Silag
Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 9:15 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

Eeeeeeeeeeep! This makes me happy!!


Linnea Ren
Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:45 AM

 DC: I am considering sending it to Sara too. I guess my reasoning for not at first is kind of stupid (we share a name so I decided somewhere in my sleep deprived brain that it'd be too awkward), but I might. I'm also going to look for more since all of my writing friends are telling me I should. I still also have to revise The First Nine again, so it might take me a while.


But! Since Sara sounds like such a nice person I might try and get in touch with her anyway. Shouldn't be too hard. Her office is a twenty minute walk from my dorm. 


Lucy: I'm glad it makes you happy!





Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:06 PM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78

Sounds good!  I'd be willing to send the query letter I sent her that caught her attention (she gets 40k emails a year) but, again, didn't get me the full   Also, don't apply in person.  She's tweeted several times how much that gets you an instant no.  As with all agents, follow the submission requirements to a T.  Deviations = automatic rejection.  Hard truth but Sara harps on it haha.
Linnea Ren
Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 11:29 PM

That would be awesome! I think I have the opening, the synopsis, and the closing down. But the biography? I'm not good at talking about myself like that. Seeing another example might help. 


I wasn't planning to give it in person. I'd be waaaay too shy for that, but thanks for the tip! I'm trying to follow the guidelines, but everywhere I look it's different and it's getting rather annoying... I'm working on it though. 





Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 9:28 AM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Woo hoo! I am so glad you find this stuff helpful, Linnea. That's what it's here for. And, Dan, I think we are all big fans of Sara here. wink
Sheila Horne
Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 7:17 PM
Joined: 3/3/2014
Posts: 1

Your friend needs an education in publishing. There's a shift going on a the moment. Fortunately for writers, the self-publishing stigma is disappearing as more and more authors self-publish. At the same time, quite a few traditional publishing companies have gone bankrupt. Authors want more control and royalties from their work. Don't be so quick to knock self-publishing.  Sure, some people publish unpolished work but most authors take pride in their work and have it professionally edited. Whether you self-publish or go with a traditional publisher, your manuscript has to be polished. A good writer would not think of sending out work, no matter how small, that has not been edited by a professional editor. To say that libraries do not take self-published books is a general statement. The libraries in my area buy local authors' self-published and traditionally published books. It's not that easy or simple to get an agent. Most agents will not take an unpublished author and a lot of times publishing companies will not take a manuscript without an agent. Read their guideline for submission. It took someone I know two years to get an agent, by then he had self-published his book. It has done very well, so well he wrote a triglogy and they've all sold.  My suggestion to you is look into publishing. I went to quite a few seminars held by people from both traditional and self-publishing companies. If you really want your book to be out in the world, you will do it. Traditional publishers do check out what's selling in self-published books and offer deals to authors.
Linnea Ren
Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 7:34 PM

Not to be rude, but my friend knows a lot about publishing, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't insult her. She's a librarian, but also works as a manager for a publishing company that doesn't often accept from agents. I haven't quickly knocked self-publishing. I'm young, but I've been debating which I want for at least two years. 


As for being professionally edited? I have friends who are professional editors. They're the ones reading and editing my work right now. Please do not insinuate I am not a good writer. 


I have been researching publication since I was about eight years old. I know quite a bit about it and I've decided to try finding an agent. I'm not hopeful in finding one. But if I don't try I can never succeed. Besides, this isn't my only book. I have plenty I can self-publish. 

Thank you for your advice.




Jay Greenstein
Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2014 12:59 AM


• Fortunately for writers, the self-publishing stigma is disappearing as more and more authors self-publish.

That’s a fantasy many hopeful writers, and pretty much all the self-releasers hold. But lousy writing is lousy writing, and all but a tiny fraction of self-released work is lousy, and the sales figures reflect that. The average self-release, after you remove friends and relative sales will move less than 100 copies in the life of the book.

Places like Smashwords and Amazon charge nothing to release your work, and their goal isn’t to sell a million copies of a given book. They know how well self-releases sell. Their goal is to sell ten copies of a million books.

• Sure, some people publish unpolished work but most authors take pride in their work and have it professionally edited.

I’m sorry, but you’re making up your “facts.” All writers take pride in their work, and all self releasers believe that their work is something that will please a reader. But in truth, the people who self release do so because no publisher will say yes. So to start out with, the work is something a publisher says isn’t ready. And given that 75% of what publishers/agents receive as a query is literally unreadable, that same percentage holds for self released work—at best. And no editor can fix work created by people who still think point of view refers to which personal pronoun you use and make it readable. Editors find the problems you’re too close to the work to catch, they neither teach you to write nor take sows ears and turn them into silk purses.

All you need do is read a random selection of self published work to see that, no, they do not have their work professionally edited. Nor did they take steps to learn the craft of the professional.  

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2014 1:10 AM
Linnea Ren wrote:

I haven't quickly knocked self-publishing. I'm young, but I've been debating which I want for at least two years. 


As you know, I've critiqued the story you have posted here. You write well. Better then all but a few posting on sites like this. I would suggest another option than submitting or self releasing, though, which would be to dig into the structural and approach issues a bit more before taking either path.


Linnea Ren
Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2014 1:34 AM

Jay: Wow. I think this is the first time I agree with you on something you've said on here. It's a momentous day!


Anyway, I don't plan to publish or find an agent until I do one more revise of The First Nine. For that, I have to wait till someone actually reads it, because I'd rather not only fix the prologue again, and again, and again. My goal is April 6th, 2015 However, I have to ask, since you only read about five hundred words, not to comment on whether or not my structure needs work. I understand that you are all about how publishers won't read more than a page, but you really can't judge a whole book, especially not a second, unedited draft, by so little, and since your not a publisher, it just bothers me when you go that route. So... when you say I have issues to work on, it means nothing to me because I don't know if it actually applies to the rest of the book. 


But thank you for the advice. It's very kind of you to chime in and offer your advice and assistance





Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014 12:23 AM

You're missing the most important point. When you have an understanding of the underlying structural issues you'll find that the necessary changes will be so great that you're not going to be changing lines, you're going to be rewriting, changing, and literally chopping scenes and replacing them with something else.


You're focused on story, and wanting to know if that worked. But if the writing doesn't work how can the plot be meaningfully evaluated?


Assume that someone told you they'd created a scenic hiking trail and asked you to evaluate it. But this person has no training in trail management and hiking, so as you approach the trail-head you find yourself frowning at what you see. The trail is too narrow, and the footing is often uneven. There are ankle turning rocks, washouts, and the brush has far too many clothing catching snags. After a few minutes the effect of the designer's lack of knowledge makes the hiking unpleasant, and the walking a chore, so you turn back, knowing that you're going to see the same problems over and over again.


Because there are so many things wrong, but all boil down to the fact that your friend doesn't know enough about the basics of trail management, you mention a few of the problems, and suggest they increase their knowledge to the point where they'll see and correct those things themself. But then, the friend says, "Well, yeah, but forget that. How did you like the trail as a whole? That's the part that really matters." And when you explain that you didn't force yourself to travel the entire trail the friend becomes angry, and complains that only by walking to the end could you properly evaluate it—that by looking only at the lack of hiking pleasure you weren't doing your job.


Is that really all that different from this?

Linnea Ren
Posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014 12:56 AM

 Jay: It took me 25 days to write the first draft of The First Nine. It took me 387 days to revise it. During those 387 days, my writing fluctuated, changed, morphed, and whatever other synonym for change you can think of. The first five hundred words are VASTLY different from the next 109,500 words. I'm not focused on story. I know I spin a good tale. What I'm saying is I can't know if your criticism (which has a few valid points) really works with the rest of the story for two reason: One, because how I write a prologue is different than how I write the rest of the story for tone, mood, etc, and two, because both me and my writing changed between the prologue, and the epilogue.


I'm not saying your wrong that I need to work on things. I'm saying you don't know WHAT I need to work on past what you read. You just can't know because you didn't read it. Maybe I fixed something later on, but started to lack in something I didn't before. Maybe I am making the same mistakes over, and over, and over again, but I'm really doubting it. Not because I got better, but because my writing just changes. It's still settling on a style. 


That's all I'm saying. I get what you're trying to tell me. I honestly do. I just disagree and don't think it's possible to judge a second draft's entire writing by .45% of the story. 





Jay Greenstein
Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 2:08 AM


• During those 387 days, my writing fluctuated, changed, morphed, and whatever other synonym for change you can think of

Of course it did. So what? You’re assuming that the changes that come, as we get more practiced at writing, are improvements. But more likely, we’re just getting better at writing badly.

If we start out believing that POV is about which personal pronouns we use, and that a scene on the page is the same thing as one in film, we’re not going to write readable scenes, or present anything other than the author’s POV, in spite of a sincere desire to do more.

You don’t become a pharmacist by hanging around a drug store. Nor can we learn writing technique by using the nonfiction techniques and mind-set we learned in grade school in an attempt to write fiction.

Unless those changes you mention came because you took steps to learn what publishers look for in what they accept (and I mean in depth, not an article), and how to make use of that information, all you’re doing is getting more efficient at creating something that reads, to a publisher, like a high school fiction writing assignment.

• One, because how I write a prologue is different than how I write the rest of the story for tone, mood, etc, and two, because both me and my writing changed between the prologue, and the epilogue.

No, it’s not. The structure and approach to presenting the scene—that of describing the elements of what you visualize in your mind—are unchanged. And I know that because I looked before I pushed the send button on my critique. This is not the forum for discussing your writing, other then to say that what I said about the opening in my critique applies to any selected set of paragraphs, because the approach and methodology is the same.

• I'm saying you don't know WHAT I need to work on past what you read.

When I owned the manuscript critiquing service it was my job to know that. I’m not talking about nuances of writing technique. I’m commenting on the very basic elements of presentation you’ll find mentioned in the opening chapters of any book on writing technique.

New writers describe the action they visualize happening because they’re thinking cinematically, and focused on the passing parade of events—as they view them. Then they explain the meaning of the events, as a disembodied voice. That’s pretty much a given because it’s how we were taught to write. And those who don’t do that will present a transcript of themselves speaking the story. I’m talking about well over ninety percent of what’s posted on any online site, because no one in our primary education years told us we were learning only a general writing skill, suitable for nonfiction. So when we do turn to writing it’s either in report format or verbal storytelling form. It’s not about good or bad writing, it’s about learning the necessary professional knowledge before practicing the profession.

Everyone thinks they learned to write fiction by reading it. But ask ten people what, about the first paragraph of more than half the fiction on the shelves of the bookstores, is different from every other paragraph and you’ll get a blank look.

It’s simple, obvious, and seen every time the book is picked up. But most people have to go and look before they can tell you. And some of them still need to have it pointed out. And if we miss something that obvious, how much more, that’s more subtle, did we miss?

• I just disagree and don't think it's possible to judge a second draft's entire writing by .45% of the story. 

If the agent you send it to rejects it before the end of the first page you wasted every second of the time you spent typing the rest. Readers are not conscripts. They’re volunteers. And your job is to provide prose that will entertain them, and involve them to the point where they won’t see any minor problems.

So if I only read the opening it’s-your-fault. It should have hooked me and made me read on. If you cannot convince the reader to go on, page after page, you cannot place the blame on that reader. So if I saw a problem in the first paragraph, a time when the reader is giving you the benefit of the doubt, and still curious about what’s coming, complaining that I didn’t go on is transferring the fault to the reader.

And if people are not reading your sample and then asking you to let them read more, they wouldn't buy it in the bookstore. And that gives you the response the agents you might query will react with. They’re looking for stories that readers, after reading a page or three will pay to read.

Lucy Silag - Book Country Community Manager
Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 9:47 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1359

Happy Monday, everyone--


I think that the points everyone is bringing up here about finding an agent are really great, but I think the thread is also evolving into a 1:1 or 1:2 conversation and I'd like to step in and refocus the discussion back to the question at hand.


Please do not use this thread to talk about specific pieces of writing, and your opinion of it, since that is off topic and not helpful for those who come to this thread looking for advice on how to find an agent. Linnea did not ask, "Am I ready to find an agent?" and furthermore, it's completely her decision when she begins to pursue that process. Jay, trying to deter her from starting to learn more about it because you do not think her writing is ready, is not appropriate, because it is not what she asked. Furthermore, Jay, if you have notes on Linnea's writing, please review her book more fully and let Read & Review, rather than the discussion boards, be the place where you give her suggestions on how to revise.


It would be really interesting if other folks shared their stories about how they've gone about the search for an agent, and what they learned along the way. The actual logistics of finding an agent are not immediately apparent (there are conventions to querying that even I, someone who works in publishing and has published books, still am not totally familiar with), and I'd like for this to be a space where we share information about the process and help one another.


 In the spirit of fostering a useful conversation that everyone will be able to follow, please stick to the topic of "How to Find an Agent."



Lucy Silag

Book Country Community and Engagement Manager

Linnea Ren
Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 9:54 AM

 Lucy: Monday's can be happy? Who knew?


Anyway, thank you. I appreciate it. 





Jay Greenstein
Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 9:19 PM

Agreed it's not a question she asked. But it is the reality she has to deal with. If someone asks for the address of an agent, and you know that the person will be getting a rejection, for problems that can be fixed with a bit of work, simply supplying the requested information is in no way a service to that writer.


It's impossible to help someone become a more skilled writer without discussing the writing to some extent. And in this case I said nothing specific about her writing other than that it's better than the vast majority of what's posted online. Is it wrong, when someone makes it plain that they're going to query, to mention things to look out for?


Is it a disservice, when someone says they've been debating if they should query, to respond to that by suggesting that an alternative is to work on gathering more skill in issues of craft so the query, when it does go out, has a batter chance of getting a yes? I don't know about you, but when I see someone about to query something that will surely be rejected I'm not made to pat them on the back and wish them luck. And when they address me in discussion, responding to their comments, in a non-hostile manner, with verifiable professional data that might help them seems directly called for.


This is, after all, her thread. She's literate, intelligent, and reasonable. She she wasn't upset. She was having a literary discussion centered on readying ones self for querying. And anyone could have joined in. To say that the creator of the thread has no right but to talk about anything but what the title they placed there says, hardly seems to encourage active literary debate.


It is your football, so you make the rules. And since I can't stand by and saying nothing, while someone makes a decision based on insufficient data—one that may well kill their writing career—and do that in the name of not hurting someone's ego. I'll stop commenting.

--edited by Jay Greenstein on 3/10/2014, 11:30 PM--

Linnea Ren
Posted: Monday, March 10, 2014 9:37 PM

 Actually, Jay, I was getting upset. Lucy replied before I could, but I was going to ask you to please leave me alone. It wasn't a literary discussion. It was you, lecturing me, about how you see the publishing and writing world. I was trying to be polite and passively stop the conversation, but it clearly didn't work.


I said I was thinking of finding an agent. I never said I was going to query one tomorrow. I don't in anyway think I'll EVER be accepted by a publisher, so I don't need you to tell me that over, and over, and over again. If you want to talk to me about my writing, you can add me as a connection, read more of my work so you can be more specific, and send me a private message. If you'd like to have a discussion, not a lecture, I'd love to have one, as I learn much from discussions and quite enjoy them.


Now, back to finding an agent: How many agents should you try and query? Everyone I've talked to has said I shouldn't send to just one, and a friend told me I shouldn't try and send to my preferred agent until I've tried to query someone else. Thoughts?



--edited by Linnea Ren on 3/10/2014, 9:38 PM--

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 8:13 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 22

If you are on Twitter, you could try following some agents that you are interested in. They give out some very useful information and you can get a good idea of what they are looking for. 


The general trend seems to be querying more than one person at a time. The agency websites also give submission guidelines - they differ quite a bit from agency to agency - and sometimes sample query letters and suchlike.

Julie Artz
Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 1:32 PM
Joined: 11/11/2013
Posts: 43

I think it's solid advice to test your query out first before sending it to your dream agent. I'm on about revision 20 of my query and probably have a few more to do before I'm ready to send it to my dream agent list! I've read in more than one place that you should query agents in blocks of 10 at a time. Some of them respond quite quickly, but I've seen some that say it takes 8-12 weeks to respond, so you wouldn't want to send queries one at a time or you'd never get anywhere.


If you don't want to test your query out on another agent yet, you can always submit it to The Query Shark (Janet Reid), who is an amazing resource for queries. Read her archives before you send your query to her--she has lots of good advice and she won't critique your query for you if you don't follow her guidelines: http://queryshark.blogspot.com Reading her archives is quite a long process, but worth it to anyone who is serious about trying to find an agent. 


Also, we've got a couple of threads going where we've been workshopping each other's queries here on Book Country. There's good advice in the threads, and you can of course also post your own query too.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014 8:58 PM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78

I like the query shark, a good blog to be sure.


You can also submit it to the evil editor, if you're OK with being publicly and sarcastically lambasted.  I had my third draft torn to bits by evil editor and it was one of the key things that helped me get a re-write.  There are lots of people who post advice online and can critique them for you but, in all honesty, unless they're represented by the agent you want it may be good for writing mechanics only.


Rhyll hit the nail spot on.  Get on Twitter and follow your dream agents and even those on your B list.  They talk A LOT about what their dream projects are, what they do (and don't) like about the queries they get, what not to send.  They'll even answer questions and give away hints about how to tailor a query for them.  You can also get a feel or personality and how it fits with yours.  This could be a long term business relationship so you want your agent to be someone you get on with.  Twitter has been HUGE so far in my quest to find an agent.


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