In the past, I’ve posted links for writers to research agents regarding their legitimacy (which you can find saved under the Literary Advise tab:Finding A Literary Agent). Today, I want to discuss finding what they want in their inbox. It is important to submit only to agents that represent the type of material you write so that you don’t waste their time or yours. Keep in mind, if you have written fantasy in the past, but decided to write your first non-fiction manuscript, do not submit that non-fiction manuscript to an agent who only represents fantasy. Sounds crazy, but it really happens folks. Don’t. Do. It.
Another thing to keep in mind is what you want to spend most of your time writing. For example, let’s say you write young adult and middle grade, but the most recent manuscript you finished is YA. You spot an agent who would be a perfect fit, but s/he represents adult and young adult (no MG). What if you have more middle grade story ideas than young adult? Sometimes agents don’t represent a certain age group (or genre) because they don’t have the publishing connections available like they do the ones they currently represent. And there are others who just don’t have the “feels” for a certain age group or genre. Now, there may be other agents within the agency that represent the other age category or genre and will be willing to co-agent one of these other ideas you have, but not always and sometimes not until you’ve proven you can get the sales with the original book you signed. So ask yourself, do you want to risk a contract with an agent that will limit your writing in the age category or genre you’re most passionate? Remember, finding an agent for your manuscript also means finding an agent who’s a perfect fit for YOU. When you become the next Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, then you can write whatever you want and it won’t matter.
Here are some great places to find what agents are looking for:
◾Agency Website: Most agents list the types of stories they represent in their BIO’s. A few also provide links to personal blogs they have, posting more writing advise and shining a light on their personality.
◾Publishers Marketplace: Not all agents subscribe to this website, but those who do list the types of books they represent and some list their most recent sales.
◾Query Tracker: This is a cool site because agents not only list what they represent, you can search who represents writers in similar genres/age groups. Be careful though, if you just wrote a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, soliciting to an agent who represents a retelling of the same doesn’t usually work because the agent must be loyal to the client they already represent, which makes perfect sense.
◾Manuscript Wishlist: This is another hot place where agents (even publishers) list what they are currently looking to represent. This list can sometimes even be more specific. For example, rather than saying they want a historical fantasy, they’ll say give me a story set during World War I from a nurse’s POV who finds a magical stone to help heal her patients but gets put on trial when found healing an enemy soldier. Also, don’t forget you can see live tweets on twitter under the Manuscript Wishlist hashtag #MSWL as agents post ideas that suddenly spark.
While there are other places to learn this information, these are the most popular among my writing pals. The most important thing to remember while researching is having NO agent is better than having a bad agent, or one that isn’t a good fit.
As always, good luck!
Blogger and writer of MG/YA fiction