Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How To Find A Literary Agent


WARNING: This is not the post where I expound on how to land an agent (which I'm not  sure I could do anyway), but this is more of an anecdotal post as to how I originally found mine. And subsequently how I knew she was someone I wanted to query, someone I wanted to work with, and someone I trusted to help make my writing dreams come true.

There are lots of ways to find agents:
Okay, so I did all of the above when I began my agent search. But I have to say that when it came down to it, the most important resource for me was a paid subscription to  Publisher's Marketplace. They have a section where they rank agents based on sales according to genre. For me, an agent's sales record is fair representation of how good an agent is at their job. Of course there are several other important factors as to what makes a "good agent," such as what they represent, personality styles, reputation, and so on. 

This is a screen shot of what the agent rankings for Young Adult sales looked like when I began querying last year, which I would venture to guess hasn't changed too much:
(I am only including the Top 10 here, though they rank the top 100)

001. Sara Crowe (Harvey Klinger)
12 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  5 in the last 6 months  |  63 overall  |  7 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: March 1, 2012  |  view matching deals
002. Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)
10 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  43 overall  |  18 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: February 2, 2012  |  view matching deals
003. Sarah Davies (Greenhouse Literary Agency)
10 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  5 in the last 6 months  |  25 overall  |  11 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: March 19, 2012  |  view matching deals
004. Michael Bourret (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management)
9 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  5 in the last 6 months  |  41 overall
Most recent deal in this category: February 14, 2012  |  view matching deals
005. Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown)
9 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  20 overall  |  2 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: February 23, 2012  |  view matching deals
006. Jill Corcoran (The Herman Agency)
8 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  3 in the last 6 months  |  16 overall
Most recent deal in this category: November 16, 2011  |  view matching deals
007. Ammi-Joan Paquette (Erin Murphy Literary Agency)
8 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  13 overall
Most recent deal in this category: March 1, 2012  |  view matching deals
008. Suzie Townsend (Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation)
8 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  3 in the last 6 months  |  13 overall  |  1 six-figure+ deal
Most recent deal in this category: January 30, 2012  |  view matching deals
009. Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management)
7 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  3 in the last 6 months  |  26 overall  |  1 six-figure+ deal
Most recent deal in this category: February 15, 2012  |  view matching deals
010. Stephen Barbara (Foundry Literary + Media)
6 deals in this category in the last 12 months  |  4 in the last 6 months  |  37 overall  |  11 six-figure+ deals
Most recent deal in this category: March 16, 2012  |  view matching deals
 
As for me, I decided to shoot for the top. I used this list to narrow my search. I researched all of the agents in the top 50 (and then some) to find out if they represented my genre (YA contemporary thrillers). I read their blogs, their interviews, their tweets, etc, to get to know them. When it came time to query, I felt like I had an increased chance of finding a fit with one of these dream agents.

I would say that I was lucky to receive many full requests from over a dozen top ranked agents, but that's not entirely true. I did my research. I worked hard. I spent weeks, months, and in some cases, years getting to know these agents better. I wanted to write something they would like, something they could sell.

In the end, I landed my dream agent: Sarah Davies. She is consistently ranked in the top 5 in Young Adult sales and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with her.
 
  How do you like to research agents? Or how did you find yours?

19 comments:

  1. I sadly never found one, but still managed to land a deal with a sweet press. Sounds like you went about this in a more efficient way than I did. I took notes. Next time will be different. :)

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  2. Fabulous post, Jessie!

    Publishers Marketplace was SO helpful to me, too. And if it's still like it was, you get your first five days free, which is plenty of time to go in and do a search of the type of agent you're looking for, to get that top 100 list. (Then you can cancel.)

    Since I write kid-lit, another site that helped me TONS was Literary Rambles. I did almost all of my research on agents there. Love that site!

    And yay Sara(h)s!

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  3. Literary Rambles was a huge help for me, and that's how I found my agent. So much information about the agent in one place.

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  4. I think research is key to any important undertaking. It always surprises me that people don't spend more time researching after they spend so much time writing.

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  5. Great post. I'm planning to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace for a few months as I finish my agent research. I also use Literary Rambles to research the ones on my list that look good for my genre. And I found some agents through Guide to Literary Agents blog and looking at author acknowledgement pages.

    Thanks for sharing your tips.

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  6. Great post. Freaking out a little bc Sarah has my ms! *eep* I research through PM, Literary Rambles, blogs, Twitter, and conferences. Sometimes you think you'd click with one agent but just...don't. Thanks for sharing your tips, Jessie. Hope you get a chance to stop by my blog-I blogged about my WIP today. Hope you're doing well :)

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  7. You're amazing! Thanks for that list I'm going to have to check them out :)

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  8. I also found Literary RAmbles very helpful, and for some reason I didn't think to do the paid subscription to Pub Marketplace for agent hunting, although I did consult the free options. To those who subscribe, do you still find it helpful after you've signed with an agent, for industry news? I was considering joining the paid membership.

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  9. Doing your online research is key - and checking back periodically to see if interests have changed or new agents have been added.

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  10. You act like you're not all that and a bottle of diet coke, but its all a facade. You have some serious organizational skills missy! This is great info :)

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  11. It's interesting that you tried to write what the agents would like, which I've never heard of before. That's not to deny that you also write what you enjoy, and what you envision the reading public would enjoy.

    Thanks for the detailed information on Publisher's Marketplace.

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  12. That's a great list with lots of awesome agents! Congrats to you and your agent!

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  13. I'm not at that stage...yet...but this looks like some great info that I will definitely remember when the time comes.

    Thanks!

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  14. Very helpful post! Finding an agent seems so daunting (especially to those of us without finished drafts, ha!) and I'm glad those of you that have had success finding one are willing to share your knowledge!

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  15. Research, research, research. That's how I stalked ... er ... found mine... ;)

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  16. This is a great post. I used querytracker.net and did lots of research too. I'm excited to see what happens next for you!

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  17. Excellent post, Jessie! Back when I was agent-shopping I did all of these things you said. I also used Query Tracker, which is by far THE best resource for querying writers... well, next to Publisher's Lunch. :D

    And then I ended up getting my agent through a blog contest. Go figure. Great work landing Sarah--she is one of the best!

    Take care, <3

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