Mez and I have a rather ambitious plan; exchange our manuscripts at the end of this week, edit them for a week, give them back and swap submission materials (queries, synopses). The culmination of this plan is to have our manuscripts ready to be submitted to two agents on Jan 30th.

Just to give you a little idea, I am still working on turning my rough draft into a first draft and adding about 15k words. 70% done! Late nights, here I come.

Obviously, before we can submit manuscripts and queries, we have to find agents to submit them to! I actually enjoy this part, finding them and researching whether I think they’d be interested in what I write.

If you’ve never searched for literary agents, don’t be intimidated. That comes when it’s time to send the email out for some agent to look over and decide your fate!

I always start with books. There are so many books about finding agents, how to write queries or synopses, things to do, things to avoid.

Probably the best guide is Writer’s Market or any of the books like it (Guide to Literary Agents or Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, etc). They are self-proclaimed ‘the most trusted guide to getting published’ and I have to agree. They are updated yearly, though I don’t think it’s necessary to buy a new one every year, because they are a bit pricey. However, if you can afford it, I highly recommend buying at least one, even if it’s last year’s version. Each comes with a list of literary agents and if they are open to submissions, their websites, and what genre they represent.

Each book also has tools to help you with the submission process, though each book has different tools. Tips to make agents notice your query, how to write query letters, suggestions from published authors, how to build writing careers using social media. Basically, just a lot of great info!

The first thing I do is read the lists of literary agencies, underlining/flagging any agencies who are open to submissions, allow submission through email (my preferred method of submission), and are interested in my genre (young adult fantasy). I usually only get through the H’s before I get bored, so sometimes I start at the back. Then I look them up on the internet, checking out their websites.

If you don’t want to or can’t buy a book to help you, you can always just search for literary agents, but it’ll take more time to weed through them to find the ones that fit your needs.

Here are some things to look for on the websites:

  • What authors they represent and books published
    • It’s especially fun to find people who represent your favorite authors or books you enjoyed
  • If they are still open to submissions at that time
    • Just because the book said they are open to submissions doesn’t mean they are. Go with whatever the website says.
  • Which agent at the agency works in your genre
    • It’s best to submit to individual agents, not a general query to the entire agency
  • Their submission guidelines
    • It’s important to follow these. The last thing any of us want is an agent’s first impression of us that we can’t even read and follow instructions
  • If you like the sound of them
    • If they do decide to represent your manuscript, you’ll be working with that agent. So make sure they are someone you can work with!

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Not to sound overdramatic, but landing an agent is a huge, massive, enormous step in getting your book published, so don’t rush it! Take your time, do your research, make sure your manuscript and submission materials are as finished as you can make them.

And be brave! I can tell you from experience the first time is scary, but it does get easier, especially submitting through email.

Mez and I will discuss how to write a synopsis and query in the next two weeks. Wish us luck as we edit! We wish the same luck to you wherever you are in your writing process.