5 tips when choosing a literary agent
Recently I have come to the place in my writing when I feel as though I want a literary agent. So, as I’ve gone through the process myself I thought that I would share a few tips with you all in case you want to do the same thing.
What does a literary agent do?
Well, a lot of the big publishing companies will not accept work from freelancers, so if your desire is to have a big-named publishing house print your book, then the only way you can submit your work to them is through an agent.
Agents will get you the best deal possible and, hopefully, a nice advance payment. They deal with foreign rights to your work, give you advice, help you edit your manuscript, among other things. They usually take a fee off your advance and royalty payments – which differ, so please check before you submit your work.
Here are my five tips to help you choose the right agent for you:
Look in the Writers’ and Artists yearbook to find a list of agents or do an online search. Find out which ones meet your needs; after all, it’s pointless sending your thriller novel to an agent who specialises in romance. Make a list of potential agents then visit their website to see who they are and if they would be suitable for you.
2. Follow their guidelines
Read their submission guidelines and make sure that you follow them diligently. Agents and publishers pay close attention to see if writers have followed their guidelines. If you haven’t, then you may have lost your only chance with that agent. If a writer cannot follow simple guidelines then how can they write something worth publishing? It gives a bad impression of you, so do please pay close attention to what they ask for and follow their advice.
3. No errors!
It should be obvious, that this will be your only chance with this agent so make it count! Make sure that your work is perfect and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your work. I paid to have my submission professionally edited, as then if it was rejected, then I will know it wasn’t because of errors. So, you will have to consider what you want to do for yourself. If you can’t afford to pay for the service of an editor, then at least get a trusted friend to take a look at your submission, just to make sure it’s error free. It’s easy to miss something out and to make a mistake, which usually is fine; but in this instance, it may be fatal – especially due to the number of submissions agents receive daily (as many as 30 a day!)
4. Find out the name of the agent
This could be tagged onto the research part but do find out the name of the agent to whom you wish to submit your proposal/first three chapters of a novel to. Be extra careful if you are using a standard cover letter and change the name of the agent to match who you are sending it to. A name spelt incorrectly, or using the wrong name of the agent will not do you any favours! So, do please pay attention to this.
5. Send out five submissions at a time
Hearing back from agents takes time, sometimes as long as three months, So it’s worth sending out five submissions at once. As they start to respond, send out others (if you are unsuccessful) so that you always have five submissions out at once. Do not give up!
It can take several months to hear back from an agent so do please be patient. As a writer, waiting is all part of the process – unfortunately. I always have several projects on the go at any one time so that I’m not constantly thinking about what submissions are out there, as it can be frustrating keep checking your emails every ten minutes. If you haven’t heard back within three months then, get in touch with them again but most of them do reply.
All the best!