Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site packed with tricks and tips for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting!
Kim Tomsic

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How to Find a Literary Agent by Kim Tomsic

Would you like to find that perfect literary agent for your project?  This article is packed with useful advice like please don't use glitter and rainbows to get their attention.

Start your quest for an agent by researching sources like The Guide to Literary Agents (GLA). Your goal is to search the pages and find an agent who is reputable and fits the type of book you are writing (picture book,young adult novel, romance novel, biography, historical fiction, cookbook, etc.). 

In the GLA, you will find a wealth of useful information including: agents name and email address; information about the agency for which they work; the agent's client list; their website/blogsite; if they're a member of various associations (i.e. SCBWI); how the agent prefers to receive submissions (i.e. snail mail or email/ query and first five pages/query only/attachments or no attachments/ etc.) and **vitally important** the type of projects the individual agent prefers (i.e. Middle Grade or YA or Picture Book, etc.) . You can also research agents and their specific taste on their agency website and on #MSWL which stands for Manuscript Wish List.

Once you find the agents who you believe would be a great advocate for your project, you begin by writing that agent a query letter. Remember, it's crucial that your research was precise and you learned about the agent prior to submitting. If your project is a cookbook, you shouldn't send a query letter asking for representation to an agent who is looking for YA dystopian material. If you are pitching a picture book, you shouldn't write to agents who only want to represent memoirs. All your research should be complete prior to writing that query. 

Your query letter is the first impression you'll make, and agents want to deal with smart and informed people. They want to know that you’ve selected them for a specific reason vs. throwing darts. You can be sure that if your query reads like you’ve queried them and every agent on the planet, they won't waste their time with a further look.

Do:  Craft your winning query letter by telling the agent:
1. Why you chose to query them (a simple one-line sentence);
2. The logline, working title, genre, and word count of your manuscript;
3. What your manuscript is about in one interesting paragraph;
4. What's in bookstores now that is similar to your manuscript (so they can decide if it's a money maker) OR what books your book would be shelved next to (and please don’t say it’s the next Harry Potter);
5. If you've been previously published;
6. Your education, affiliations (i.e. SCBWI), or special credentials as it might pertain to this manuscript;
7. A courteous closing and how to contact you.

It's ideal to break your query letter down into three paragraphs: the hook, the book, and the cook.


Here are a few things not to do—no matter how tempted you are—if you want to stay professional:
Don’t tell the agent that your mom, sister, classroom, and priest LOVED your book.
Don’t call your manuscript a fiction novel (that’s like calling it a story story or a book story).
Don’t submit to multiple agents WITHIN the same agency.
Don’t pack an envelope and mail a query to a "green" office IF that agent only accepts email submissions.
Don’t add attachments 
UNLESS the agent says they prefer submissions that way.
Don’t have your email filtered to their trash by adding attachments, submitting to multiple addressees, or by adding special stationary and do-dads to your email…these gadgets often land your masterpiece in a SPAM folder, and the agent never has the opportunity to see your brilliant work.
Don’t address your letter "Dear Agent." Remember, address to their name and spell it correctly. The agent needs to know you’ve selected them.
Don’t add glitter and rainbows to your submission; be professional and let your writing do the talking.

For a peek at  How to Write a Query Letter

For more information on writing query letters, I think 
Nathan Bransford's award winning blog is excellent (by the way, he just left Curtis Brown, so don't query him).

p.s. Make sure you check out 
predators and editors to avoid disreputable agents.

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