In January I finally finished a novel length project I had been working on since 2013. Soon after I managed to muster up enough courage to take the tentative steps into the world of querying agents and hopefully start the long journey towards publication. Writing is my passion and after finishing the novel project I felt many things; relief, happiness, dread (for the long editing process ahead), and excitement at being at a stage I had never been before – mildly happy and satisfied with the finished project.
I’m only at the beginning of a long process, just dipping my toes into a very vast, wide pool of which I still have much to learn. I still hesitate to call my finished piece a novel. I still have so much editing to do. And I still find myself thinking, what on earth were you thinking April!? – when I read through it.
And yet I’ve already learnt so much and couldn’t help but formulate a list of helpful tools I wish could have been at my fingertips when starting.
- Blogs and sites by authors and literary agents.
One of the best ways in which I’ve been educated about the world of publishing is from the horse’s mouth, namely blogs where literary agents reveal what they like to see in a query, their pet peeves and a place where they answer all big and little questions from; how long should I wait before nudging an agent about my requested manuscript, to what is the best etiquette when communicating with agents.
The blog I cannot recommend enough is by US agent, Janet Reid. She regularly updates her blog with a wealth of invaluable information about writing, querying and publication.
- Useful sites to help with querying
Kind of similar to my first point, here I just really wanted to promote another one of Janet Reid’s sites: Query Shark. This site is an absolute must for consultation when attempting to formulate your own query.
- The best and (least expensive) agent databases
How to find your own agent? – is a frequently asked question from debut writers. And here I’m attempting to answer; How to find your own agent through the most least expensive route? There are few sites out there that require quite substantial descriptions. And there are some that require none, such as Query Tracker.
Agent hunter falls somewhere in between the two extremes. It requires a subscription fee depending on how many months you want to use the database. However, I’d recommend it because the fee is quite minimal. Agent Hunter allows you to search for agents via genre, so that you can find an agent who is looking for novels like yours quicker than it would take to look by making individual searches of random agents.
In addition, it focuses on UK agents which is very useful if like me, this is what you’re looking for. And often the agent’s page on the site might have more information about what they’re looking for and what kind of clients they represent, than the agent will have on their own agency page.
- Twitter and other social media sites
Search, #MSWL in twitter and you’ll find a stream of tweets by agents tweeting their Manuscript Wish List of what kind of manuscripts they’re currently looking for. There’s also an accompanying website, with further information about the agents who are posting topics for their wish list. The only slight problem with this method of looking for agents, is that they tend to be American, which again is a positive or negative depending on what kind of agent you’re looking for.
- Your own book!
I conclude my basic list of advice with probably quite an obvious factor that helped me in looking for agents and querying, and that is of course my novel. The first slightly more positive rejection I received, in which the agent expressed the fact that she liked my query and sample but it wasn’t right for her current list, was an agent I found because she represented an author whose books were very similar to mine.
I think it helped to begin with quite a straight forward approach of thinking of books that were similar to mine, in genre or writing style, I then looked to see who represented them through google and finally, I checked if the agent might also be right for my novel and was open to queries. I imagined if my published novel was on a shelf in a bookshop, what books would be standing next to it?
Do you have any recommended useful tools for querying? Any particular sites or methods that have worked well for you?