by C. Patrick Schulze
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Most of us understand the passage to shelf space at the major book retailers is best realized by way of agent representation. And whether a writer wishes to admit it or not, each of us at least fantasizes about seeing our titles on the stores’ shelves.
So, how does an author find an agent to offer representation? This isn’t so difficult, though it does take time and effort.
It goes without saying you first must have mastered the craft of writing, with all that entails, and have that well-written book or novel completed. After all, an agent can’t ask to represent you unless you have a quality product they can sell for you. However, once you’ve traversed that long, arduous path of writing, it’s time to look for your agent.
A first priority is found in your professionalism. Few louts will ever receive an offer. Think of it from the agent’s perspective. Would you rather work with an idiot or a professional? So would they.
Next, you need to take the time to focus on the right kind of agents. Take careful aim at those suitable agents who might offer you the best chance of representation. The shotgun approach, that is querying every agent that might still live and breathe, will only waste your time, ego and money, not to mention the time and money of the various agents. Your purpose is to identify those agents who are most suitable to your novel or book, those who represent your genre.
Here are some tips on how to find the right agents.
If you’re unpublished to date, a great way to find your agent is at writers’ conferences. (Check out James River Writers for a great one in central Virginia, USA.) Focus on those agents who represent your genre and those with whom you’re a match on a personal level. Don’t forgo the personality match. It’s kind of like getting married to the wrong person.
There are any number of literary publications that can point you toward that perfect agent. They include, Writer’s Market, Literary Marketplace, Publisher’s Weekly, Writer’s Digest Magazine and the current Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up or check out these and other literary sources at your local library. All of these publications can assist you to identify those agents who might be interested in your novel.
Review books of those authors who write in your genre, then read the acknowledgment section. Quite often a novelist will mention their agent in this part of their novel. Those identified are, without question, agents who accepts your genre.
The Internet is loaded with sites to help you find that one agent you need. Consider Agent Query, or The Society of Authors’ Representatives . Google “literary agents” and see what else you might find.
Network with other writers. Join a local writers’ group or two and become active in those groups. Being active is the secret to become known within these organizations. The membership should include a number of published authors and after they get to know you, they may be willing to introduce you to their agents.
Join one or more of the hundreds of national and international writers’ associations such as Poets and Writers, National Association of Women’s Writers or The Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Take the time to insure the groups you join are useful to you. Again, after they get to know you and your work, these members may be willing to pass your name along to their agents.
In time, you’ll have a list of potential agents developed. Once you do, organize it according to those who best suit your needs. If you’re an aspiring author, the secret is being honest with yourself. Look first to those who don’t represent the biggest names in the business. Try to find those agents with a bit of experience, but who still seek new authors to represent within your genre.
Once your list is complete and organized, it’s time to query. After that, it’s time to wait. On them, not on your writing. It can take months to hear from an agent, so here is where your mother’s warning comes into play: patience is a virtue. In the mean time, work on your next novel, enhance your education and so on. Just keep writing.
Once you do receive that first exhilarating call, be particular. The wrong agent can be worse than no agent at all.
Best of luck with your agent search and know I wish for you only best-sellers.
C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”