Wednesday, December 17, 2014

6 Tips for Starting an Agent Seach by Leslie Colin Tribble

6 Tips for Starting an Agent Seach
Leslie Colin Tribble

Looking for an agent?  Me too! For the past year I’ve been haphazardly searching for an agent.  Finally, I realized I’m going about it the wrong way.  If your agent search has been less than stellar, like mine, read on.  Let’s make 2015 the year we sign with an agent.

1. Find an Author
What?  Find an author?  I want to find an agent!  Well, here’s the idea.  Find an author whose books you love and then research who their agent is.  Or, find an author who has a similar writing style and figure out the name of their agent.  You want to find an agent who loves your style of writing.  If you write sweet, quite stories, then don’t go looking for someone who only represents authors writing incredible books about mutant mushrooms wreaking mayhem on a community.  They’ll read your submission and say, “Oh nice, sweet, not for me." (Generally what most of my rejections say!)

2. Research
I know, research is only for those non-fiction folks, right?  Nope, we’re talking agent research here and that involves A LOT of reading.  Here are some great resources where you can find agent names and information about them.  Kathy Teman’s blog, Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest , Literary Rambles, Julie Hedlund's blog, SCBWI, Agent Query,  kidlit411, and Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.  There are several Facebook pages you can ask to join as well, such as Agent/Editor Discussion and Sub Six.  The information is out there, you just have to find it.  

3. Track Your Research
You're going to want to keep all that research somewhere,  Query Tracker can do that for you or you can create your own spreadsheet.  The tried and true old school pencil and paper works as well.  I prefer a spiral notebook.

4. Narrow Your List
Up until now I've been partial to the shotgun method of finding an agent.  As in, "Oh there's an agent's name, I'll find something to submit to them."  This is probably not the best approach. You want to find someone with whom you’ll enjoy working, someone who will take your career to heart, someone with whom you resonate. So read, read, read and keep narrowing that list. I have a lot of work to do!

4. Hedge Your Bets
4.     Once you get a list of names check for negative comments on Preditors and Editors or Query Tracker.  Look to see if the agent has sold any books in the past year.  How many new clients do they take on? If you can't find much about them in all your vast research, take it as a sign and cross them off your list.

5. Attend Conferences
Conferences are the best places to find an agent.  You get to meet the person, see what they’re really like.  They become more than their professional headshot on the webpage.  Talk with them at lunch or dinner or chat with them at the meet and greet.  Conferences also open doors to agents who are closed to unsolicited submissions.  Just remember these are real people and don’t be annoying.  They just might be a tad tired from traveling and speaking so don’t press them to visit with you into the wee hours of the morning. 

6. Persevere
Finding an agent can take time.  Lots of time.  If you’ve done your homework and whittled down your list to a few perfect agents, then keep trying to win them over.  However, if you’ve consistently grown in your writing but you're still receiving those heart-rending no thank yous, then think about expanding your list.  Remember this relationship is two way.  The agent needs to love you as much as you love them.  They want to love your work so much that a potential editor is wowed just by their enthusiasm for you. 

But remember that you don’t have to have an agent.  You can find editors and publishing houses on your own with some diligence and a fabulous piece of writing to wave at them.  An agent can make your life easier though, and take care of that waving and allow you to continue doing what you do best, which is writing.  If you’re determined to secure an agent, make sure you put in the effort to find your best match.  Then, when you do find your perfect agent, get back to work and write so they have more to sell.


  1. Leslie,
    Great article. I, like you, started off with a shotgun approach. This is a much more productive suggestion! Good luck to all of the writers out there on the hunt!


  2. Great post, Leslie! This is a great way to organize the agent search and here's to getting agents in 2015!

    1. Let us know when you get your agent Kirsti!

  3. Suoer list of advice and I like how you personalize fit w/your own attempts, both successful or not. May 2015 be your year Leslie!

  4. Really good information in this post. Thanks!

  5. Leslie: Thank you for the six super suggestions to find an ideal agent. I understand it is so important to have a good match between the writer and the agent. Your many ideas are helpful.~Suzy

  6. Appreciations, Leslie!
    Looking forward to a return visit to this article to follow the groovy-looking links.
    more thanks,

    j a n

  7. Lots of wonderful information and advice here, Leslie. I second the suggestion to try and attend a conference. State and regional conferences usually include one or more agents, the national SCBWI conferences have many. Listening to them speak, you can get a good feel for whether or not they are editorial agents and what their particular interests are.

    1. I've only been to a couple of conferences, but think that's got to be the best place to make yourself known and distinguish yourself from the crowd.

  8. Such a helpful post, Leslie. Thank you! I'm looking forward to finding that perfect fit. 😉

  9. Great informative article. You really put a lot of yourself in it. Good luck to you with your quest to find an agent - me too!!

  10. Great links! Good stuff. Looking forward to following your blog.