How do I find an agent?

Dear Writer Guy,

Do you have any information on how to find a publishing agent?  I have written a couple of children’s stories (ages 3 to 7)  — and, yes!  I am a new writer — and I am at the stage of taking a leap to find a publishing agent.

I work full time in a high pressure job that dominates my days and frequently evenings as well, so trying to send query letters to publishing companies that will actually accept new authors seems more than a bit daunting.

This is an important goal of mine and I don’t want to give up or give in.  Any advice, resources, or recommendations that you can share?

Thank you for the consideration,
Joy in Tennessee

Dear Joy,

With so many publishing houses not accepting unsolicited submissions these days, it’s wise to try to find an agent.  I’m glad that you have a never-say-die attitude, because unfortunately, it’s as difficult to do this as it is to land a publisher.  Don’t despair, however — there are three things you can do to speed the process along:

  1. Achieve perfection.

Make sure your manuscript is absolutely and completely perfect before sending it off.  You’d be surprised how many aren’t.  My agent says he’s always looking for a reason to reject a story that comes from the slush pile, and missteps in punctuation, usage, character, or plot can give him this reason.

  1. Research potential agents.

Pore over their agency’s website, looking for submission guidelines and what kinds of stories they’re seeking. Research them on the Association of Authors’ Representatives website (http://aaronline.org) if they’re a member.  If not, look for their Twitter feed or Facebook page.  You can often find agents mentioned on the acknowledgments pages of books, and get an insight into their literary tastes that way.

  1. See them speak.

If you’re writing for kids, one of the best backdoor ways I’ve come across (and in fact, the way I landed my agent) is to attend an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference where agents are speaking.  Usually, they will accept submissions from conference attendees for a limited time, and you can get your foot in the door that way.  Other genres of writing hold their own conferences, and I’m guessing one might be able to do the same thing there.

In the end, the same rules apply as when you’re sending stories to editors: Do your research, be professional, and keep persisting!

Happy writing,
Writer Guy

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