Before I was published, going into bookstores felt like being a worm among giants.
Now it feels like walking into a crowded room full of my friends.
So we’ve discussed why you need an agent (if you want to publish traditionally) and how not to get an agent. But now I want to talk about picking the right agent for you.
So here’s the thing about literary agents: the legit ones are all publishing savvy, business-minded, all around nice people who just really love books. Or at least, the ones I’ve come in contact with are. Every agent (like every person) has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, which often dictate what genres they do and don’t represent. And knowing those strengths and weaknesses is just a teensie bit important to know before you query.
That’s right. You need to research agents before you start querying. Why? The answer’s simple, really—not every agent is the right agent for you.
Some agents are editorial, some agents are not. Some agents represent a huge range of genres, some are much more focused on a couple genres and categories. Some agents have been in the business for over a decade, others are much newer to the publishing game.
I’ve already blogged about where to go to research agents (see that link above? Click it), so I’m not going to delve into that again. What I want to focus on instead, is what you need to be looking for when deciding what agents to query.
There are a couple questions you should be asking yourself while researching agents:
- Does this agent represent my genre? This is the basic filter—the very first requirement is to make sure the agent you’re considering querying represents the genre and category your manuscript falls under. If they don’t, don’t query them. No exceptions.
No, it doesn’t matter if you think they might make an exception for your manuscript (they shouldn’t and they won’t). No, it doesn’t matter if you really like that agent (that doesn’t change the fact that your MS is not a genre they represent). No, it doesn’t matter if your manuscript is supposedly unlike others in its genre or category (if you think that’s the case, are you sure you know that genre as well as you think you do?)—if they don’t represent your genre, do not query them. You’ll get an insta-reject, and you’ll only be wasting your time and theirs.
Note: if you’re not sure what genre your manuscript falls under, check out this post.
- Does this agent represent other genres I want to (or already do) write in? This is important, because you’re not just looking for representation for the manuscript you’re querying—you’re looking for representation for your whole career. Ideally, you’ll have the same agent throughout your career (though that isn’t always the case, which is okay). If your manuscript is a Historical Fantasy and you know going in that you also love writing Sci-Fi, make sure the agents you query represent both Historical Fantasies and Sci-Fi’s.
Why? You want an agent who can potentially sell any manuscript you write, and if you write in multiple genres, you’ll want to make sure the agents you query represent all of them.
- Is this agent editorial? Is this important to me? As I’ve mentioned before, not all agents are editorial (meaning not all agents go through the extra process of revising and editing your work with you before going on submission). This is an extra job, and agents are not required to edit your work (remember: it’s your job to get your manuscripts as polished as possible before sending it to agents). If you know you want an agent who will help you with some of the revision and editorial process, then make sure you query agents who are editorial. (You can find this out through interviews and sites like Literary Rambles).
- What is this agent’s sales record? Do they have a lot of sales? A few things to remember with this one: not having a lot of sales doesn’t necessarily mean the agent is a bad agent. Some agents don’t report all of their sales, and some agents don’t have a lot of sales because they’re new agents, which is totally fine (and in that case, you’ll want to look at the sales for the agency they’re at, instead). But if an agent has been around for a couple of years, they should have some sales reported.
That being said, how much stock you put into the sales thing is up to you. When I was querying, I personally didn’t query anyone who didn’t list sales or their clients, but that’s just me.
- What is this agent’s reputation? What is the reputation of their agency like? Both of these are important to consider when researching agents. If the agent is established, what is their reputation like? If they’re new agents what is the reputation of their agency? (Note: it’s important to check on agency reputation for established agents, too). Check interviews, forums like Absolute Write Water Cooler and sites like Preditors & Editors as well as the aforementioned Literary Rambles to learn about agent and agency reputation.
- Does this agent seem like someone I would work well with? Granted, this is a little more difficult to determine online, but if the agent has a Twitter, follow them long before you start querying. Also, take the time to read every interview you can find—both of these sources can give you insights into the agent’s personality and what their work process is like. There are a couple agents, for example, that I decided I wouldn’t query based off things they said or the way they behaved on Twitter—after all, if your personalities clash, it’s going to make the relationship between you and you future agent more difficult.
Finally, two rules to remember while querying:
- Thou shalt not query every agent known to man. Use the criteria above to narrow down your list to agents that would work well for you and your manuscript. Consider every agent you query carefully. Think, if they offered representation, would I accept? If your answer is “no” then there’s little point in querying—you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
- A bad agent is worse than no agent. I’ve often heard of writers jumping to accept the first offer the get, just because they finally get an offer of representation. I understand this temptation, but the fact is, a bad agent will not help your career. Make sure you do plenty of research on every agent you query, and even more research on every agent who reads your full, and even more research on every agent who offers representation. Know what you’re getting into ahead of time to avoid unfortunate circumstances later on down the road.
What tips do you have for choosing the right agent?
So Hachette and Amazon are battling and it’s made some writers start pointing fingers at each other and arguing about self vs. traditional publishing. It needs to stop—and I vlogged about why.
I’m not normally one to be a rabble-rouser, particularly on the internet.
But I really think the fandom forces of tumblr should collectively spam NBC about Constantine, and recent disclosure that they are straight-washing his character. (He’s canonically bisexual in the comics)
If there is one thing fandom can collectively agree upon, there aren’t enough queer people in mainstream media. NBC is making an adaptation with an ALREADY QUEER CHARACTER, and making him straight. Bisexual men are a particularly under-represented demographic, and this is frankly the height of fucked up.
The good thing is, fandom can perhaps nip this problem in the bud. Although the show has been officially picked up by NBC, it is still very much in development. If we — the active fans of the world — collectively threaten to boycott before the show airs in October, we might have a good chance of forcing a creative shift.
So get in touch with NBC and make a complaint.
Twitter: @NBC || @NBCConstantine
Email Message: http://www.nbc.com/contact/general (under “Questions not found on FAQ page about NBC Entertainment”)
And please reblog this post. Spread the word. If anything is worthy of fandoms collective ire and criticism, it is this.
Welp. Also WOW read the link because that is a ridiculously offensive rationale. “Maybe in 20 years or so?”
Also do you like how character’s sexualities are magically never that important to the character when the character happens to be queer
FLY FLY MY PRETTIES!
Photo credit: Goodreads
I may have mentioned a couple times about my undying love for a YA Fantasy series known as The Grisha Trilogy (okay, I’ve mentioned it a lot). I’ve been looking forward to Ruin and Rising, the last book in The Grisha Trilogy, basically since the moment I finished reading Siege and Storm, so you can imagine my excitement when I finally got my hands on a copy. (If not, think: astronomical excitement).
My excitement, as it turns out, was totally merited because Ruin and Rising is an excellent read. But before I tell you more of that, here’s the Goodreads summary (NOTE: If you haven’t read Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm you may want to skip over the summary because spoilers):
“The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.”
I always hope, when reading the end of a series, that it’ll be exciting, have an ending that ties up all the loose ends and fits with the tone and messages of the series, that the climax will be appropriately epic and the characters will evolve, but not act unrealistically for their character.
Ruin and Rising did all of that and more.
I absolutely adore the time and detail Bardugo took to not only create an incredible world that feels entirely real, but delved into the history and mythology of the world she created and wove it intricately into the plot. I adore the characters to pieces (this is actually one of the few series where I love the antagonist and secondary love interest, The Darkling and Nikolai, more than I do the primary love interest, just because they were so epically awesome) and I honestly feel that the ending was perfect for the series. Closing the book, I felt happy and totally satisfied with the conclusion of one of my favorite YA Fantasy series ever.
The Grisha Trilogy is one that I’ll continue to recommend to anyone who will listen.Ruin and Rising is an excellent conclusion to an incredible series, and I, for one, will be insta-buying anything and everything Leigh Bardugo writes in the future.
NOTE: If you’re interested in The Grisha Trilogy, I’ve previously reviewed Siege and Storm
Have you read The Grisha Trilogy?
Doing a retro-throwback post today!
Because, you see, in a few weeks I’m going to be giving a speech at the Day of YA Pre-Conference at the Romance Writers of America Convention in San Antonio.
(And, don’t forget, I’ll also be signing in San Antonio on July 23. If you live in the area, please come by!)
So that has got me to thinking about this post that I wrote a couple of years ago. It was true then. It’s true now.
And I hope you like it!
STUFF I WOULD (AND WOULDN’T) TELL BABY AUTHOR ME IF I COULD GO BACK IN TIME:
A list by Ally Carter
-First and foremost, it is going to be okay. And, by the way, “it” will totally vary.
Maybe it’s sales or copyedits or titles or covers or co-op. Whatever it is, it will not kill you. It will not hurt the people you love. It will not make you an unhappy person unless you give it the power to do so. Do not give it that power.
-Very soon you will sell a book. (Yay!) But then you will become obsessed with promoting that book. Don’t do it. Sure, build a website, go to conferences and do the stuff if you ENJOY doing.
But, seriously, the thousands of dollars you’re getting ready to spend on playing cards and business cards and people who are supposed to help you “get your name out there”. Don’t. Just don’t. Put that money into a savings account instead. Even at less than 1% interest, you’ll get way higher returns there.
-Does that mean that an author shouldn’t try to promote his/her book? No. But understand that you can’t buy your way to the next rung on the ladder. You can only buy the illusion that you’re helping your career. But sometimes the illusion is valuable too.
-So what SHOULD you do if you’re not going to spend a six months making crappy playing cards and other things? Write your next book, that’s what. There’s a saying in this business: nothing sells backlist like front list. So get to writing some more front list.
-I know you don’t know anybody in this business now and that is a little scary. But that’s okay. You are a baby author. You aren’t supposed to know anyone.
And that won’t always be the case. Right now a whole new class of baby authors are being born and a lot of them are going to be your friends someday. You are going to meet at conferences and book fairs and even a few online. You will bond over copyedits and covers and deciding what shoes to wear to BEA.
Some people might say that making friends with these people is going to be good for your career. It isn’t. Making friends with these people is good for your life.
- People are getting ready to start telling you “You should make your book into a movie.” You will hear it every day. This does not make you special. EVERY author hears this every day. Get really, really good at answering (or ignoring) this question.
-And speaking of movies…chill. Yes, you have wanted to be a screenwriter since you were an even babier author, and yes, you will have people contacting you and offering you money and working toward bringing your books to the screen. Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It is a huge, massive and very chaotic process. And, most importantly, it’s not YOUR process. All you can do is make more source material for Hollywood to play with, so by all means, do that.
-Don’t quit your day job. Except when you’re finally ready to quit your day job. Look, you’re going to be freaked out about something. Either time or money. You need to decide which worry you are best equipped to handle.
-Whatever you do, don’t get in the habit of doing ____ while you write. Maybe it’s drinking Diet Coke or listening to music or wearing fuzzy socks. Why? Because there will come a day when don’t have your music or your fuzzy socks and you’ve realized that Diet Coke is rotting your teeth and then what are you going to do?
Basically, don’t let yourself get into bad habits. Sure, writing is a lot more fun when you can do it with a box of donuts on your lap, but please don’t. I’m still on the treadmill from your blasted donuts.
-Don’t judge yourself based on how other author’s careers are going. Why? Because 1. You don’t KNOW how their careers are going. Some people have big reputations and moderate sales. Some people fly under the radar and sell off the charts. But, most of all, 2. It doesn’t affect you. It doesn’t change you. All it can do is make you crazy, so do yourself a favor and don’t play that game.
-I’m not going to tell you what trends are coming (and, believe me, trends are getting reading to be a VERY big deal). Why? Because I don’t think that’s best for you (and us) in the long-run.
This business is a marathon, NOT a sprint. And, sure, in a few years books about vampires and dystopians and falling in love with supernatural creatures will be hot. But writing books just because they are (or are going to be) hot won’t make you happy. Writing books you love will make you happy, so do that instead.
Oh, and those hot trends? Eventually they are going to be cold. But loving what you’re writing can last forever. (And, believe it or not, there are some readers who do want funny or sweet or romantic books even if they have to swim against the genre current to find them.)
-And the biggest piece of advice I can give you is this: take a sheet of paper and write down five things that would make you really, really happy in your career. Then write down five things that would be “best case scenario” things. And lastly write five “in your wildest dreams” things.
Keep that list. Remember that list. Because in this business the finish line is constantly moving. One day you really just want an agent. Then it’s a book deal. Then it’s a bestseller. Then it’s a movie. Then it’s a castle next to JK Rowling’s.
In short, appreciate things as they’re happening, remember that once upon a time that thing was a dream of yours and that it’s still a dream for someone. So be grateful every day.
It’s a hard job. But it’s also a good job. And more than anything it’s YOUR dream job so try to keep everything in perspective. Hopefully you and I will get to do this job for many years to come.
-Oh, and one last thing, Baby Author Ally …welcome to the yard, meat.
I’ve been thinking about something avajae said recently from a critical standpoint. Writers are writers no matter what. If you right, and enjoy it, you’re a writer! So the term “aspiring” is a meaningless appellation to assign yourself. If you want to be a writer you are, provided you physically do the work.
So why call yourself an aspiring writer? I have a theory now after some thought. I think what we mean to say is that we’re aspiring to be a “professional writer.” In other words, someone who gets paid for the writing they do.
Every month, my editor’s have me sign contracts that state my work was published for X amount of money on Y date, and that my signature relinquishes my rights for publication for said payment. People validate my work, publish it, and I see my name and my creation in print.
That’s what I think we’re seeking, or at least, some are; validation. You want someone to look at what you’ve created and pay you for it. That’s the definition of a professional career. Once you have something like that in your hand, all of a sudden you’re a “writer.” You’re not just a blogger, or working for experience, or someone who writes fan fiction, but an actual paid writer.
The term “professional” simply implies that you’re doing what you do as a “profession” as the prefix suggests. You get paid for it. Which is why I don’t like the term “amateur” which implies the opposite—that you do it without pay—because it can come off as insulting. It even sounds insulting. A professional vs. an amateur? One of these things is not like the other.
The term aspiring isn’t a good thing to attach to yourself by any token. However, if what you mean to say is that you’re not yet getting paid, and would like to create a viable career out of the work that you’re doing, then you should only recognize to yourself that you are not yet a “professional” writer, without feeling the need to share that information with anyone. What you do is no more or less important because someone paid you for it. Keep doing what you’re doing because you want to, and eventually it’ll pay off.
I agree! Completely, actually.
I think most of the time (though I have heard exceptions), when people say they’re “aspiring writers” they really mean they’re aspiring to make a living off their writing. Now, I think being a professional full-time writer is totally something to aspire to, but when you say you’re an “aspiring writer” that’s not really what you’re saying—which is why I vlogged about it.
That last paragraph up there? I love it. You are so 100% right that whether or not you’re being paid to write doesn’t change the importance (or relevance) of the hard work you put into your writing. As an awesome English teacher said to me once, “Keep writing for you, and eventually someone else will catch on.” :)
- The importance of diversity and representation in the media, such as books.
- The very negative, and very real impact of the lack of representation and/or misrepresentation present in the media today.
- Everything I know about writing that I didn’t learn from books and practice.
- How to create and maintain an online platform (and why I should bother).
- Basically everything I know about the business and reality of publishing.
- Tons of information on mental illnesses.
- The true meaning of feminism.
- How to do my hair, nails and makeup (granted, not important on a large world-impacting scale, but still skills I use daily).
- Many other skills and tidbits of information that I won’t list for the sake of brevity.
And while I’m at it, here’s what the internet has given me:
- Two internships.
- Incredible critique partners.
- Loads of internet friends, many of whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting (which was just about the coolest thing ever).
- More book recommendations than I know what to do with, which continually fuel my unending appetite for incredible reads.
- The opportunity to help people with their writing, on a scale I never imagined possible.
- The motivation and courage to be myself.
So next time you hear someone talk about how the internet is rotting our brains, make sure to give them a little reeducation. Because at least for me? The internet has changed my life for the better.
Reasons why everyone should read The Girl of Fire and Thorns:
- incredibly intelligent heroine
- poc heroine
- overweight heroine who struggles with weight but learns to love herself
- a heroine whose strength is in military, strategy, and war, to whom other men look for an opinion after she puts them in their place for initially dismissing her
- a young naive sheltered pampered princess who grows into being a kick ass rebel leader and queen
- did I mention kick ass heroine
- who don’t need to man (though they’re there)
- her faith in herself is most important
- a book in which religion is one of the main themes, but it isn’t pushed down your throat
- a fantasy book not based on western cultures
well i am putting this on my to buy list
reading v soon
now i want this too
adding it to my evergrowing tbr :3
Agree on all counts. Read this one now. LOVE it.
when beth revis tells you to read a book. you read the book.
READ THIS SERIES. Seriously.
I just walk past like:
Ahhh literary agents. If you’re a writer even remotely familiar with the publishing process, you’ve most definitely heard of them, particularly if you’ve spoken to other writers online for more than five minutes (and if you haven’t or you’re not, that’s okay—I will explain you a thing).
For writers who want to be published traditionally, agents are key. In fact, oftentimes getting an agent is the first hurdle on the path to eventual publication (well, after writing a book, and editing, and everything involved in writing a polished manuscript, that is).
But why are they so important? And what do they really do for writers? Here are just a couple things agents do that make them so invaluable:
- Get your work in front of editors. The fact of the matter is, most big publishing houses won’t accept unagented submissions. In order to even reach the step of getting big publishing houses to even look at your work (and, more importantly, get your work in front of the right editors for your particular manuscript), you need an agent to represent you and your work.
- Contract negotiation. So your agent submits your work to editors, things go well and there’s an offer on the table. Congratulations! But your agent’s work is far from over.
Most writers know very little about the ins and outs of a publishing contract (and even most who do have a good idea as to what all those terms mean don’t often feel confident enough to argue the finer details). Agents, unsurprisingly, are extremely well-versed in publishing contracts. They know what rights to hold on to and what rights to sell, they know what goes into a contract, and most importantly, they know how to negotiate for the best possible deal for you.
- (Possible) editing/polishing. Some agents do this and some don’t, so if this is important to you, you need to make sure to choose an agent who is editorial. Agents don’t have to help you edit your work, but some do before sending your work out to editors to make sure it’s super shiny first.
- Professional supporter of awesome/ career guidance. Your agent is always in your corner. They get excited over you and your work, they’re there to help you figure out what direction to go with your career, and all in all, they want the best for you and your career. It’s a business relationship (which is important to remember), and it should be a positive one.
For extra information on what an agent is (and isn’t), literary agent Carly Watters (PS Literary) wrote two great posts on 6 Things to Expect from Your Literary Agent and 6 Things You Shouldn’t Expect From Your Agent. Definitely worth a read, whether you have an agent or not.
Do you think agents are important for writers? Why or why not?