Literary Agents, Publishing, Uncategorized

The Literary Agent Puzzle

Hey Guys,

How are you all? I hope if you were one of the many people hit with major snow this week, you’re now beginning to dig yourself out. Me? I’m so very happy to say that my little corner of Upstate, NY was not hit. Like at all. It’s so weird, because we always get hit. But I won’t complain. I’m definitely happy to share the white fluffy stuff for a change!

So my post today may seem a bit out of order. Many of you may have read my post a few weeks ago What Happens After you Sign with a Literary Agent. Well, early this week I had a conversation with a client that prompted me to write this post today. It probably would have been helpful to read sooner, but ideas for posts come when they come. 🙂

Earlier this week, I was speaking with one of my business clients, whom I’ll call Mr. X. After we finished touching base on the status of the project, he asked me, “How do you know if a literary agent is good?”

Before I talk about how I answered, I’ll give you a little background…Mr. X is aware that I recently signed with a literary agent. We’ve often spoke of how difficult it is to get a book published traditionally. In fact, during his career, he has had several business type books self published, and the book I’m ghostwriting for him will also be sold directly on amazon once I’m finished. So upon hearing his question, I figured he was just asking to make conversation.

I came to find out however, that he has also hired a ghostwriter to write a memoir for one of his close friends, and this book, (he feels) may be able to get traditionally published. So he asked me how to find a good literary agent—and if I knew any good ones who represented adult memoirs.

Wow. That’s such a loaded question…and it brought me back several years—seven to be exact.

When I first started writing and thinking about getting my manuscript published, I asked myself the same question. Although I had been writing for a little while, I had no idea what was involved in seeing my manuscript in print. So I set out to learn everything I could about making it happen.

And it wasn’t easy.

In fact, it took me FOREVER to figure it out. Many days I felt like the publishing business was a big puzzle—with hundreds of pieces, not all of which were even in the puzzle box.  I had to search high and low to find them, and then once I did I had to figure out where they fit into the big puzzle picture.


I read as many books as I could on the business of publishing. I searched the internet for articles on getting a book published. I read author websites, looking for any piece of helpful information. I read writing blogs—endlessly and religiously. I was kind of obsessive about it actually, almost like a sponge soaking up anything I could.

This became my life.

When I wasn’t writing or reading (or doing the mom/ wife thing) I was trying to make sense of the whole publishing thing. And what I learned early on was that if I was going to have any chance of being traditionally published, I needed to get myself a literary agent.  (Easier said than done!) But once my attention was turned to literary agents, I had to learn WHICH literary agents to target.

So over the next few years, I followed and read all I could about any agent who represented middle grade fiction. Then as I became ready to query them, I put together a list. And because the years flew by and I eventually queried three different manuscripts, some literary agents on my list came and went. Others became ultra successful and were becoming more selective. Not that they weren’t looking for the best books early on in their careers, but as the years went on, they only had room on their lists to sign one or two new clients each year. New agents came on the scene and I had to learn all I could about them as well.

So the thing is, it became a never ending search for agents that would be a good fit for my manuscript. It wasn’t something I could find after one day of browsing the internet. And that’s exactly what I told Mr. X. If he wanted to find an agent that might be interested in his memoir, he would need to do some research. A lot of research.

And that’s what I would tell any knew writer looking to get traditionally published. Information on literary agents is out there, but just like writing the manuscript itself, no one can do the work for you. You have to do it yourself.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help. In fact, if Mr. X had been trying to find an agent to represent a children’s book I would have had more information to share. But in the world of memoirs, I am as clueless as any new writer!

But for the rest of you who are on Twitter and writing sites, gathering all the information you can on agents that rep your age group and genre, you’re doing the right thing. I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave…matching you up with your perfect agent or at least help you find those missing puzzle pieces—but I can’t. It’s all up to you. But, if you keep at it long enough, have a polished manuscript, and are willing to learn, you won’t need anyone’s magic wand.

You will be enough.

Good luck my friends, I hope you find a good bunch of agents for your query list. One of them may just be a key piece to your puzzle…and the one person who can best champion your work!

Ta ta for now… I hope we’ll chat soon!






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