Friday Speak Out!: Ways to Land an Agent

Friday, March 27, 2020
by June Trop

You’ve crossed the finish line. Now, as an emerging author, you can benefit from the support of a traditional publisher. But don’t overlook getting an agent first.

Your chances of finding a publisher are significantly better if you have an agent. Although agents typically take from 10—15% of the author’s earnings for the book they represent, they know the marketplace and the editors publishing manuscripts like yours. Moreover, an editor at a publishing house will read your submission sooner if it’s represented by an agent rather than submitted “over the transom,” that is, submitted by the author as an unsolicited manuscript. Agents also have experience guiding an author’s career and clout negotiating the fine print in a contract, such as the advances, royalties, and author’s rights.

So how can you get an agent? There are several ways to search for one. Of course, knowing someone who knows someone is best. But another way is to search the internet for “literary agents.” You’ll find a directory of agents online. The number of agents is legion so make a list of only those interested in your genre, especially if they’re seeking new clients.

Another way is to go to bookstores. About once a month, my husband and I go out on a date to a bookstore in the mall. While he amuses himself looking at the magazines, I check out the authors with new books in my genre, historical mysteries. Often they identify their agent in the acknowledgment section of their books.

In any case, be sure to call each agency first to check that the agent is still with them—agents do move around—and then include with your query letter exactly what each requires such as a 100 or 200-word synopsis, an author bio, and some sample chapters. Agents and publishers want to make money. So in your letter, be sure to tout the commercial potential of your manuscript—in other words how it’s unique—and mention how yours is both similar to and different from a book they represent.

By all means approach publishers over the transom, but for every submission to a publisher, send one to an agent as well. As long as none of the agents or publishers insists on an exclusive submission, send out ten, five to an agent and five to a publisher, and then, upon each rejection, immediately submit your manuscript to the next agent or publisher on your list.

Yes, you will get rejections. No matter how good your work, you’ll likely be rejected many times. But remember each opinion is subjective. Someone else could love it. So, as an emerging author, while you search for a publisher, search for an agent as well. The support you gain may be well worth the money it costs.

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June Trop is the author of the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series set in first-century CE Roman-occupied Alexandria. Her books have been cited for excellence at the New York Book Festival, by Wiki Ezvid, the Historical Novel Society, and as a 5-star Readers’ Favorite. Kirkus praised The Deadliest Thief for its “vibrant imagery and an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.”

As an award-winning middle school science teacher, June used storytelling to capture her students’ imagination and interest in scientific concepts. Years later as a professor of teacher education, she focused her research on the practical knowledge teachers construct and communicate through storytelling.

June, an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, NY where she is breathlessly recording her plucky heroine's next life-or-death exploit.

Connect with June on her website or her Facebook page: June Trop Author.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

June--Your post came at the perfect time. I am currently trying to reach a self-imposed goal of 5-a-day queries for the month--which would equal 155 submissions.

Okay, so I challenged myself in March, and I'm way behind, but I plan on making up for lost time.

Good luck with your current WIP... and thanks for writing a Friday Shout Out.

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