Wednesday, January 20, 2021

How Do I Find An Agent?

 Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won The Middle School Writing Toolkit from last week's blog.


"May I ask, how do I even begin to find an agent?"

That was the question that Theresa Pierce, a two-time Rowan Salisbury Teacher of Year award winner asked me last week. Theresa has 35 years of experience teaching reading and history. In retirement, she has decided to pursue a new vocation--children's writer. 

I met Theresa through our mutual friend, Joyce Hostetter. Theresa is busy writing as well as learning about writing and publishing. That's a lot to cram in! But as her husband wisely told her, "You didn't get to be a teacher of the year overnight. This writing adventure is new for you. Give yourself time to learn."

My Response

This is a BIG question and it is a BIG learning curve. 

Let me say first of all, that even though I've been working on  Half-Truths for over ten years, I haven't submitted it to an agent because it wasn't ready. As Joyce told me many times, you only want to send a manuscript when you’re sure it’s ready. I thought it was ready several times and even sent it out once--but withdrew it after receiving feedback from Joyce that demanded to be incorporated into the manuscript.   

Agents are busy people. If you make a bad impression the first time, you probably won't get a second chance. Have critique partners, beta readers, and other writers told you that it was ready to go? I am glad that I have waited and kept working on my story. My characters have become more authentic and the storyline keeps getting stronger. It’s a lot of work. 

An agent will read my manuscript soon because I’m participating in a whole-novel workshop that included three beta readers.  I have incorporated these readers' insightful feedback into the manuscript, and now one agent will read the entire book and another will read the first 25 pages. I will receive feedback from both of them which I will evaluate and incorporate before I start my agent search. I have a folder in my inbox just about agents. I will cull through old blog posts and interviews to help me in this process.

By the way, I found this workshop on Kathy Temean’s Writing & Illustrating site. She often interviews agents and they’ll say what they are looking for. You should subscribe to this great blog. And while I'm thinking of it, one reason to join SCBWI is that agents like working with SCBWI members. They know that members are serious about their work.

People meet/find agents at conferences, through Twitter pitches (I have yet to master that—Twitter is pretty much a mystery to me), and through writing magazines. Writer’s Digest has an annual list of agents. I also subscribe to Query Tracker which I highly recommend. It’s a large database of agents and what they’re looking for. It only costs $25 per year and you get frequent updates. You can personalize a list of agents for multiple projects and keep track of your queries. Agent Query is another popular website.

Finding an agent takes time. You want to find an agent who wants what you have written (in my case that is a historical young adult) and then look at their website or wish list and see EXACTLY what they are looking for.  I zero in on agents who are interested in social justice and generational stories. That way when I write my query, I will connect my book to her interest. Writing query letters is an entirely different topic!

I hope this information helps. Yes, there’s a lot to learn about this business!! Writing a great book is only the first part! Be patient and diligent. 

Thank you, Theresa, for asking this question. If any of you are new to the writing-publishing business and want me to answer your question, leave it for me in the comments. I'm not an expert, but I have been in this business for over 30 years and would be happy to see if I can answer it, or at least point you to the appropriate resources. 


Theresa Pierce's manuscript, Up Dunn's Mountain won first place for Young Adult Literature at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers 2020 Conference. She is a member of Word Weavers and the Daughters of the American Revolution.  

As a historic docent, she shares her volunteer time between the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer and the Rowan Museum in Salisbury. She is also a Toastmaster and speaks to historic groups, senior citizens, and of course, her favorite-- children.  

She is the newest member of the Write2Ignite blogger team and will be blogging about her writing/publishing journey. 



Unknown said...

Thanks for these words of wisdom, Carol. I truly pray that you find an agent who appreciates all the work you have put into this manuscript and who will embrace working with you and all you have to offer.

Unknown said...

Thanks for these words of wisdom, Carol. I truly pray that you find an agent who appreciates all the work you have put into this manuscript and who will embrace working with you and all you have to offer.


Carol Baldwin said...

thank you, Linda!! You've been a part of this long journey!

Sandra Warren said...

Wise words once again, Carol.

In addition, I always tell folks it's not much different than finding a publisher. You have to do your research: find the agent who is agenting what you have to sell (as you said) and then read their submission guidelines and follow them to a "T!" Each agent has different yet similar submission rules.

You've done your diligence with Half Truths. I'm sure an agent will latch onto it this year.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Sandra!

Anonymous said...

Dear Carol,
I continue to pray you find an agent for Half-Truths!

Thanks for sharing advice with us.

Never Give Up

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joan! I appreciate your support.

JoyceHostetter said...

Lots of great advice here, Carol. I'm glad you waited too. It's the hardest lesson for writers to learn, isn't it? Publishing is so slow and we are so eager. Keep practicing, Theresa!

Carol Baldwin said...

It is a hard lesson, JOyce. And you are a GREAT teacher!

Rosi said...

Lots of good advice here, Carol. You should have a great time at Kathy's retreat. I have been. It's very helpful.

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