View Full Version : How do I find an agent? Do I need one?

06-04-2004, 01:06 PM
I have just finished writing my first novel. (160,000) words. I have experience writing add copy, publishing local tabloids and have written for local publications and my own enjoyment, but I have never tried to deal with large national publishers. I have no idea what to expect. Now I feel like I just fell off the banana truck, because I was really impressed with S.T. Literary Agency's website, but when I ran a search, wow! it looks like a scam. It is really discouraging. None of the other things I have found look very promising either. Submitting directly to a publisher looks discouraging because they want you to submit your work to them alone, and they will reply in a few months, meanwhile you just wait... and wait??? What is this with no multiple submissions? I planned to just submit over the Internet in mass, but they want hard copy?? How primitive! I really thought S.T. was on to something with e-mailing your work to them. It seems so logical, and simple. I am really feeling like a babe in the woods here!:cry

Everything here looks like it is warning what not to do, but I am wondering what is left to do. I see endless lists of publishers and agents on the web, but other than a few well known names, I don't know one from the other.

Self publishing would be easy enough, but marketing and distributing a novel is out of my league. My book is interesting, but doesn't fit in to an easily defined slot. It is also a little sexually explicit. It is romance, fantasy, horror, set in the early18th century. It is complex, and can be interpreted on a lot of different levels. It is Jungian, Freudian, even spiritual and very different from anything I have ever read. I don't read a lot of romance novels, but I don't think it is like mainstream Harlequin material. I wouldn't know how to begin to market such a thing.:shrug

I'd like to have an agent, but I have no idea how to obtain one. I agree that I don't want to pay a fee up front, simply because I want results, not fees.

06-04-2004, 06:43 PM
You're right to do background checks on publishers and agents. One good place to start (if you're submitting to North American pubs) is Writer's Market 2004. It lists publishers and agents and what they want to see. BUT always cross-reference using the Internet search. They do not want your entire manuscript, at first. Put together a good one page query letter and two to five page synopsis (if they want that). You can read the novel writing board for more info on all that.

Now, 160,000 words is a bit much, esp. for a first time author. You might want to pare it down.

Good luck--


06-04-2004, 08:16 PM
I appreciate your reply. I think Writer's Market is a great idea, and plan to check a copy out of the library today. I used to have one, but I think it is from the 80's so probably useless.

I guess I could possibly trim down my book some, but what is the maximum recomended length. I am still proofing a bit, anyway. I read that the minimum for one publisher was 80,000 words.

James D Macdonald
06-04-2004, 08:17 PM
See also <a href="http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004772.html" target="_new">this discussion</a>.

06-04-2004, 09:04 PM
Check out the www.wgaeast.org

THat's the Writers Guild, East. They have a lot of literary agents (check out the ones in the state of New York). Many of them deal with manuscripts (others deal with stage plays and screenplays)

06-04-2004, 11:56 PM
for a first book, if you've not been published, you'll most likely do better approaching publishers directly, as most agents aren't much interested in newbies with only one book to sell...

the few who will look at a new writer's first work, will be pretty picky, so i'd take the advice given above, to pare down your ms to a marketable size... 120,000 is generally considered the top of the acceptable 'first novel' range...

but before you approach anyone, be sure your work is ready to submit... have someone knowledgeable take a good look at it and give you an honest appraisal of the quality of your writing... once you send your ms out, it'll be too late to make excuses for poor grammar, syntax, punctuation, and spelling... or to apologize for typos...

best of luck to you!... hugs, maia

06-05-2004, 02:31 AM
I very much appreciate your help. Thanks for clearing up a lot of questions.

06-05-2004, 02:35 AM
I appreciate the advice. I haven't yet decided to use an agent, but it seems easier in a way. I think I need to do a lot more research before I contact anyone. This looks a little less overwhelming than some of the lists I have seen.


06-05-2004, 02:58 AM
Wow, I just checked out your site, and it sounds like you are a real saint. I greatly admire your beautiful open spirit. My book is about someone that people tend to believe is a saint. It discusses larger than life heroes. It is quite a coincidence that I meet you. I am interested in a lot of things on your site. I really like your views on peace and ecological concerns. I plan to e-mail you on your site. I really like it.

I don't know about reducing the size of my book, but I was already thinking about it. I don't know where to start. Perhaps you could help me. There is violent content, so you might object. The violence though it is largely symbolic. If taken literally it is violent. The book is very unusual in that it can be taken, literally, or as a metaphor for spiritual development, and repairing the damage done to the human psyche. What people do to children's emotional development in most every culture of the world is very violent, on a spiritual and emotional level, and that is what my book is really about, though a literalistic reader might enjoy it as just a story. Some of my metaphors are shocking but it is really a story about inner healing.

James D Macdonald
06-05-2004, 04:00 AM
There are discussions on getting agents happening up in the Writing Novels group right now.

06-06-2004, 09:55 PM
My two cents...

If your goal is to sell fiction to a large publishing house (such as Penguin or HarperCollins), you do need an agent (a good agent, that is--an agent with sales. An amateur or fraudulent agent is worse than no agent at all). Many imprints are entirely closed to unagented submissions, and those that say they do accept them give them bottom priority (and usually the person looking at them will be an intern or assistant, without the ability to make a buying recommendation). Plus, response times are incredibly long--I've heard from authors who've been waiting a year or much more. It can take time to find an agent, but once you do she will save you time (not to mention get your ms. directly to the desk of an appropriate editor).

If you're looking to independent publishers (such as MacAdam/Cage or Sourcebooks), you probably don't need an agent, since most of these publishers are willing to work directly with authors. Especially for a quirky, hard-to-classify literary novel, an independent, which can be more flexible in its acquisitions, can be a good choice.

There's an article on my personal website that offers some tips about researching agents, plus a technique that's designed to help exclude the questionable ones from your query list: www.sff.net/people/Victor...arch.html. (http://www.sff.net/people/VictoriaStrauss/agentsearch.html.)

I do think that 160,000 words is too long. If you can, you should try to trim.

Lastly, I wanted to address this:

>>I was really impressed with S.T. Literary Agency's website<<

I've heard from other authors who found ST's website impressive. However, it's impressive only if you haven't looked at a lot of successful agencies' websites. A successful agency's website will list its recent sales (and a successful agency will have way more than one), and will provide info about the agent(s). Here's a good example: www.dystel.com/ (http://www.dystel.com/)

Anytime you find an agent's site that doesn't list multiple sales and gives you no information about the individual agents, be wary.

- Victoria

06-06-2004, 10:05 PM
well, close to it, anyway... you'd do well to heed her advice...

hugs, maia

ps: you're entirely welcome... and thanks for the kind words!

07-15-2005, 05:30 PM
More agent-researching resources:
http://www.aar-online.org/mc/page.do AAR Online
http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2005/01/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about.asp Everything you wanted to know about literary agents, by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, in Neil Gaiman's journal
http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ Preditors and Editors
http://www.sfwa.org/Beware/ Writer Beware