The process of writing and publishing a Children’s book can be incredibly daunting. The work that is involved with producing a pristine manuscript from written to final draft stage is incredibly overwhelming. Next then comes the commercial publishing process. As writers we may not be fully aware of the literary landscape, and how our work fits in. We may not be accustomed to business negotiations or the more practical sales part of novel production. Therefore, manyreputable authors suggest that securing a literary agent may lead to a higher chance of commercial success. This blog discusses the best methods to secure a literary agent for your individual needs, and what characteristics to look out for when sourcing the perfect match!
Why do I need a literary agent?
Literary agents are usually experts in the publishing industryand adequately represent the interests of their author clients. They often have a wide network within the industry such as publishers, editors, and other reputable authors. They willnegotiate with prospective publishing houses to get writers the best deal whilst simultaneously protecting the authors respective rights. If your upcoming children’s book falls within the traditional genres, or you wish to target one of the main publishing houses such as Penguin, Random House, Harper Collins etc then it is usually best to secure a literary agent. The negative side to hiring a literary agent is they usually receive a 15 percent commission from your sales.
Best methods to secure a literary agent
Some of the best methods to secure a literary agent include detailed research, networking, database usage and then once you have selected your agent issuing a suitable query letter as per their individual submissions process.
As part of your research, you should review and compile a list of potential agents for your work. The research process is somewhat individualistic in nature, but it is usually linked to your genre / style of writing. Find books that are in circulation based on your genre / stylistic preferences and review the copyright and acknowledgements page to see which agents are representing those authors. Once you have selected your literary agent you can then ascertain what their specific submission guidelines are and issue a specific proposal to that agent.
2. Database resources
As well as compiling a general list from the internet, one can also refer to Database resources. I have included some examples below.
One of the most popular databases available is ‘Query tracker.’ This authentic and free resource categorizes a list of agents in a unique manner. The forum has assisted approximately 4000 Authors with sourcing an agent. The database has over 1715 Agents listed on site. You can organise and track you queries as per your own specific requirements and you can also review agent data such as an agent’s response time and reply rate. The site provides a list of top ten Literary agents, and you will receive a free weeklyquery tracker newsletter which outlines when new agents are added to the site/ profile updates. Some of the points mentioned in the newsletter include tips for writing and sending query letters, top agents, and best practices for using the tracker function. The site is renowned for its comprehensive records and social functions. Some of theSocial functions on site include the ability to add public notes about interactions with agents, and the option to reach out to other querying authors to swap feedback with. The Query tracker site offers free and paid options. If you upgrade to 25dollars a month option you can track multiple projectssimultaneously. This resource is ultimately one of the most comprehensive free sites available to authors currently!
The Literary Rambles website provides a categorised list of agents and there is a ‘Spotlight’ function highlighting popular agents. The site also compiles a list of agent interviews and debut author interviews. You can search by the agent’s name/ agency name. This resource is also completely free to use.
The publisher’s marketplace is renowned as the largest marketplace for publishing professionals which is built on the foundation of ‘Publisher’s lunch.’ The publisher’s lunch is accessed by 40 000 industry insiders and thus Publishers Market place is also a reputable source for perspective authors to review. The Publishers marketplace maintains a list of agents, and you can also search publishing deals by genre,category, and keyword. The negative side to this resource is that it is not free. Access to the Publishers Marketplace doescost 25 Dollars per month but the site sometimes runs sales.
Duotrope is similar to the Publishers Marketplace. Users are charge a 25 Dollar fee. This resource is useful for managing your writing submissions. The Control panel is used to manage your applications and provides a breakdown of the overall submissions that have been issued over the last 12 months. The calendar tab gives readers access to contest deadlines and Interviews with editors at magazine database.The main drawback to Duotrope is that you don’t submit your applications via their website, but you send them to‘submittable’ which is a free service managing submissions.
It is well known that in almost every aspect of corporate life,Networking usually will lead to increased chance of success. Social media can be a great way to do this. Keeping yoursocial media regularly updated, writing articles, and publishing guest posts should help you to extend your reach,and increase your numbers. Similarly, users should network atconferences, writing festivals, in person or online events. You will soon see that the industry is warm, welcoming, and open to new writers. Also, if possible it may be advisable to get a referral from someone you know and trust.
General Submission Process
Once you have selected your agent you then must make a submission to them. The general submission process for securing a literary agent is usually specified by that agent but it includes issuing a query Letter. The query letter is incredibly important as it is your one opportunity to convince the Agent to select your work or for them to get an overall impression of you. The basic query letter consists of three parts. The first section is the Pitch Section (hook), The second is the evidence section and lastly some information about you. The evidence section should explain why project is worth the agent’s time. It should talk about your background, highlighting what previous publications experience you haveand why you are the perfect candidate for them to select. The process may include issuing the first 10 K words, 50 pages of manuscript, alongside a Synopsis of your manuscript. It may be advisable to send out simultaneous submissions. If you issue fewer submissions you risk being rejected, yet it is also best not to cast your net too wide either. Quality over quantity may be a good motto to adhere to. Some authors suggest a dozen applications is a good number to aim for.
How to choose the best agent for your needs
As mentioned above carrying out detailed research is key. The below points can be helpful to assist you with securing the best agent for your needs.
1. Sales track record – Evaluate this agents client list and publishers he /she has sold to. Ensure that the Publishershe/ she sells to are the types of publishers appropriate for the work you wish to do or are a good range for you.
2. Communication skills - When you have selected your agent ensure that they have good communication and people skills and are enthusiastic about the role, and proud to represent you.
3. Rate –The rate is usually charged as commission of the overall sales you have achieved. You will never be asked to pay an upfront fee to agent. Agents usually make their money charging commission which usually ranges between 10-20 percent of the overall sales.
Dealing with rejection and overcoming adversity
As an author it is very important to become resilient in the face of adversity and rejection. Most writers will receive at least one rejection in their time.. Agents might reject a clientfor various reasons. Some of these reasons may include 1. They may be overwhelmed /busy with the clients they already have. 2.They may be on maternity leave/Left company. 3. They may be overwhelmed with prospective proposals. 4. Your manuscript may not have appealed to them. 5. You may have misjudged the market and where your work fits in to the broader literary landscape. It is important to accept rejections with good grace and try and learn from the experience, especially if the Agent is willing to give feedback or discuss the matter further with you.
Overall, we can conclude from this that sourcing an agent has become much easier due to the abundance of resourcesavailable such as Query tracker/ Duo trope/Literary Rambles etc. With a little background research, and networking one can successfully obtain a reputable agent to represent their needs. Although it is possible to issue unsolicited manuscripts to publishing houses, securing a reputable agent can provide you with the support necessary to achieve literary success!
Author: Jessica McCarthy