A Little Bird Told Me

Posted: August 26, 2015 in Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

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Not quite a year ago my daughter and I finished our manuscript for our middle grade novel, The Last Princess, and contemplated finding an agent to represent our book.  I started drafting a query letter, wrote a synopsis, learned about loglines, and basically dove in with both feet.

Yes, that is backwards, isn’t it?  The common expression is “jumped in with both feet,” but however I got into the water, it wasn’t the smoothest entrance, although I didn’t make much of a splash either.

I did, however, puchase a copy of the 2015 Guide to Literary Agents — basically a huge Yellow Pages of literary agents.  Now, nearly a year later, we’ve sent out dozens of queries to agents, and currently have a number agents and editors interested in our manuscript. However I never once consulted that book.

The reason is because I wanted agents that represented middle grade fantasy, and that book is not really organized that way.  It is alphabetical.  It’s a fine resource for looking up an agent who’s name you know, but not so much for choosing the right agent.

So I scoured the Interwebs for some resource where I might search agents by category.  And I found a few such sites.  I started painstakingly compiling an extensive spreadsheet of the results.

I didn’t query many of those either.

Because very soon thereafter I discovered the writing community on Twitter.  There are a hunge mumber of resources there, not to mention just the tremendous amount of wisdom and insight you can gain just by following agents, writers, slush readers, editors. and publishers.  You can follow #amwriting, #amediting, #WIP, #amquerying, #agentadvice, and dozens of others.  I’ve talked about this at length before.

One of the most valuable is #MSWL, which stands for “manuscript wish list,” and it is a feed where agents and editors post exactly what kind of books their looking for.  The feed is also searchable.  In this way I found a number of agents to query, to whom I could say in my query, “We read you are looking for a middle grade fantasy with fairy tale elements and a strong female protagonist,” or something similar.  Such personalization is a great way to rise in the slush and get noticed.

MSWL now has its own curated website: https://mswlparagraph.wordpress.com. The site is searchable four different ways, and offers full profiles for each agent, including contact information and sumission guidelines.

If your ready to start querying, or have been querying but have been unable to find zn agent looking for what you have to offer, I urge you to discover Twitter and dive in with both feet. Hint, when agents are interested in you, they often look to see if you’re on Twitter. A halfway decent profile and a few on-point tweets can make a difference.

Good luck! Look for me at @John_Berkowitz.

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