Literary Agents: Seeking Representation

On Saturday, I got to attend the Kansas Missouri SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators) Agents Day.   Here are five interesting things that I learned.

  1.  Always include in your letter that you are an SCBWI member. This is a biggie and I always did it before I had any sales.  But lately?  I’ll have to check my letter.
  2. Do not tell an agent that you just finished writing your manuscript.  Revising.  You just finished revising your manuscript.  Yes, this means they get a lot of things that are really rough.
  3. Some agencies will take requests from publishers who are looking for authors for work-for-hire projects or who are otherwise looking for authors to write about specific things.  Not all agencies do this.
  4. If you write picture books and the agent loves picture book number one but is lukewarm about picture books two, three, and four, this person may not be a good match for you.  You want to work with an agent who is enthusiastic about your body of work not just one or two pieces.
  5. When you meet an agent or hear her speak at an event, they don’t want to get your manuscript while they are in the airport.  They want you to take the time to apply what you learned at that event to the manuscript that they saw or to any other manuscript that you are thinking about submitting.  Being first in line isn’t going to get you anything special and you won’t be first anyway.  Something probably came in while they were at the event.

Agents understand that looking for an agent is a frustrating experience.  But be patient.  They will get to your letter but they will only get to it after they get to the things they need to do for people who are already clients.   You’ll appreciate that when you land an agent.