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How to Sell Your Novel, Part 1: Finding an Agent

My journey from sock drawer to bookshelf actually breaks many of these rules, but we'll get to that at the end.

by
Hannah Sternberg

Bio

November 13, 2011 - 2:00 pm

1. Finding Your Agent

Most agents focus on a few genres or types of stories that they personally enjoy most and also have the professional contacts to sell. For example, some agents represent only romance novels, so they have extensive contacts with editors at romance publishers but might not have similar contacts with editors of mystery/thrillers.

Start by searching Publishers Marketplace by genre to find agents who are representing books like your own, then search for them online to find their contact information. Another great database is AgentQuery.com. Also look at the acknowledgement pages of books that you enjoy – authors often thank their agents, so you can find out who sold your favorite books!

This is what a deal looks like on Publisher's Marketplace. You can search by a variety of keywords, including genre. Usually the deal would also list the agent who sold the book, though this one doesn't. When an agent is named, the format is usually "Sold by...to..."

I’ve also found it helpful to Twitter-follow agents, editors and other writers to hear the latest news on who’s taking on clients, who sold what to whom, and other tips. I even have a Twitter list that I continually tweak of the best writers, agents, and publishers to go to for news and advice.

It’s important for authors to learn about the business and understand how to market their manuscripts to agents. But in this effort to make sure you fit an agent, it’s equally important to make sure you find an agent who fits you. If you’re following an agent on Twitter who says sci fi is a waste of her time, don’t stress out about how to repackage your space opera so she won’t notice the aliens; just find an agent who’s looking for your kind of story. Not only will she be more likely to give your manuscript a look she’ll have the connections to sell it if she takes you on as a client. This applies not just in genre, but in style and tone as well. If you love to write languorous prose, you probably shouldn’t seek an agent who prefers a terse, modern style.

Once you’ve made your list of potential agents, you’re ready to start contacting them to pitch your novel.

Second: The art of the query

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