How to Get a Literary Agent | iWriterly

Heya book nerds! I’m Meg LaTorre Snyder, and on this episode
of iWriterly, I’m here to talk to you about: How to Get a Literary Agent
So for those of you who don’t know what a literary agent is, these are the people who
represent authors and then pitch their manuscripts to editors and publishing houses. A lot of people call them the “Gate-keepers
to the traditional publishing industry” Whether or not that’s actually true, these
are the people that help you get traditionally published. Stay tuned for a special surprise at the end
of the end of this episode and be sure to subscribe below! And I don’t just mean the bloopers. Yes, we have those too. For those of you new to iWriterly, we talk
a lot about writing, editing, and reading books. So if you guys are looking to get traditionally
published, and find a literary agent, follow these 12 steps. Step 1: Write a Book
Unless you’re writing non-fiction, you should have already written and thoroughly edited
your full manuscript. That means not only should your manuscript
be complete, but you should have also edited it on your own, critiqued it with critique
partners or beta readers, workshopped it in a group setting, and edited it some more on
your own. And I say this because I see this all the
time. Literary agents should not be seeing first
drafts of your manuscript. Make sure to get eyeballs on it so it’s like,
SUPER sparkly basically. And be sure to check out some of the links
below for tips on how to start a manuscript or where to start, or things to consider when
you are starting. Step 2: Determine the age group and genre
of your manuscript. You may have started your manuscript knowing
you wanted to write young adult fantasy, or you might have just started writing a story,
and figured all that stuff out later. Regardless of your creative process, you do
have to determine what age group and genre your manuscript fits into before you query
a literary agent. Once the manuscript is complete, you need
to determine what is the age group, so who is your intended readership; Middle grade,
young adult, adult, and so on. And you also want to determine the genre. So that is fantasy, thriller, science-fiction,
and so on. This is where those pesky word counts come
into play. Each age group, so that’s picture books, chapter
books, middle grade, young adult, adult. They all have an expected word count that
you’re supposed to fall into. Similarly, so do the genres. And again, that is fantasy, science-fiction,
thriller, and so forth. They also have a word count expectation built
into the genre itself. And to make it all more confusing, the two
overlap. There are word count expectations for genre
and age groups put together. For example, fantasy-young adult, tends to
run on the longer side. Whereas something like romance, or contemporary
might run a little bit shorter. At some of the conferences I’ve gone to, a
number of writers have asked me a very similar question, and that is:
I’ve seen X famous author has a really really long manuscript, who writes in the same age-group
and genre that I do. Why can’t I write a long manuscript? The answer to that question is… tricky. If you are a debut author, in short, you are
a risky investment for a publishing house, because you have not proven that you have
an audience following you and readily picking up your manuscripts off the bookshelves. Therefore, it’s cost effective to write a
shorter manuscript to get published, prove that you’re an awesome writer, and have this
amazing following, and everyone wants to read your book. And therefore, afterward you can gradually
have manuscripts maybe that get a little longer. A really good example of this is, naturally,
the queen, J.K. Rowling
who’s books go from itty bitty to… MASSIVE at the end of the Harry Potter series. To prove my point, this is Harry Potter and
the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is one of her earlier manuscripts in the series. And this is the Deathly Hallows. See the difference? The best advice I can give to you as a debut
author is this: You are probably not the exception to the
rule. When in doubt, adhere to the word count and
genre expectations and once you have become amazing and famous, and all that, then you
can break the rules. That does not mean write the tropes. Don’t! Don’t do that. When I say follow the rules, that is for word
count, length and expectation for the age groups and genres. So, if your manuscript is considerably longer
than the expected word count for your age group and genre, it might be time to kill
some of those darlings. Or if you’re on the shorter side, it might
be time to beef things up or maybe take a look at your structure and plot. Step 3. Write a query and synopsis
For those of you new to the process, a query is a one-page cover letter specific to the
book publishing industry that showcases your manuscript. A query letter probably runs maybe about five
or so paragraphs long and three of those at most, depending on the submission guidelines,
will be about the manuscript itself. That part, those one to three paragraphs should
read like a book jacket. A synopsis on the other hand, is a one to
two-page document that reveals everything about the story; spoilers, ending, deaths,
romances; all of it. Many, many writers who have written
I’ll say a 75,000-word manuscript hate condensing that same manuscript into a one-page document. And regardless of how *ahem* horrible it is,
it is a step of the publishing process you have to do. Query letters are what you send a literary
agent or editor when you ask them to consider your work. Not every literary agency will require you
to submit a one to two-page synopsis with your query and pages in the initial unsolicited
submission. However, it is good to have one right up front,
should a literary agent ask for more pages, or want a synopsis that is something you want
to have prepared so you can send it right away. Like your manuscript, you will want to exchange
your query and synopsis with critique partners or beta readers, or even a freelance publishing
professional to critique. These two documents are your first impression
with a publishing professional. And you want to make it a good one! And as I mentioned before, don’t forget, there
are freelance editors out there should you feel that you just want to have your query
and synopsis, you know, super sparkly. Personally, for myself, I’ve worked with several,
and they are fabulous. And they kind of helped me get to the next
level and see what areas I was missing. But, you do not have to work with a freelance
editor. That is totally optional. And that is why, we LOVE critique partners. Step 4. Research Literary Agencies
This is the homeworkey part of finding a literary agent. Go online and research literary agencies. Learn what authors they represent, or if they
have any authors… What age groups and genres they are open to
and if the agency is open to unsolicited submissions. Then, take a look at the literary agents at
the agency to see specifically who represents what age group and genre that you wrote. Step 5: Select one literary agent per agency
to submit to. This is a rule at most literary agencies. You are only allowed to submit to one agent
per agency. For some literary agencies, if you get a rejection
from that one agent, that means that it’s a rejection from all agents. While at other literary agencies, a rejection
from one agent does not mean a rejection from all, and you can then go and submit to another
literary agent. Regardless, you do want to do your homework,
and check to see what their submission and rejection process is. But the key is, you want to look for the literary
agent who represents your age group and genre, and who’s open to unsolicited queries. Step 6. Review the literary agent’s individual submission
guidelines as well as the literary agency’s submission guidelines. Now that you’ve selected a literary agent
who you think would be a great fit for your manuscript, you want to read their bio and
submission process. Do they ask for a query letter, synopsis,
and pages? Do they want attachments? No attachments? And so on. You also want to keep a lookout for if it
is an email submission system, or an online form submission system, such as QueryManager. In addition, there’s usually a general submission
page where the literary agency will talk about the general submission process. If the two conflict, meaning the literary
agent’s and literary agency’s guidelines are different, go with what the literary agent
says. Because in short, that’s the person you’re
submitting to. Step 7: Submit exactly what the agent or agency
requests in the manner that they request it. If an agent asks for you to submit a query,
synopsis, and the first 5 pages in the body of the email, submit that. Not, your full manuscript as a word document
attachment and your query and your synopsis as two other attachments. In addition, do not omit materials that they
are asking for just because you don’t have it. So this is where we go back to the synopsis
thing. Not all agencies request it, but you should
have it ready just in case! Everything should be edited really thoroughly
in advance. Show that you are professional, and an awesome
person to work with by demonstrating you can follow instructions. Step 8: Politely wait. Literary agents receive hundreds of queries
monthly, and thousands each year, which means the turnaround time, unfortunately, isn’t
going to be super speedy. While you are researching literary agents
and literary agencies, you’ll probably come across information of how these agencies handle
rejections. Many agencies, due to a high quantity of submissions,
will indicate on their website or submission process, that a no-response equals a decline. Either way, prepare yourself for a potentially
long wait. The average response time is usually around
3 months. But, don’t fold your hands in your lap while
you wait. Write another book! Increase your online presence as a writer,
make a website, try to gain a social media following. Stay active and show you are invested in your
career as a writer by being active in the writing community. This next step, I’m calling step 8.5, and
that is: Participate in Twitter Pitch Contests! While you are querying through the traditional
process, consider signing up for twitter, if you haven’t already, and entering a few
twitter writing contests. Many agents and editors elect to participate
in these contests, myself included, and that’s how a lot of writers get their names and stories
out there. It’s a great way to get your work in front
of publishing professionals. And be sure to check out my other iWriterly
video titled: How to Write a Twitter Pitch
Step 9: If an agent asks for a partial or full manuscript, send them what they ask for
and ideally right away. This goes back to step number 1. Don’t be querying literary agents or editors
with your manuscript if it isn’t completed and edited. Think about it. If a literary agent asks for your full manuscript,
you want to get it to them right away. You have very few opportunities to get your
work in front of these publishing professionals, and you don’t want to make a bad first impression
by saying “Oops! My manuscript isn’t done yet!” Don’t waste the opportunity not submitting
anything but your best work, and that includes editing the manuscript as well. And check out some more links below for how
to get a literary agent to request more pages. Step 10: If an agent asks to schedule a call
after reading your full manuscript, keep your cool! And coordinate a date and time to speak with
them. And you also want to prepare a list of questions
for the call. Many literary agents will not offer representation
on the spot. If they liked your manuscript, they will ask
to schedule a time to speak with you. While this is super exciting, remain calm! This call is typically used as a way to get
to know you as an individual and to see if the two of you would be a good match. Many people have said this, but a literary
agent and writer relationship is a very intimate one. So, you want to make sure that you’re compadible
for the long hall. And of course, having a list of questions
prepared in advance for the call. Many people will ask me if I’m an editorial
agent, or what the submission process is, or if we have editors that we’re planning
on submitting to and that sort of a thing. Don’t forget, this is your opportunity to
learn how they work as well! Step 11: If you receive an offer of representation
alert the other literary agents and editors that you’ve submitted to. Once you’ve received an offer of representation,
alert all the literary agents, editors, and other industry professionals that you’ve submitted
to and have yet to hear back from. For the literary agencies who say, a no-response
equals a decline, check and see what the length of that turnaround time is. If they say three months, and no response
equals a decline, and it’s been two months, you will want to alert them as well. You can either let these publishing professionals
know that you’ve accepted literary representation, or that they have a certain amount of time
to consider your work. Typically, you have about two weeks, from
that call or offer of representation to decide if you want to be represented by that agent. However, if that literary agent who offered
you representation is one of your top agents, and you can see yourself working well together
right away, then there really isn’t a need to wait. You can accept representation, immediately,
should you choose to do so. If that is the case, you would then be alerting
other literary agents and editors and/or publishing professionals, maybe that you’ve spoken directly
with, that you are accepting this offer of representation. And therefore, are rescinding your submission. Step 12: Either accept or decline literary
representation. If you chose not to accept representation
by the literary agent, at the end of the two weeks allotted to you, you will want to email
him or her to let her know your final decision. And now, on to the special part of today’s
video. Because I am sure that in this 12 step process
you guys have tons of questions, so we will be doing a special Q&A in the comments below. Submit your questions, and we at the iWriterly
team will get back to you with answers about how to get a literary agent! So if you have questions about the process
that were not answered in these 12 steps, be sure to submit your questions below and
a representative from the iWriterly team will get back to you with answers! And let’s have some fun down there in the
comments! Thanks for tuning into this episode of iWriterly,
I’m your host Meg LaTorre, and if you like what you saw, subscribe, like, comment, for
the Q&A at the end, and let me know what you want to hear about next time! And I think that’s it! Keep reading!

27 Replies to “How to Get a Literary Agent | iWriterly

  1. Hi! I had an agent request my full manuscript six months ago (hooray!) and I sent the file the same day. However, she never confirmed that she received it, and hasn't responded to the nudge I sent a few weeks ago. What's the correct course of action here?

  2. Extremely helpful as always!

    It did however raise a concern with me. My MS is in the Crime/Thriller/Mystery genre. From research the word count expectation ranges from 60,000 to 90,000. My MS is 102,000 and is a very detail rich plot. Is my word count and it's discrepancy to expectation a problem?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

  3. how do you tell the pro agents from the scammers? As doing research I find some websites go to extremes trying to grasp clients attention while I seen a few others look barely worked on yet all seem to have amazing author reviews

  4. Thank you so much for these tips! I have an oddly specific question that is probably going to seem SUPER dumb. But I'm going to ask it anyway: Most of the literary agents I'm looking at say that the first ten pages of the manuscript should be included within the query email. My question is: is that ten pages double or single spaced? Because that makes a HUGE difference.

  5. To learn more about how to get a literary agent, check out the iWriterly website:

    We also have the free template, How to Format Your Novel for Submission, which you'll receive after you sign up for our monthly newsletter, Book Nerd Buzz.

  6. I've had a question every time someone says, "Copy and paste the first [x[ pages into the body of the email".

    My question is: If we copy and paste chapters of our manuscript into the body, how will the agent know how many pages it is? (Will he or she copy it to Word to check, for example?)

    …I'm also aware that this video come out nearly a year ago, but oh well!

  7. Question: if I was having an issue finding beta readers (who actually read what I send them), how would I find that sort of help?

  8. With all my interests, I have found in your posts, the single most helpful advice on a topic near and dear to my heart! Before I leave some questions, I feel I need to go back and watch all your videos first. Thank you for doing this! — John F. Banas, Storm Surge.

  9. Just found your channel today. Great stuff here. I've read a lot of articles regarding this topic and always feel like I'm being lead in all directions. If I may ask a very stupid question perhaps?

    Is there really no hope to ever be considered by any agency or agent should you have no "creds" to speak of? I haven't been published, so is there no hope or any point to submitting unless I have some kind of published work/won 1st place in some major writing competition?

    I figure it's a stupid question I already know the answer to. I'm get stuck since I have issues writing short works as my novels turn to series with a lot in them. Thanks in advance. Keep up the great content. ^^b

  10. I enjoy your youtube channel and appreciate your advice immensely. You are one of those sites that gives it without putting someone down as you are doing it and I can see you are good at it too. I hope you won't be up set with what I am telling othersI am just putting it out there that if a publisher/agent has a no response policy I don't submit t to them and would strongly advise others not to either. I am published so it is not from being a nasty nelly that I say this. I personally feel that if a person has worked months/years on something and has given it freely to a publisher/agent to make money off of a courtesy response is in order. You know an automatic  form letter they press with a button. example below…. "We are so sorry at this time it seems that your manuscript is not a fit for our agency. Due to time constraints we are unable to go into specific reasons why it isn't. Please feel free to submit future manuscripts." and then sign it. After all without a writer's hard work, time, ideas, not to mention creativity a leg person would have nothing to cash in on. It's just my humble opinion that is all. 🙂 Please keep up your advice channel it is totally needed! thank you, Arcey

  11. Where are the literary agent/agency located in the book? Having a difficult time searching for agencies online for the type of book I wrote similar to the ones that are already published.

  12. In theory, let's say you query 5 agents and all 5 of them accept your query. How do you choose one? Are you supposed to wait for one to reject you before you apply to another?

  13. Consider me dumb because I'm a kid, but what does an manuscript and query do? And how do you write them, what's the structure? Mind you I'm just a middle schooler, so maybe this is something you learn further down the line of life.

  14. It's incredible to me that so many people have the pesky problem of writing too many words… I tend to be very concise / self-edited in my approach to writing (a holdover from broadcast journalism)… So, I look at word counts as a challenge to hit within the given genre – even while including a lot of interesting sub plotlines and interwoven character arcs… I can get there, but there likely won't be much fat available for cutting in the end while still adhering to the word count range.

  15. Question: what if we have multiple manuscripts ready to be queried at the same time? Could we send multiple manuscripts to the same agents at the same time?

  16. can the same literary agent be an agent for not just one type of writing – example, for scriptwriting and novel writing?

  17. 😂 the ending of this video cracked me up. You are so bubbly but so not blonde? I'm not sure how that's possible. Love it. And you look amazing in white!

  18. What if someone plagiarises your manuscript before you're published? E.g. A beta reader who also happens to be a writer.

  19. Great video. Very thorough and well-presented! Thank you so much for the advice! You have a wonderful presence as a presenter! Interesting that some literary agents don’t have the time or consideration to notify the authors they reject, but the authors should have the time and consideration to notify the literary agents if their manuscript is accepted somewhere else. It would be very hard for me to work with someone like. It seems they only care unless they see potential dollar signs.

  20. JK received a rejection letter for her Robert Galbraith book while looking for a publisher. That because she do have an agent,that already knows her. Maybe the publishers really don´t know anything. Would they pic her book immediately if they knew it was her?

  21. Meg,

    Thanks for all of the info/ videos. Question: I have around 20 queries out on an MG project as of 2 weeks ago. Since those were sent, I dove into getting reviews (Readers’ Favorite (x5), Kirkus, Self Published Review, Online Book Club, BookLife). The first review came back as 5 stars today. If most or all come back glowing, is that a worthy basis to nudge agents with an update specifically touting all of those reviews?

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