how to query literary agents | NaNoWriMo 2017


I’m going to this 20-hour Harry Potter marathon, which is like the best way to spend your 20 hours, and we are required to use some of our house stuff, so… Slytherin represent. Hey you guys! And welcome to my channel. Today we are going to be talking all about literary agents and querying. I spent mid-2016 til mid-2017 doing some queries. I did get a few requests, but none of them stuck. Unfortunately. But I’m not giving up. We will see how it goes with… where… the story… is going. So if you’re new to the whole writing and publishing world, a literary agent is like a talent manager in the entertainment industry. They help you build your career. They help you in the future to take care of contracts, to negotiate deals, to help with your publicity, marketing, everything. They are basically the connection line to all of the other departments you’re going to have to deal with in the future. Before you dive into the whole literary agent and querying universe, I’m /assuming/ here that your manuscript is a golden, wonderful, super-polished version. That’s the first thing you need to have. And second of all, you would need to have a query letter which is something I’ll be talking about in a separate video. *snap* linky-link. The next thing you need to know for your manuscript is your genre and demographic. When you know your demographic and genre, essentially what you have to do is just Google it in. So: “literary agents for contemporary YA books.” And then see whatever pops up. Everything that you compile within this first round of research, you’re gonna put all these names and people into what I will call The Mass List. And this could range from 100 to 200 to even more, depending on how popular your genre and demographic combination is. Another thing you can do is hunt down books that have a similar genre or demographic with yours. And then flip back to the acknowledgements page, and look at who they list as their agent. Before the process of narrowing it down, I would recommend opening an Excel spreadsheet just to make sure you’re keeping tabs on everything you’re doing. I would recommend making a column for each of these things, which is: Date received just means the reply that you may receive from them. With the materials requested, you can find this under the Submissions Guideline of each agency’s website. They will give you what they’re looking for, like: query + 10 pages of manuscript. Or like query + synopsis + 3 chapters of your manuscript. All agents request different things, so don’t get it mixed up. Turnaround time means when are they gonna reply– /if/ they’re going to. Some agents would just list “if you don’t hear from us in 2 months, it means it’s a no.” I know this one agency who makes it a policy for their turnaround time to be 2 weeks. But that’s like the fastest… ever. It usually goes up to 2 months, 3 months, some even 4 months. So it just depends on what they list out on their website. When you’re researching, there are three things that you actually need to research about them. And the first is credibility. So you can find this in terms of how many books they’ve sold, say over the last 5 years. What kind of books did they sell, how big are the deals they’ve gotten– if you’re interested. Also, have you actually heard of these people? Chances are some names are gonna pop up a lot more than others, and those are the agents you primarily want to target. I use these two websites in order to double check their credibility, and that’s Publishers Marketplace. And then another one that I really like is Literary Rambles because they list everything you need in that excel spreadsheet we talked about and they also list links for interviews that the agents has done recently, or over the course of 10 years at least. Another thing to keep in mind as well is that agents move around a lot between different agencies. So just make sure you’re not sending your query to an outdated e-mail, when they’ve started working with someone else. The second thing you need to measure is will they be a good fit for your story specifically? Under an agent’s submission guide or in their website or in their blog, they will list the kind of books that they’re looking for. Some agents will be really really general. They’ll just say things like: “fiction, YA, contemporary, magical realism, and fantasy.” But some agents will go into really really deep details. Things like, they’re really into stories with werewolves, school bands, athletes, or cooking. And things like that. Those are the details that you wanna keep in mind. Especially if one agent manages to tick a lot of things that are in your book. Then your chances of getting noticed by them is a lot higher. Twitter is actually a great place to keep in mind what they’re looking for. And how you can do this is put the handle name of the agent, and then put #MSWL, which stands for Manuscript Wish List. If your agent follows through this trend, then they will usually post some really random ideas like, one or two lines about something that they’re looking for throughout the course of their career. This #MSWL thing also has a website which I will pop down below. All of the resources that I will and have mentioned will be in the description box. The third thing is whether they will be a good match for you. So not just your story, but for you as a person, as an author. And again you can do this by full on stalking them. Not in a creepy way though. But you can like read their tweets, see what kind of stuff they’re into. A really good way to know if you’ll be a good match for them is also to look for interviews. Some websites that I would recommend is Michelle4Laughs– she has a lot of interviews with YA agents specifically. Quick Brown Fox, I think, if I’m not mistaken. And also Writer’s Digest. Writer’s Digest is the most common/popular one. So if your agent doesn’t even have an interview with them, then that should be ringing alarm bells. Once you’ve gone through your Mass List and narrow it down to this excel Spreadsheet Agent List, The numbers are gonna go down a little bit. It’ll usually gonna hit under a 100. Because you’ll weed out the dodgy nobody-knows agents which you don’t want. Throughout your research, don’t forget to mark how much you want to be represented by them. The way that I do this is, if they tick all of the three boxes: they’re credible, I think they’re a great fit for my story, I think they’re a great fit for me, then I mark an “A” in front of their number. So it becomes like “A1”. If they’re credible and they’re a good fit for my story, but I don’t know how well we’ll fare with each other so maybe they’re not really that active in social media– then I’ll give them a “B”. Or vice versa. If I feel like I’ll really match with them, and they’re credible but I don’t know if they’ll like my story or not, then I’ll give it a “B”. If they’re credible, may match with the story, may match with me, then I give them a “C”. And I do this for all of the agents that I go through. This is gonna be super super important in the next step. Make sure that you do this research really really well. Take the proper time to do this. Remember that this person’s gonna be really important in your life if you decide to work with them. In terms of the querying process, and finally sending out your query… This post by Susan Dennard is super super useful for me when I was querying. She suggested going through your list in cycles. So for example, the first group that you send to are 2 As, 2 Bs, and 3 Cs. On the Send Date of your column, make sure to put the date of when you sent it out. After you send off your first batch, I also usually mark their numbers with a colour which is orange because it’s undecided. If you get a request from them, which means they want you to send more of your manuscript. Then I usually mark it with a green. And if they say a rejection then I usually mark it with a red. Don’t drive yourself crazy refreshing your inbox everyday. I know you’re gonna be tempted to do that but go on with your life… It’s okay. It’s gonna be fine. Just to give you an idea, there are people I know who managed to get a request within the first 2 weeks. And there are also people I know who had to query their story for 10 years. The one thing that kept me sane throughout the whole querying process is I kept reminding myself: So when you’re feeling super down, and you feel like crying and you’re like: “nobody’s gonna like my book, everyone just keeps rejecting me.” Just keep it in your head that you only need one yes. There’s no guarantee on when you will hear that yes or /if/ you will hear that yes. But if you’re writing for the long haul, then chances are that’s not the only story you have in you. Aww, this is getting so sappy 🙁 So yeah, that’s pretty much it for now. I hope this was helpful. If it was, don’t forget to give it a thumbs-up. Don’t forget to subscribe. Be kind, be happy, beYOUtiful, and I will see you guys next week. Bye.

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