Finding The Perfect Agent Is In The Details
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
I signed a contract with a literary agent today. I have had the printed contract pinned on my vision board since the week I attended my first writer’s conference, DFWCON, in June. I am absorbing this moment. I need to sit with it. I just did something that is a step toward fulfilling a promise I made to my brother twenty years ago.
I am a suicide survivor. I am the one left behind after a loved one takes their life. The one left to pick up the pieces, close out bank accounts, handle probate, and heal heartache. The promise I made was to God, my brother Steve, and myself.
This vow was made after a day spent searching for a book that would help explain the unimaginable. I was at Texas A&M University scouring through the card catalog, thinking surely there has to be more about the topic of being a suicide survivor than just these two books. (This is pre-Google and pre-mental health awareness—what feels like a lifetime ago.)
What occurred that day is something I would consistently find when visiting a bookstore or library in search of a book that could help me begin to heal. Where were the books to possibly help me come to terms with or understand the suicides of my loved ones? I began to journal my experience, knowing that time would erase many of the details.
“Details”—such a critical word when selecting a literary agent. I have always known that I would pen my story. What I did not know was how I would publish and market my book. That was in the details of finding an agent.
These details, although some might consider minor at first glance, are critical for selecting the right agent. For me, getting my story told is about honor. Finding the right literary agent has been the difference between finding a cubic zirconia and someone who is a beautiful, sparkly diamond. I definitely found a gem in my literary agent.
I learned that the process of selecting a literary agent is much like finding a therapist. I had to trust them, and they would also need to understand the subject of mental health and suicide. Without these two key components, they would never believe in my mission, and my story would be just an inbox annoyance destined for the trash folder.
In order to find Find agents who are looking for books just like yours, you need a few research tools.
For starters, check out Publisher's Marketplace when your manuscript or book proposal is polished and ready to go. This is a resource that has a monthly membership fee of $25, but it is worth it if you can afford it. The database will help you refine your search and be more targeted when you query.
Query Tracker is a free resource and a great supplement to Publisher’s Marketplace as it lists more than 1,600 agents and will help you narrow down your search.
You should also be reading Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents so that you can get to know potential agents before deciding to query them.
If you're active on Twitter, and it is a good idea if you're hoping to be part of the online literary community, Manuscript Wish List was started as a Twitter hashtag. Agents mention book ideas they're hungry to represent. Now there is an accompanying website to complement the hashtag that is updated regularly.
Online resources provide a wealth of information, and you can supplemnt these by attending a conference or by signing up for a class or seminar led by an industry professional, such as Lit Agent & Author: Writing an Effective Hook & Query Letter 4-Part Zoom Seminar on June 18th, 2022 here at WritingWorkshops.
I used many of these resources to research each of the literary agents before attending the conference in June. But I knew after spending five minutes with Tina that she would end up being my literary agent. She asked me to send her everything I had, and she handed me a pen from her purse as she told me I would need this when I signed my contract. But I knew not just because of what she said, but rather how she said it. I could feel her desire to know more about my story, and this led me to conclude she could be the one.
Tina called me within three hours of receiving the almost 70-page proposal (which she read on her cell phone). I understood the magnitude of the phone call. Within two hours, I had the contract, which I finally signed today.
Whether or not I become a bestselling author, I know one thing—the most important detail when selecting a literary agent is to have someone who will fight for your story. I know Tina will fight for the success of my book, and by doing so, she will bring honor to my family.
BIO: Kristina Brown is a suicide survivor and currently working with her literary agent on her book.