Finding the right agent all begins with research. Your first step is to consult the following:
- CWIM – Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (the Bible of children’s literary agents listings)
- AgentQuery website (online tool that is very easy to search)
- SCBWI publications (the 2nd Bible of children’s literary agent listings)
Note: if you want access to SCBWI publications, you must be a member. Their materials can be downloaded from the SCBWI website.
Weed out the obvious
Next, go through the listings and rule out the ones who don’t represent the kind of work you write. (i.e., picture books, middle grade, etc.,). See how important it is to know what type of book it is you’ve written?
Now further your research. Visit
- Google (quite a few agents with blogs now – search their names)
- Publishers Marketplace (online agent interviews and book sale info)
- Guide to Literary Agents Blog (online interviews)
- Blue Board (see what other writers are saying about specific agents)
Learn agents’ tastes. Whom they represent. What they’ve sold.
But be aware of scams
As you research agents on the Internet, watch for scams. Please [read post, how to avoid children’s book scams->how to avoid childrens book scams] to learn how to sniff out the fraud.
Develop a shortlist
Say you have a list of twenty agents who all could be great representatives of your work. You’ll want to develop a shortlist–a list of your top picks. A shortlist is helpful because it will guide you through the order in which you submit your manuscript. But you might ask, can’t I just spam everyone at once? It’s a free country. Sure you can. Do I recommend it? Heck no. But before I get to that, let’s talk about how to order the agents on your list. Ask yourselves these questions.
- Do they have a a track record?
- Do they work for an established agency?
- Do your personalities mesh? (many people can guess based on info they’ve learned about the agent. Some of these agents have blogs. You can get an idea of personality and philosophy from reading their own words)
- Do they represent all the kinds of work you write? (i.e., some agents only rep teen fiction, some do teen fiction, middle grade novels and picture books, some only do fiction, etc.,)
- Do they specialize in children’s works? (some agents do mostly adult and some teen fiction, others do strictly children’s stuff)
- Do they offer editorial suggestions? Or do they prefer to only sell your work?
- Do they work in NYC or somewhere else? (if this is important to you, note that. There are many people who believe an agent in NYC means the agent is more well-connected to the industry since most editors work in Manhattan. This is probably true to some extent. However that doesn’t mean there aren’t great agents who work outside of the Big Apple. That’s where your research comes in. If the agent has a track record and they live outside of NYC, does it really matter?)
All of these factors might put one agent ahead of the other on your list. What’s the C LIU take? Try to find an agent who 1) has experience or works for an agency who has a great track record, 2) hands-on, offers editorial guidance if needed 3) represents the specific kinds of work you write (like fantasy, chick lit, whatever) 4) is well-connected to editors, and 5) someone you like (this always helps).
Why? All of these factors can influence 1) how quickly your manuscript is read by publishers 2) how well your agent can negotiate a deal 3) how quickly your manuscript will sell 4) how sane you’ll stay during the submission process.
You have to understand what kind of person you are. If you’re like me, you’ll want someone who’s going to update you as things happen and not leave you in the dark for months. You’ll want someone who’ll give you honest feedback on your work and push you to make it better (hopefully, this will increases your chances of selling it). You’ll want someone who can or has the resources to negotiate the best deal for you. And finally, you’ll want a partner for your career. Let’s hope you like the person!
Prioritize your list
Now you have your list, ordered by your preference, and you’ve read this post, [get a second opinion, right?->get a second opinion: critique partners, book doctors, editors, and more]
Let me tell you what you’ll need to do next. [Read post, how to submit your work to editors and agents->how to submit your work to editors and agents].