Lots of fish in the (American) sea

It has occurred to me that while it may be helpful to have a spreadsheet tracking your agent submissions, it may be even more helpful to know where to get the contact details to populate the said spreadsheet.

For me, it was quite the process. At first, I have applied to, and was rejected by, a number of Australian agents. It got me thinking about who could potentially be interested in my novel. While I believe in casting the net wide, it also makes sense to cast it where the fish…er, agents are likely to hang out. Since my novel is set in the US and would most likely appeal to the US audiences, it would make sense to seek representation from the US agents. This was actually the general sentiment I got from all the Australian agents who bothered to send me a rejection letter.

Having figured that much out, the next logical step for me was to find those American agents. I thought I’d have to spend hours Googling them, but luckily some wonderfully smart, hard-working, generous, and undoubtedly good-looking people have already done that for me!

literaryrejections

The site contains literally hundreds upon hundreds of American literary agents’ contacts, including website links, types of manuscripts they seek, and even submission guidelines. On the first glance, it’s overwhelming. I’ve read somewhere that there are over 1,000 literary agencies in the US, a number which fills my heart with stupid, unwarranted hope.

So, the next logical step is to narrow down this enormous playing field to a reasonable number, let’s say 100. You can choose your own target, depending on how much sleep you need on an average night.

But how exactly do you do that? Is there a magical algorithm that can troll through the list and spit out the list of agents most likely to read your query or the sample chapters? If there is, please email it to me! Because what I had to do was to look at each agency’s website. There are good reasons to do that – you get to see which books they’ve recently published, and agents often write in their bios about which books they love to read. All that would help you figure out if there’s a chance they will read yours or at least a sample of it. There’s no point in sending your romance novel to a high-brow literary firm, and vice versa.

Another good reason to visit the agency’s website is that things change – agents come and go, submission guidelines change, some agents may be temporarily closed for queries. So don’t rely on the master list above alone, a bit of due diligence will save you a lot of time in applying and hopefully the heartbreak of reading more than a fair share of rejection letters.

Once you’ve got your list, the next step is to start firing off the submissions. There are two schools of thought on this. Some recommend sending your submission to one agent at a time. Muahaha! Seriously, not in this age of social media and the ever-increasing speed of change. The other camp mass-produces applications, often not slowing down enough to check that the agent’s name is correctly spelled, or that Mr. or Ms. is used correctly. Don’t be that guy!

My personal method consists of the following steps:

1. Send out a wave of submissions until I get tired, or bored, or both. Usually five or so. Or ten, depending on how much caffeine is circulating through my system.
2. Fantasize about getting “discovered” and signing books for adoring fans.
3. Read rejection letters.
4. Work a bit on the submission package (more on that later), until I start thinking something like “well, this just can’t get any better!”
5. Repeat steps 1-4 ad nauseum.

There you go – now go fish!

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