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Literary agents for women’s fiction

Are you writing predominantly for women, about women, and in search of an agent? Women’s fiction is an incredibly broad and rich genre to be aware of as a publishing label. There is romance, there is domestic noir, there is literary fiction, and a novel being literary fiction need not cancel out it being a romance, etc., etc. Nor does any given sub-genre (e.g. domestic noir) mean that this is a genre read only by women, even if in the publishing world, it may tend to be marketed as such. So you need to be careful how you choose a book genre. Is it really a book group type of novel (i.e. accessible and literary)? Is it romance? Is it erotica? Just because your book might be about a woman sorting through a relationship (not necessarily a romantic one), doesn’t mean that you’ll to describe the novel as women’s fiction. Better to think more about what kind of book it is and what kind of agent you want. Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of agents who love women’s fiction (including, by the way, plenty of male agents since this is not a girls’ only preserve), and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. romance or literary fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. AgentMatch provides: A list of every agent in the UK;Masses of data on each one (photos, biographies, client lists, genre preferences, likes and dislikes, and much more);Search tools to make it easy to sort through all our goodies;Submission info for every agent;Further links to any other key information we’ve been able to locate on the web.
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When literary agents screw up: 7 ways that things can go wrong

We like agents. Like and respect them. Their job is exceptionally demanding: nearly all reading work is done outside of office hours and since agents read a lot, that means they’re working late pretty much every night. And they take risks. When an agent takes on a new writer, they’re committing upfront to a lot of work which will only be repaid if the agent is correct that the writer’s manuscript is or becomes saleable, with the agent’s help. Given how fierce the competition is, it’s impressive that agents have the confidence and commitment to keep fishing from the slushpile – yet fish they do. What’s more, an agent’s skills are very varied. Literary excellence lies at the heart of things, of course, but they need to be as pushy as car salesmen when it comes to auctioning a manuscript, as tough as lawyers when it comes to negotiating a contract, as silky smooth as a diplomat when it comes to smoothing ructions between authors and publishers and, of course, a good agent always has a firm strategic overview of their client’s career development. So – we repeat – we like and respect agents in general, but there are always exceptions. Agents who are no good, or decent agents who mess up now and again. We’re not going to name names in this post but there are patterns that do recur and which really, really shouldn’t. When Agents Mess Up – The Top 7 Horror Stories #1 The three-year-old good-bye Sometimes, things don’t work out. That’s fine. An agent takes on an author. Tries to sell the manuscript. Can’t. Hates the second MS that the author produces. Decides that enough is enough. That story – or variants on it – are common enough. And that’s okay. Picking manuscripts from the slushpile IS a chancy business and agents can’t get it right all the time. But it matters how an agent breaks the news. A professional client phones the author and says, ‘Look, I loved your first MS and made an honest effort to sell it. I didn’t succeed. In all honesty, I don’t like this second MS and I’m not sure that I’m still the right agent for you. I wish you the very best of luck in your future career, but I think we need to part company.’ Obviously no author loves that. On the contrary, any normal author will obviously feel upset and alarmed. But at least the conversation is direct, truthful and non-accusatory. It is, in fact, a professional way to break bad news. What we hate – and what is far, far too common – is that agents break the bad news in incredibly bad and stupid ways. The classic version of this is that the author emails the agent. No answer. Politely reminds the agent that he/she had a question, and asks for a response. No answer. Repeats the reminder, pointing out (still politely) that the question is (a) important and (b) still unanswered. At which point the agent tantrums back, ‘Well, if you keep hounding me like that, I think it’s pretty clear you no longer trust me as an agent, and without trust, what are we? GOODBYE!’ [And slams phone down, forever.] That’s not okay. It’s just not how any professional behaves ever. Yet we do hear stories along those lines at least once a month, and involving numerous agents, some of whom work at very well known and prestigious agencies. For sure, sometimes the author in question has been too pushy, or even crass, in demanding excessive amounts of the agent’s time. But not always. Sometimes the agent has simply failed to deliver bad news in a professional way. That’s not fine. How often does this happen? Often. It’s the complaint we hear most frequently.How bad is it? 3/5 bad, where 5 is worst #2 Agents don’t communicate key info Agents are agents. You – the writer – are the principal. That means that while your agent may execute business on your behalf, they are only ever a proxy for you. And obviously, you’re nicely brought up and you won’t ask stupid, excessive or intrusive questions. But you do, for example, have a perfect right to know things like this: – how many publishers have seen my work?– which editors at those publishers did you send it to?– why – briefly – did you choose those editors/publishers?– what (roughly, and maintaining any necessary confidences) did those editors say in response? It’s YOUR work and you have every right to know those answers. Indeed, you shouldn’t really need to ask those questions: it should be completely routine for agents to discuss those things with you. You may, of course, choose to say, ‘Look, you know this area vastly better than I do. I trust your judgement, just go out there and do what you can.’ But if you ask the questions mentioned – or others of equal significance – then you should damn well get answers. Yet some agents are feeble about giving answers. Again, not okay. How common? Fairly common – much more so than it should be.How bad? 4/5 #3: Agents don’t guide you through the publication process You’re an industry newbie. Your agent isn’t. So a non-negotiable part of their job is to hold your hand in your journey to publication. That doesn’t mean you get to talk over every tiny detail with them: agents have limited time and you need to be sober about how much time and attention you (and your particular project) can demand. That said, we recently heard about an author who had never been to a meeting with their publisher, and hadn’t even seen their book cover prior to publication. That’s appalling behaviour by the publisher, of course, but an agent should not have allowed that to happen. It’s not okay. Ever. Under any circumstances. How common? Very rare, fortunately.How bad? 5/5 #4: Not properly considering an author’s priorities at auction What does an author want from a book deal? Well, publication certainly. Money, yes. But what else? Might you want a prestigious publisher? Or an editor with whom you have excellent personal chemistry. Or one who has a more holistic and flexible view of your likely career path than another. In short, you may have numerous motivations, only one of which is cash. And your agent has to respect that. He or she needs to get the best available offers, then lay them in front of you and ask: which is it to be? Obviously you’ll rely on your agent’s intelligence and advice in making that choice. You’ll want to meet, or at least speak to, your putative editor. Then you’ll make your decision taking everything into account, not just the money. Most agents we know will totally respect this. Indeed, if you probed them about it, they’d suggest – rightly, in our view – that if Publisher A offers 10% less cash than Publisher B, but is a better fit in all other respects, that ‘lower’ offer would prove more lucrative in the long run, as your career prospects will be better. So most agents will respect your non-financial motivations and will work hard to find the right fit as well as the right cash. But not all agents. Again, we heard about one agent recently who boasted to a senior publisher that she never allowed her clients take anything but the highest advance. She made that seem like a feat of machismo, of negotiating prowess. But that’s bullshit. It’s terrible agenting and it betrays the client. It shouldn’t happen. How often? Hard to know. We think rare, but we could be wrong.How bad? 2/5 #5 Talking crap in public Most agents we know are open, approachable and warmly encouraging of new talent. That extends even to those senior agents who, realistically, aren’t going to get most of their new clients from the slushpile. But even those guys know that some of the biggest stars on their roster started out as total unknowns, and they respect the huge community of unknown writers toiling away out there. But. There are also agents who – in public, and to audiences containing wannabe authors – speak incredibly disdainfully of unpublished authors. When agents do that, it’s incredibly corrosive. The stories instantly spread on the internet and a false, but highly destructive, meme gets spread that agents hate writers. That the industry is snobby and exclusive. That agents are always secretly laughing behind the backs of the as-yet-unpublished. Our Festival of Writing is a place for agents to meet writers, offer feedback on work, mix and mingle, answer questions. That helpfulness, that warmth is the real truth about agenting, but one snobby and stupid comment can destroy those good impressions in a moment. We don’t like those attitudes and we wish they would vanish. How often? Rare, it just gets highly reported.How bad? 1/5 [it’s normally only a moment of stupidity] #6 Consorting with muggers Some agents have ties with vanity publishers – the old-fashioned sort who demand stupid money upfront for a product that they know damn well will never sell in any meaningful quantity. We have no problem with self-pub per se, but for almost all purposes these days the natural entry route is e-publishing. That’s cheap (or even free) and reaches a massive audience. The idea that agents, of all people, should be inviting writers to hook up with vanity publishers is simply disgraceful, yet we know at least one agent who has a habit of doing just that. How common? Not too common, thankfully.How bad? 5/5 This behaviour is utterly unethical in our view. #7 Charging reading fees No literary agency should ever charge you to read your book, to send it out to publishers, or levy any other compulsory upfront fee. This matters because agents are kept honest by having to work on commission. If they think your book isn’t going to make it with publishers, they won’t make money from it, so they will politely reject your work. If they could make a few bucks just by stringing you along, then unscrupulous ‘agents’ would no doubt do just that. Luckily, the practice of charging reading fees is exceptionally uncommon these days. We can think of one US-based scammer and two UK-based ‘agencies’ operating like this in the last ten years. And fortunately, the agent-as-scam business model doesn’t work: the scammers always go broke. How often? Very rare.How bad? 4/5 Oh, and we know we promised you seven ways that agents can fail, but here’s one last one: a bonus to you for reading so far. #8 Agents demand exclusivity and then never do anything Sometimes agents demand your manuscript in a burst of excitement, ask exclusivity as they read it, and then, nothing. Nothing at all. An echoing void. There’s probably not much more to that behaviour than poor time management, but it can really mess up your life. The good news here is that you don’t have to let it. First, you should never offer exclusivity for more than a week. Secondly, we’d gently suggest that you don’t offer exclusivity at all. If an agent wants your work, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t compete for it. (It’s different if an agent is working on a set of suggested editorial notes: then it IS reasonable for them to ask for something in exchange, like exclusivity.) And if you feel you’re being ignored, then don’t do nothing. After a couple of weeks has gone by, just drop a simple note that says you want to go on seeking representation and, while you’d warmly welcome that agent’s involvement, you will be going out to other parties as from Monday, or whenever. Don’t pick a fight. Just make it clear that this pause is not forever. Any half-decent agent will totally respect your right to do that, so don’t be afraid to do so. How common? Yep, pretty common, we’re sorry to say.How bad? 1/5 – you can always just walk away The AAA (or Association of Authors’ Agents) One final point. Some writers look at membership of the Association of Authors’ Agents as being a stamp of approval. A sign that your interests will be protected. And that’s not really so. The AAA is a perfectly fine organisation, but it is an industry body whose task is to protect the interests of agents and amplify their voice. It is NOT primarily there to protect you; on the contrary, it’s primarily there to look after agents. Yes, it does have a rule against agencies which charge reading fees, but the way that rule operates disqualifies excellent agents like John Jarrold (his site) because John also works as an editorial consultant. In other words, we’re not quite sure that the one clear and useful writer-protecting rule actually functions as it ought to. When we’ve raised matters such as agents who recommend authors to vanity publishers to the AAA, their approach has been a polite shrug. It is not their policy to intervene on agent/author ethical matters except in extreme cases, and those cases apparently do not include suggesting that authors waste their money with charlatans. Again: we don’t have a beef with the AAA, and its membership includes virtually every reputable agency in London, but be aware of its limits. As a writer, you need to choose an agent you get on well with, and who likes your work. You need to work professionally with that agent and be prepared to move on if it becomes clear that the agent is not dealing with you as they should. Most literary agents are great and you are not likely to have a problem, but we hope this list gives you some idea of what to look out for and how to cope. What problems have you had? What would you want to warn people about? More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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Literary agents for erotica

There was a time when finding a literary agent for erotic fiction was pretty much impossible. Agents were too snobby, and the erotica genre simply didn’t pay enough money. Then along came E.L. James, and after her massive success, agents and publishers learned the value of books in the genre, and even quite highbrow agencies are now open to submissions of erotic fiction. Suffice to say that AgentMatch comprises a complete list of literary agents with a mass of data about what they want. Including erotic novels. AgentMatch And How To Use It There are a lot of erotica agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre, but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, an appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. How To Get The Most From AgentMatch The site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Would you like to invest in your writing journey? Become a member. More On Uk Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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How to get an agent for your thriller

It’s easy to think that because you’re writing a crime novel or thriller, you need an agent who represents crime thrillers. I write crime thrillers myself, yet my agent represents Hilary Mantel, and other esteemed literary authors, authors of different genres. You’d think he wouldn’t have been the right person to represent a gritty crime thriller, yet he and his team sold my work to markets in Europe and North America. As such, you needn’t get hung up on genre. A large majority of all agents have eclectic, varied tastes. They like balance and diversity in their lists. That can mean if you go to a ‘leading’ crime agent, you may get shorter shrift than if you go to an agent whose list happens to be a bit underweight in that area – your book could be just what they’re looking for to redress the balance. Nevertheless, it makes sense to target your submissions, to know you’re writing to an agent who likes crime fiction. It’s normally fine to call up an agency to say, ‘I’ve written a book about [your subject]. Which of your agents would be most appropriate for this?’ You should keep your enquiry very brief, business-like and polite, but you may get useful information, the politer you are. (I did. My first novel was rejected by Curtis Brown. Then a receptionist told me the MD there loved my kind of book, and I resubmitted it to him, so the book was accepted almost straightaway.) A little targeting, then, is fine, just don’t overdo it. Other good tips include: Check your favourite authors and see who represents them. (Use author websites or acknowledgments pages.) This is worth doing even if your favourite author writes in a different genre from you. If you and the relevant agent happen to share a taste for a certain kind of writing, it’s a fair bet you have some overlap. Try it.Check out who represents good but lesser known authors in your category. If you are writing a conspiracy thriller and you write to Dan Brown’s agent, you’re almost certainly wasting your time, since that agent’s desk will be awash with conspiracy thrillers. Also, anyone who represents Dan Brown is likely to have the bar set high. If you find talented authors who have not yet made the big breakthrough, those agents are probably far better targets for your submission letters. If you still think that you’re somehow going to be disadvantaged if you don’t have a Very Well-Known Thriller Agent on your side … think about this: Very Well-Known Thriller Agents have long client lists (of over a hundred names) and you will be the least important person on it. Is that what you want?The Very Well-Known Thriller Agent is probably not looking for new writers at all. Most of the additions to their list will be already established writers who are moving home for some reason. Lots of ‘big’ agents take on very few genuine debut authors.Selling a book isn’t rocket science. If an agent is competent enough to sell (say) a literary novel well, they’re competent enough to sell pretty much any other sort of novel, too. It’s just not that technical. If an agent’s contacts are weak in one area, a couple of phone calls is all it will take to make the required connections. It isn’t that hard for a well-connected agent to locate the people they need to approach. (Two exceptions: fantasy or sci-fi and children’s fiction. Those two markets are reasonably specialist.)Publishers know the next wonderful book could come from anyone. When Bill Massey, my editor from Orion, opened a manuscript from Bill Hamilton (my agent), it just didn’t make a difference to him whether Bill Hamilton had an amazing track record in crime fiction. Only two things matter at that point: (1) the editor loves the book, (2) enough other people in the company love it, too. That’s it. That’s all that ever matters. The name of the agent making the submission matters for maybe half a minute. Then the editor starts reading the manuscript and the agent becomes irrelevant. All that matters is your writing. You can read up on tips for writing crime and thrillers, or more on approaching agents, but either way – best of luck. More On Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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Literary agents: all your questions answered

(But didn’t know who to ask.) You have a manuscript. You want it published. You know that you probably need a literary agent. But that, roughly, is where your certainty ends. And no worries: all newbie writers are in a very similar position. So here are all the questions you’re probably worrying about right now … plus some candid and totally straightforward answers. Tuck in. Have fun. And if there are other questions you’d like to ask about, just drop us a line. What are literary agents. What do agents do? ... and what is the role of the agent vs that of the publisher? Agents are primarily salespeople: their job is to sell your manuscript to a publisher. In effect, they make their living from selling your intellectual property. The buyers of that IP – your publisher, in other words – will produce and market the book to retailers and, ultimately, to readers themselves. But though literary agents are primarily salespeople, they will also: Help you edit your book into shape prior to sale (though they will only do this if your manuscript is pretty stellar in the first place.)Figure out which editors at which publishing houses are right for your work.Figure out the best approach to selling your manuscriptOversee the publication processStep in, if and when problems ariseNegotiate additional rights sales (eg: TV and film, foreign rights, audio, and so on)Offer long term advice and career guidance Agents may work solo, but typically work as part of a larger literary agency, which may have anywhere from two to a dozen or more agents. Most agents are based in New York or London, though in the US especially you’ll find literary agents in most large cities. Are literary agents free? If not, what do they cost? Literary agents charge nothing upfront. There is no fixed fee attached to their services. So how do they get paid? Instead, they charge commission, typically 15% for sales of your work to domestic publishers and 20% for more complex sales (eg: foreign or TV sales.) The two great things about this arrangement are (A) that you only pay for an agent if they succeed in selling your work, and (B) their financial incentives are almost completely aligned with yours. The not-such-a-small downside is that literary agents won’t agree to represent you unless they think they can make money. That means getting an agent is an extremely competitive business – an agent typically takes about 1 manuscript from every 1000 that she receives. (About 2/3 of agents are women.) That level of competition shouldn\'t frighten you exactly, but it should nudge you in the direction of thinking hard about the quality of what you\'re putting out there. Is your manuscript really ready to go? Have you edited it hard? Does the story shine? The single biggest mistake you can make is to send your book out before it\'s ready. If in doubt: do more. Do I need to have an agent? Are they worth it? Most big trade publishers take work seriously only if it comes via a literary agent. That means if you are writing a novel or mainstream non-fiction, you do really need an agent. That 15% commission might sting a little, but think about it. You get a seasoned pro to sell your work, advise you editorially, assist with any problems in the publication process, sell additional rights, and manage your career. Quite likely, that 15% is the best money you’ll ever spend. If your agent can’t earn you multiples of what you would have achieved on your own, then they’re not really doing their job. If you are intending to self-publish, of course, an agent is totally unnecessary – at least for now. When your sales are massive, agents will be begging you for your business ... What are literary agents looking for? Go into any large bookstore. Look on the front tables. Ignore the work of past bestsellers and focus on books by debut or other newer authors. Those books right there are the ones that literary agents are looking to buy: the sort of commercially successful debut work that commands big bucks from publishers. To find the kind of books that are making waves in your genre, you can: Look at what books in your genre are being heavily promoted by the bookstore. (Again: ignore major past bestsellers. So Stephen King will always command massive shelf space in the “horror” section, but he does that because he’s Stephen King.)Look at what books in your genre are on sale at a major supermarket.Look at Amazon bestseller lists in your genre, ignoring ignore books by self-published authors and by past bestsellers. That’ll leave you with newer, successful traditionally published authors in your genre. In a nutshell: agents are looking for books that are the same-but-different. That is, they take an existing successful concept and give it a twist that re-energises it for the same broad audience. Another thing you’ll hear from most agents is that they’re looking for an original and compelling voice – that is, they want your writing to sound fresh and distinctive. Easier said than done, we know! Where can I find literary agents? You’re in the right place. Jericho Writers has a service called AgentMatch, which represents a complete database of all literary agents in the US, UK and elsewhere. That database allows you to sort in a million different ways – for example, “Agents looking for science fiction” or “Agents in a smaller agency currently looking to expand their list.” It’s a natural first stop for almost any writer. Go here to see what AgentMatch looks like. Go here to get your free, 7-day trial (and free means free: we don’t even ask for payment details). Easy, right? How many literary agents should I query? Because it’s hard to get an agent, we strongly recommend that writers query about 10-12 agents when they are ready to submit their work. Why 10-12? Why not more? Why not fewer? We\'ll tell you: Why not more?Realistically, there are probably only 6-10 strong potential publishers for your book. That\'s one for for each of the Big 5 publishers, maybe a couple more for leading imprints within each publishing house, and maybe one or two large independent publishers too. (ie: big publishers, but just not quite on that Big 5 scale.) And publishers are harder to get than agents. Yes, most agents will sell most of the manuscripts they take on ... but their overall success rate is still probably only 2 out of 3, or something like that. So if you can\'t get 1 agent in 10 or 12 to take you on, the chances are you won\'t find a publisher. What that tells you is you need to do more damn work on your book. Only then will you be confident of success. Why not fewer?If you only go to a handful of agents, you\'ll find that some are busy, some aren\'t quite right for your book and ... whoops. You\'ve run out of agents. And if you query 10 agents, and still get nowhere: well, you know that you need to take a further look at your manuscript. If you query 10, and get an offer of representation - then well done you! Which literary agents should I choose? Let’s say, you’ve got your manuscript into shape (quite possibly with the help of our amazing editorial services). You\'ve decided (sensibly) to look for about 10-12 agents to approach. How do you pick those dozen? How do you find the ones most likely to respond to your submission? Well, there’s no fixed rule there, but here’s what we’d suggest: Look for agents who are looking to build their list. That means looking for newer / younger agents – possibly someone who has just set up their own agency, or someone who has just been promoted to agent within a larger agency.Look for agents who are open to work in your genre – AgentMatch can help with this, but do always check back against the agent’s own site, as AgentMatch doesn’t always update the instant an agent makes a change.Look for agents where you feel a point of contact. Maybe that’s something they’ve said in a blog post or interview. Maybe that’s because they represent an author you love. Or possibly something else. But look for something that speaks to you. Those three guidelines should be your guiding principles. You\'re looking for agents who want you (ie: they want new clients and they\'re active in your genre.) And you\'re looking for agents that you quite likely have something in common with (ie: those ones with some areas of identifiable overlap.) You should be able to find these agents with a morning or two\'s search. Again, you can get your AgentMatch trial here. Now it\'s time to send your work out ... How do I query a literary agent? What an agent wants to see when you query them can be a little variable, so do always check an agent’s website for details. That said, when it comes to fiction, most agents want to see: A query letter (also called a covering letter in the UK.) Details on how to write a query letter can be found here.A synopsis. A synopsis is basically a short, neutral summary of your story. To be clear, this is nothing like the blurb you’ll find on the back of a book. More info on how to write a great synopsis here.A chunk of your book itself. Typically agents want about 10,000 words / 3 chapters / 50 pages. But again, do check the agent’s site, because requirements vary quite widely. Writing a great submission pack is absolutely essential. It’s not too much to say that the fate of your query depends on it, and nothing else. To make absolutely sure you put together a great submission pack, use the Agent Submission Builder available free right here. That tool tells you how to structure both query letter and synopsis, and explains how to provide the content that the agent is looking to find. Why do literary agents reject manuscripts? The most common reason for rejection is simply that your manuscript just isn’t (yet) good enough to make the grade. An agent, or other professional reader, can very quickly tell whether: Your writing itself is poor. (If your writing itself doesn’t feel competent and professional, an agent will say ‘no’ without reading more.)Your basic concept is flawed (for example, there just isn’t a market for eco-thrillers that include long, long explanations of why plastic pollution is bad.) That said, there are a million other reasons why your manuscript might not get an instant Yes. Common reasons are: A given agent is just too busy. Their other work with existing clients is currently active enough that they have no time to spend on the slushpile.Something random. For example, an agent is looking for new clients, they like your stuff … but they’ve just taken on something really similar and can’t handle both.You haven’t properly understood what an agent’s tastes and interests are. In some cases, that’s because agents are poor at explaining what they’re after. In other cases, it’s because the information is out there, but you haven’t properly absorbed it.You haven’t queried enough agents. As we’ve already said, you need to go out to at least 10 agents to get a real feel for the market. If you are rejected, don\'t feel too downcast. I\'m Harry Bingham and I\'ve been published all over the world, in fiction, and non-fiction, multiple times. But have I been rejected? You betcha. So many times I can\'t even vaguely remember how often. By agents. By publishers. By TV and film companies. And truthfully? I hardly care. All you need is one Yes. A million Noes are neither here nor there. What if a literary agent wants to call or meet me? If an agent wants to call you or meet with you, it’s highly likely that they are very interested in your work. Any exchange between the two of you is likely to involve as much of them marketing themselves to you, as the other way round. Great. That’s the good news. In terms of you marketing yourself to the agent, you’ve already done most of the work. Your manuscript IS your marketing tool. If that’s in really great shape, you’ve done 99% of what you need to do. That said, you can make yourself seem even better, if: You are reasonably articulate. Trad publishers may want to push you out on book tours or newspaper interviews. If you can string a sentence together when in public, that’s helpful.For non-fiction authors, indeed, this capacity can be essential. I remember one Jericho Writers client who had written a great non-fiction book that got interest from three major NY publishers. Trouble was, they all wanted to meet the guy before they confirmed their indicative offers. At meetings, he was a difficult combination of over-confident and not truly articulate. None of those three offers materialised. Whoops!You are prepared for the idea that agents may want some editorial changes to your manuscript or title. Unless you really hate the idea presented by the agent, you are strongly advised to be open to their suggestions. That doesn’t mean to say there can be no further discussion … but if you seem closed to any advice at all, an agent may think you are not going to be a valuable client. A lot of the selling, however, will come from the agent’s side not yours. After all, if one capable agent loves your work, the chances are there\'ll be another one who thinks the exact same thing.So things you want to ask include: Why did you like this book? What made it stand out to you? That’s not you seeking praise. That’s you checking that your understanding of the book’s purpose matches what your agent sees.What editorial issues do you see in this book? What will I need to work on? Most books will need further work before submission. So you better make sure that you’re going to be happy with the agent’s workplan.What is the agent’s policy on communications? Will they check a draft submissions list with you? How often would they update you with progress?If your work is rejected by publishers, will the agent still want you as a client? Another way to put this is, is the agent making the choice to represent you, or the book? How involved will the agent want to be in developing and thinking about the next book you write?How involved will the agent be during the publication process? Do they intend to accompany you to publishers’ meetings?What is the agent’s attitude to self-publishing? Will they be OK with you self-publishing some material at some point in your career? It\'s worth laying down this marker now. You may well have no current intention to self-publish, but increasingly professional authors will straddle both traditional and indie publishing routes.How are foreign rights handled?How are TV and film rights handled? That gives you a great set of talking points … but in the end, your decision will be made as much in terms of chemistry as anything else. Yes, you want your agent to give the right answers to these questions – but most agents will. If you come away from your agent feeling excited, then you’ve found a perfect match. If you come away with more negative feelings, then you really may prefer to go on looking. What do I do if a literary agent rejects me? Let\'s say you\'ve sent out your work to 10-12 intelligently chosen literary agents. Here\'s the spectrum of possible responses: An agent offers you representationAn agent offers you representation if you make certain changes to your bookAn agent gives you a warm, but reluctant, rejection after having read your manuscript in fullAn agent doesn\'t ask for your full manuscript, but rejects your submission in a warm, encouraging and clearly personal way. (That is: the email or letter isn\'t just boilerplate that goes out to everyone.)An agent sends you out a form rejectionYou hear absolutely nothing at all. Unfortunately for writers, the vast majority of responses fall into the last two categories. That\'s just the brutal fact of competition in this hardest of industries. So what do you do? Well, you can give up and play golf. But you\'re not going to do that, because you\'re a writer to the tips of your tippy toes, so you\'re going to saddle up again and try again. The options facing you are roughly these: Query more agents. Not recommended unless you had 2-3 near misses from this batch of submissions.Revise your novel.Write a new bookSelf-publish. There are virtues to all of these routes. When it comes to revising your novel, I would urge you to consider getting editorial help (of the sort that we provide, for example.) Professional, third party editorial feedback remains THE gold-standard way to analyse and improve a manuscript. That\'s why we offer the service. That\'s why so many of our editorial clients go on to succeed. If you\'ve had some near-misses with agents, that\'s a screamingly huge clue telling you not to give up. If you\'re that close already, one more heave with a top quality editor (like one of ours) may well do the trick. If you think that there may be a fundamental issue with the concept behind your book, then writing a new book can be a great idea. What I would say, is that you need to make sure that your basic skills are in shape. Editorial feedback on your current manuscript is one great learning tool. Going on a writing course (like, yes, one of ours) is also a really good step to take. And because you\'ve already written one book, you\'ll be in vastly better shape to absorb and make use of the skills transmitted. And self-publishing? Well, look, I love self-publishing. But I do think you need to attack it as a Plan A type option, not a fallback because you couldn\'t crack the trad industry. Standards in self-published books are now very high, and it\'s going to be seriously hard to build a career and a loyal readership unless your books are of a quality to rub shoulders with anyone else\'s in your genre. Agents + trad publishing vs self-publishing: which is better? OK, this is a real apples-and-oranges question if ever there was one. The two publishing routes simply offer very different things and require very different approaches. The books and authors best suited to trad publishing are just different from those best suited to self-publishing. That said, for a rough guide, self-publishing will tend to be favoured by: Authors with quite an entrepreneurial, small business mindsetAuthors writing genre fiction (or subject-led non fiction, for example “How to write a business plan” or “Equine Care: all you need to know about looking after your horse”.)For authors of fiction, ones who write in series, rather than standalonesAuthors who have the capacity to be quite prolific. It’s common enough for indie authors to set 20 books as their benchmark for when they can make a full-time living from writing. Personally, I think that benchmark should be set a lot lower than that – but the point about being prolific is good, no matter what.Authors who aren’t afraid of a little tech and a few numbers. You certainly don’t need to be massively technical or numerate, but you will need to deal with a few different platforms and services and you will be dealing with some spreadsheets and some dashboards. If you hate and loathe those things, you’ll never realistically make a go of self-publishing.Authors who primarily want to make a living from writing. That means that the various other attractions of trad publishing (the kudos, having your book in physical bookstores, getting book reviews in newspapers, etc) are of relatively lower value. Traditional publishing on the other hand will work better for authors who: Prefer to hand the whole publishing process over to othersWrite more literary fiction, or one-off works of non-fiction (eg: “Fear: Trump in the White House”)Write standalones rather than seriesAre not especially prolific, and who don’t especially want to beAuthors who really don’t want to get down and dirty with mailing lists and ad-tech and all thatAuthors who place a high value on the various things that tradititional publishing can offer (the kudos, your books in physical stores, the possibility of newspaper reviews, etc) Truth is, you probably already know which kind of author you are – and if you think you know, you’re probably right! Who do I need ? Literary agents vs managers vs publicists. If you have a book to sell then you need a literary agent, period. The term “manager” just isn’t really used in the literary world, but in effect your agent is your manager. They’re going to be the one making sales on your behalf, turning down bad offers, chasing good ones, advising you on which opportunity to pursue next. And because your financial incentives are highly aligned with your agent’s, you can (nearly always) rely on the basic truthfulness of what you’re being told. On the agent versus publicist question: well, this is usually asked by people who have self-published their work on Amazon, find it’s not selling, and are wondering what to do next. If you’re in that position, then you need to ask yourself, what you really want. If you want to self-publish, then you don’t need an agent or a publicist: you need a self-publishing strategy and you need to write more books. You can find our short guide to self-pub right here. But you’ll notice that guide doesn’t talk about agents or publicists at all. Those guys can’t help. A lot of writers will want to reject that advice. Their argument will be, roughly, “Yes, but I have self-published. My book exists. Now I just need to get the word out.” Hmm. Well, an agent definitely can’t help with that: their job is selling manuscripts to publishers and you’ve chosen to self-publish. You can reverse that decision and seek trad publication instead (that’s fine), but you can’t both self-publish and have a trad deal. Hiring a publicist is a very slightly better idea, but it’s still a terrible one. For one thing, a half-decent publicist will cost $10,000 or more … and for another thing, they’ll reject the assignment. A publicist needs something to work with, and “self-pub author releases new book” just isn’t a news story. There are way over 7,000,000 e-books on Amazon. What makes yours special? Why would a newspaper or radio show want to cover your book? And truthfully, even if – which would never happen – you got a 1,000 word book review in the New York Times Review of Books, possibly the world’s most prestigious review outlet, what then? The answer is you’d sell maybe 20 or 30 additional copies, then everything would go back to just the way it was. $10,000 for 30 extra sales? It doesn’t even remotely add up. That’s why no indie author that I know uses a traditional publicist in any meaningful way. It just isn’t how self-published books get sold. (What does? Well: email lists, price promotions, book discount sites, paid advertising, cross promotions with other authors … and a whole bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with traditionally oriented publicity.) In short: either self-publish properly, or seek proper traditional publication. Attempting some mash-up of the two will be a horribly costly way to sell almost no books at all. Oh yes, and I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, so sorry!
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Do Literary Agents Edit Manuscripts?

You asked. We answered. You’ve written your manuscript. You’ve edited hard. You are now on your fourth, seventh, nineteenth draft. You still absolutely believe in your basic concept and you are certain that you have a vocation for writing / authoring. But here’s the thing: you know your work isn’t yet good enough. Maybe you know that just because you’ve got that feelings in my bones. (And believe me: I’ve been there too.) Or maybe you’ve tried actually sending your work out to literary agents and had nothing but pre-printed rejection emails. (Or, worse, but very common – you haven’t even heard back.) So what next? It feels like a Catch-22. You want expert editing to help you over the last remaining hurdles, but the people who look like they ought to be helping you – those literary agents – aren’t even replying to your emails. So now what? And do these darn agents edit manuscripts, yes or no? Well, if you want the short answer, then it’s: Yes, they do edit manuscripts, but alsoNo, no, they really don’t. If that explanation doesn’t seem totally helpful, then I’ll see if I can make it a little clearer. When Agents Get Involved In Editing And when (more often) they don’t. When it comes to your dealings with literary agents, it’s essential to remember that these guys do not charge you anything upfront. Not a dollar, not a dime. I’ve had an agent for twenty years and I have never paid even one single penny for his or (with my first agent) her services – or not directly anyway. Because the way that agents get their money is by earning commissions on sales to publishers. So if you take the first book in my Fiona Griffiths series, my agent has made sales – and earned commission – on sales to publishers in Britain, America, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and further afield. He’s also been involved in the sale of TV rights. He’s also done a terrific audio deal for me. There may be other deals down the road too. Each time one of these deals happens, I get a wodge of money arriving in my bank account, from which the agent has deducted his little (and well-earned) sliver. The consequence of this “no fee / commission only” payment structure is that agents only get paid for their time if they make a sale – and then only if that sale is for enough money to pay them back for all that they’ve done. That’s should be easy-ish if the sale is to a Big 5 publisher and brings some overseas book deals in its wake. If the only sale is to a mid-sized or micro domestic publisher, then the agent is probably (privately) disappointed. The Tottering Slushpile If the commission-only way of doing business seems challenging, that challenge is compounded by the sheer volume of submissions that literary agents receive. That total varies from agent to agent, but about 2,000 submissions per agent per year would be typical. Of that an agent may find only 2-3 manuscripts that seem destined for the kind of advances that will generate enough revenue for an agent. The result? Predictably enough, agents will reject the vast majority of manuscripts that come their way. It’s not just that they don’t have the time to deal with those manuscripts and those clients, it’s that there’s no money in them. Most manuscripts that agents receive are just unsaleable. So When do agents Edit? Agents will get involved in editorial advice when they come across a manuscript that: Has an excellent, saleable idea. (Check here for more.)Is written with a competent professionalism. (More on prose style here.)Has a strong story. (More.)Is in the top 1%, or maybe the top 0.5% of all submissionsIs not ready to be sent to publishers as it stands. In effect, when an agent offers to get involved editorially, they are thinking, roughly: “Look, if I sent this manuscript out as it is, I might get offers, but I don’t think they’d be very strong ones . . . and actually, I might just get fistful of rejections. And I certainly don’t want that. “Then again, I can’t helpfeeling that this manuscript could do really well, if I put in the 2-3 dozen hours needed to get this manuscript into shape. Yes, the writer themselves will be doing the actual work here – my job will be one of guidance only; I’m not going to be making hands-on changes to the manuscript myself. “But with my input, and if the writer works hard and makes the changes I recommend? Then yes, I think this could be a really profitable (and fun, and artistically rewarding) project. I’m going to reach out to this author. Yay!“ As a writer, that’s good to hear on a number of levels. You don’t want a real estate guy who just dumps your house on the market without telling you to mow your overgrown lawn and fix that sagging guttering. You want the real estate person who forces you to fix the house up for sale, in order that you get the very best price. So the fact that agents are willing to be engaged, active and intelligent in how they sell your book is great to hear. But from your perspective, as writer, there are two crucial qualifications to take away. Crucial Thing the FirstYour manuscript has to be really, really good already.You can’t just use agents as a free pass to solving the difficulties that you and your manuscript face. If you send an agent a mediocre manuscript, you stand no chance at all of engaging them qua editor. In fact, because the competition is so intense, you won’t get an agent involved even if your book is really quite good. The sad fact is that “really quite good” isn’t even close to the standard agents are looking for. Crucial Thing the SecondSome agents are really strong editorially, and love doing it.Others just aren’t that strong and don’t pretend to be. After all, an agent’s core job as is as saleswoman (or, less often in this industry, salesman.) My first agent – who was great – told me directly when I engaged her that she just wasn’t that great at editing books, but she was a powerhouse when it came to selling them. These days, I’d say that all agents have had to become more hands on when it comes to polishing manuscripts prior to sale, but there’s still a reason why editors edit, and agents sell. In effect, using an agent as an editor is a bit like using a carpenter as a bricklayer. Sure, carpenters are skilled and multi-talented. They’ll probably do a pretty good job of building that wall, but . . . If You Want An Editor, Hire An Editor! There are plenty of freelance editors around. We at Jericho Writers built our business and our reputation by offering superb editorial advice to writers just like you. And what you get is editing, editing, editing. You pay for our input, and you get our full, committed, detailed assessment of your manuscript, along with a ton of recommendations about what to do and how to do it. Now you probably think that, because we make money from editing, and because we’ve had a huge number of success stories, I’m going to tell you to rush over to us for editorial help. Well, no. I’m not. You can’t use editorial input as a shortcut. Successful writers always put the hard yards in themselves. Some writers think something like this: “Hey, I’ve completed my manuscript. I’ve done a couple of quick read-throughs for typos and that kind of thing. I’ve emailed my manuscript out to a few dozen literary agents, but no one offered to take me on and they won’t help me edit my book, even though I asked really nicely. So, OK, maybe I need to pay someone to get this book into shape.” If you think like that, then you won’t make the grade as a writer and, to be honest with you, you aren’t the sort of client that we especially love dealing with. I mean, sure, we’ll work with anyone, and we’ll do our level professional best for you. But our favourite clients? They are always, always the super-committed ones. Remember: Writing is rewriting. Self-editing is the art of sifting through your manuscript and checking it for everything. Surplus words, sentences, paragraphs and scenes. Faulty, vague or unconvincing characterisation. Weak dialogue. Weak plotting. Problems with pace or viewpoint. Basically, you need to think like an author and work these things out for yourself, as far as you are possibly able. You will benefit in three ways. First, your manuscript will get better (probably a lot better). Secondly, your own skills as an author will grow. Thirdly, your pride and confidence will – quite rightly – grow and blossom. So, OK, you do all that and then you may still need editorial help. And that’s fine. Maybe you’ll just know for yourself that your manuscript needs work. Or maybe you’ll try your luck with literary agents and not get the response you wanted. Or maybe you’ve been scratching away at a dissatisfaction with your work, and have found yourself going round in circles. If you fit into any of those categories, then, yes, you do need third party editorial help and, yes, we at Jericho Writers would absolutely love to give it. For more on our editors, go here. For more on our editorial services, go here. We are here to deliver outstanding editorial services to committed writers, and we would be deeply honoured to work with you. Oh yes, and if you’re serious about your writing, then we’d also love it if you cared to join our online Club. This is a club for writers, and we’ve gone to a huge amount of trouble to make it as rich and rewarding as we possibly can. You can find out more here, and we hope to see you there soon. In the meantime, happy writing, happy editing and (when you’re good and ready to send your work out) happy agent-hunting too! About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.) More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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Literary agents and the slush pile: slaying the myths

Slaying the myths There are many contrasting opinions on the internet as to whether agents actually care about slushpile-type submissions. Well, no one knows literary agents better than us, so we’ll tell you straight what’s true and what’s not. And, above all, the thing to bear in mind is this: most hyper-successful authors of today were once slushpile authors, just like you. Any agent will tell you that, yes, there is plenty of dross in the slushpile – but there are diamonds too. And most agents love that search for diamonds. So, with no more ado, here are the myths … and here is the truth. Definition: What Is The Slush Pile? What is the slushpile? It’s basically all unsolicited submissions to literary agents. And since most submissions to literary agents are unsolicited – that is, the agent doesn’t know about you upfront; there is no back-corridor of private recommendation involved – the simple truth is that most submissions to agents, the overwhelming majority in fact, are slushpile submissions. So what isn’t a slushpile submission? Examples would be: One of an agent’s existing clients recommends a particular new writer, and the agent looks at that writer’s workAn agent comes across a broadcaster or journalist with interesting things to say on a particular topic, and makes contact directly to enquire about a possible bookOne literary agent leaves her firm and her clients are parcelled out to other agents. And so on. Yes, these can all be important channels of client-acquisition for an agent. And yes, more senior, more experienced agents may source quite a high proportion of their new clients through routes like these. But at pretty much every literary agency in London and New York, the vast majority of incoming submissions will come via the slushpile – people like you, packaging up their work and sending it off, with fingers crossed and candles lit. And at pretty much every literary agency in New York and London, those submissions will be sifted, sorted and taken seriously. And no wonder! JK Rowling came through the slushpile. So did Hilary Mantel. So did Dan Brown. So did … well, most authors. And that’s why, though the term “slushpile” sounds dismissive, it really isn’t. It doesn’t mean “these manuscripts are rubbish.” It means, “these manuscripts are the feedstock for our industry”. Yes, there’s trash in there, but there are nuggets of pure gold as well. Slushpile Myths … And Slushpile Realities Myth #1: Agents Don’t Want Slush Pile Submissions It’s true that there are some agents who really don’t. Those would include (a) agents winding their business down prior to retirement, (b) those agents who are senior enough that they can find good new authors via private recommendations, etc, (c) those who source a majority of their new clients from the media and other ‘celebrity’ type sources. But those guys are in a minority – and are usually very easy to spot. Basically, high profile agents are usually in that category. Ditto many (but not all) older ones. Ditto those with a client list stuffed full of bestsellers. Unless you have a media/celeb background, or you have real reason to think your work is remarkable, you should simply avoid those agents. They’re probably not right for you. (After all: would you really want to be those guys’ least important client? I’m thinking not.) Apart from those guys – who account for maybe only 5-10% of all agents – pretty much everyone wants submissions. We know incredibly reputable, well-established agencies with fabulous clients who have consulted with us to discover exactly how they can increase their slushpiles. Why? It’s simple: the slushpile is where the brilliant authors lie. After all, as every literary agent knows, J.K. Rowling came from the slushpile. So did Zadie Smith. So did Hilary Mantel. (See for example this interview.) So, if to comes to that, did I, along with pretty much ALL new writers. Apart from existing celebrity and media types, pretty much every single new fantastic author emerges from the slushpile or, these days, from an out-of-nowhere self-publishing success. Because agents know that and because agents have to keep their client lists replenished with new talent, they care about the slushpile. In those hills, there be gold. Myth #2: Agents Don’t Look At 99% Of The Manuscripts That Get Submitted. They do. OK, there may be times when agents are just overwhelmed with work and things go pear-shaped, but those times are exceptions, at any rate in any well-run agency. But good agencies, nearly always, will look at everything that comes in. But notice that I say “look at”, not “read”. The truth is that about 90% of manuscript submissions reveal themselves as not-good-enough very quickly indeed. There are three basic ways a submission can fail. Those are: A writer simply can’t put a sentence together. Those famous ‘green ink’ manuscripts are actually relatively rare. They’re the smallest category we’re dealing with here. If you’re together enough to be reading this blog post, you’re almost certainly not in that category. Some agents have actually died from an excess of bad grammar.The concept for the book just can’t work. A Young Adult book that’s 150,000 words long? A cosy little book about the author’s talking parrot? A highly didactic work of fantasy-fiction aimed at teaching 8 year old kids about groundwater pollution? There are, unfortunately, books which fail before you hit the opening sentence. The most common problem is that they haven’t answered the question of what would make this book stand out from the crowd. You must have a good answer to that question.There are signs of clunky, awkward or amateurish writing on the opening page. Our friends at the Writers’ Workshop periodically run events called ‘Slushpile Live’, where (remarkably brave) writers read their opening page out to a panel of literary agents. Those agents then play Simon Cowell and say what they really think, live, with no previous exposure to the writer or the manuscript. And the good manuscripts are really, really easy to spot. Ditto the ones that are clearly not yet strong enough. That sounds brutal, but it’s not really. There’s a quality threshold to enter the industry. You have to meet that threshold. If you don’t, then no one wishes you ill, but your work is not yet ready. If your work fails any of these three tests, it’ll be rejected – and the agent may spend as little as a minute making the decision. That’s not because the agent is evil, but because you haven’t yet met the standard. If you pass the opening scrutiny (good concept, check; decent writing, check), the agent simply has to read on. If your first three chapters still glitter with promise, they have to request the rest. And if the rest of the manuscript is wonderful – well, hell, you’ve got representation. (Did we hear someone whimpering in there?) Myth #3: It’s An Agent’s Job To Deal With The Slushpile. It isn’t. Talk to any agent at all and they will tell you that their regular day job (from, say, 9 am to 6 pm) is to work constantly on behalf of their existing authors: negotiating contracts, chasing up royalties, solving problems, meeting publishers. Of course agents know that if they don’t take on new and fabulous authors, their business will slowly wither – but 99% of agents will be dealing with their slushpile material during evenings and weekends. (These guys work hard: they’re always reading.) That means you need to cut agents some slack. There just will be times when life goes crazy for them. The big book fairs (London, Frankfurt, Bologna) are always very intense. If several existing authors deliver manuscripts at much the same sort of time, the agent in question HAS to prioritise those and will simply have to neglect his growing slushpile until they’re properly dealt with. It also means you need to take care of the agent’s reasonable needs. If your covering letter is a little too long, or unclear about what kind of book yours is, or makes any of those other niggly-but-annoying mistakes that agents often talk about – well, hell, remember that the agent is probably reading your stuff at 9.30pm, after a full day in the office. That’s not a good time to start annoying somebody with trivial little details that it was your job to get right in the first place. So get them right. Myth #4: Good Agents Will Offer Feedback To Slush Pile Writers. Not true. Never true, in fact. Yes, if an agent loves a book, they might offer representation even though they know that that book will need to go through another couple of drafts. (Or more. I spoke to one agent recently who was working with a writer on his sixth draft.) But agents can only offer that much input to actual or probable clients. There’s no way they can get into discussions on the 999 in 1,000 manuscripts they don’t take on. (And, anyway, if a detailed editorial input is what you’re after right now, why would you go to an agent whose main job is about selling manuscripts, not editing them?) Myth #5: Agents Get Their Assistants To Do The Work For Them. This is sometimes kind of true, but the implications are way different from what you think. When you see writers on the Internet saying, “Oh, that agent, I know he never read my work because [whatever particular piece of evidence is summoned in this particular instance,” they might actually be right. Basically, as agents get more senior, they’re increasingly likely to delegate chunks of their day to day activity. So, very roughly, the picture looks like this: New/young/hungry agents: they want to actively build client lists, as they don’t have a body of existing authors to sustain them. Those guys can’t afford to delegate anything to anyone, and probably don’t have assistants anyway. Every single interaction you have in relation to these manuscripts comes straight from the agent him or herself.Established agents. These guys are still open to new clients. They might take on 1-2 new authors a year, straight from the slushpile. But a lot of these folks will have some kind of assistant, and a big part of that assistant’s role is to do a first-cut filtration of the slushpile. It’ll work differently in different agencies (one notable agency, for example, employs a reader whose only job is to reduce the slushpile). Others will use their PAs as first-cut readers. Or whatever. But even so, these people will be looking at the top 1-5% from their slushpile and making their own decisions. If you get rejected before this stage, you may well get a note from the assistant’s desk. After that, the note will more likely come direct from the agent.Senior agents. These guys may never directly read a slushpile submission, but they will have a system that places the very best-of-the-best manuscripts on their desks – perhaps at the rate of 1-2 a month. It’s unlikely that these folk ever send a sorry-but-no message, unless yours is that truly exceptional manuscript which gave them pause. Now if you get rejected by an agent’s assistant (or reader, or even receptionist) you might think that you simply haven’t had an opportunity to put your work in front of the only person whose decision matters. But that’s not true! Any half-competent agency knows that the slushpile could well contain the next JK Rowling, the next Stephenie Meyer. They can’t afford to let those gems get away – and they mostly don’t. I know one leading London agency whose receptionists are hired, mostly, for their literary skills. Yes, they need to be able to answer the phone without dropping it, but their essential function is to act as really thoughtful, careful readers of a manuscript. They are trained very carefully and supervised very closely. And they get it right! It just isn’t that hard, in truth. Most manuscripts that come to any agency are just clearly not good enough. As the quality level rises, the decisions get tougher – but those decisions are passed upwards in the chain until they reach the person competent to make the decision. But absolutely no one can afford to be the person who said no to Rowling/Meyer/Suzanne Collins/whoever, so if your MS has real merit it will come to sit on the right desk. Myth #6: Agents Only Care About Bestsellers, They’re Only In This Game For The Money. Just wrong, this one. No one goes into the literary business for money. I mean, that would be like going to the Sahara for its watersports. Every single agent I know is in the biz because they love books, love stories, love writing, love authors. They love written culture and being in the swim of its creation. I don’t know a single agent who would take on a work he didn’t like (*) just for the dosh. It just doesn’t happen. All that said, of course agents are keen to represent books that may sell a lot of copies. That’s called being a sane businessperson and doing a great job for your clients. If my agent didn’t want my books to sell by the truckload, I’d get a different agent. [David Godwin took on Pippa Middleton for her party book. Since David Godwin is noted for his high-end literary list, her addition to that list raised a few eyebrows at the time.] Myth #7: Agents Care About Your Social Media Profile. Of course they don’t. If you got a manuscript in your slushpile that was just as amazingly brilliant as Wolf Hall, why would you give a tuppenny damn about the author’s Twitter following? Answer, you wouldn’t. There are exceptions, of course, but they only work positively, not negatively. So Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science, etc.) has a massive online presence and that presence would impel any sane agent/editor to offer hm a deal. But you need Twitter followers in the tens of thousands (ideally hundreds of thousands) to make a real difference there. Ditto, when it comes to blog followers. If you have that, great. If not, don’t worry about it. Few writers do, and very few novelists do. Myth #8: Agents Care About Who You Are, What You Look Like, How Old You Are, Etc. They don’t. Or rather, it’s the same as above. Most writers (including yours truly, Harry Bingham) are middle-aged writers of no particular beauty or celebrity, and that’s just the way it is. Which is fine. No one cares. Indeed agents will often remind you that Mary Wesley began a string of bestselling books in her seventies. On the other hand, if you are incredibly beautiful and would be wonderful on TV and have an incredible backstory, those things will help, a bit, but not much. Asked to choose between a comely author with a mediocre manuscript and a plain one with a wonderful one, every agent on the planet will prefer the latter. So will publishers. More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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Do literary agents want self-published authors?

Authors? A few years ago, most literary agents were snobby about self-published work. And rightly so. A few years back, it was genuinely the case that a large majority of self-published authors wrote bad books that were poorly edited with terrible covers and sales to match. There were some breakout successes – there always have been – but they were rare enough that no agent wanted to tramp those stony fields in the hopes of finding something to grow. That’s Changed. There are, still, plenty of lousy self-published books, but the average standard has improved in almost every dimension. Book covers look vastly better, for one thing. If you go to the Amazon Kindle bestseller list (here), you’ll find traditionally published and self-published books selling alongside each other – but I defy you to guess which is which from the covers alone. And then because Amazon has made it easy for readers to complain about poor copyediting and weak storytelling, writers have responded by improving their attitude to those things too. It’s true that many of the self-pub successes (Joe Konrath, John Locke, EL James, and many others) write genre fiction aimed squarely at the lower end of the market – but they tell their stories well for the market they aim at. And it’s not as though traditional publishers are averse to those markets. On the contrary, Random House was happy to take EL James’s work and turn it into the biggest publishing event of the decade. And – no surprise – agents have noticed all this. Remember: they want any author whose work is strong and saleable. They truly don’t care where that author comes from (and don’t care much about who the author is either, for that matter.) If an author self-publishes a novel that starts to get a considerable following on Amazon, then agents will be interested. Though the hurdles are high. As a rough guide, I’d suggest that: if you are selling print copies of your book, you would need to sell 5,000+ to earn an agent’s interest. (And it would also raise the question of why you weren’t selling electronically. These days, self-pub increasingly means e-pub – not least because it’s vastly easier to accumulate sales if your novel starts to attract readers.)if you are selling e-books at low prices (£3.99 or less), you would need to sell, let’s say, 30,000 copies or so to make a persuasive case. Remember that a regular publisher may well double the price of your e-book and will probably price a paperback at £7.99 or so, which means that some of the sales achieved at lower prices would be choked off by the move to the mainstream.if you are selling your e-book as a free download, then you would need to hit 50,000 downloads before a publisher could get excited. Those numbers are broadly true of the UK market, but you can probably double them for the US market – perhaps even more than double them. And I’m assuming here that we’re talking about a real, proper mainstream publisher – either one of the Big Five Publishers, or one of the major independents (Bloomsbury, Faber, Canongate, for example.) A smaller, niche publisher might well start to get interested at volumes somewhat smaller than those I’ve mentioned – perhaps about 2/3 smaller. If you want to boost your chances still further, then it helps if you: Can demonstrate that you are energetic and resourceful when it comes to self-promotion. A good website, an active Twitter account with good followers, a decent Facebook presence: all those things can add to your look as an author who can make the most of any opportunities. Those things won’t swing a deal all by themselves (see our sceptical comments here), but they do demonstrate that you are a business-minded author and that will helpCan show a lot of 5-star reviews. We know of one fine author whose book generated huge free download interest on Amazon, but crucially also generated a ton of 5-star reviews. I suspect that her reviews did as much as her downloads to persuade Accent Press to take her on.Can write a lot. One of the key “how-to” titles for the self-pub market is called “Write. Publish. Repeat.” Successful genre authors on e-platforms just generate a lot of text. That means a minimum of one book per year, but in some cases it means a fair bit more (even if one of the “books” is a free novella or short story, basically given away to readers at Christmas, or whatever.) The rapid-fire approach to writing generates plenty of snobbery from more literary types, but it is a technique that mainstream publishers have experimented with and, indeed, ploughed a ton of money into at times. If you’re ticking these boxes, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t approach agents with every expectation of keen interest in you and your work. To find those agents, follow the rules that we talk about elsewhere on this site, namely: Use our search pages to locate about 8-12 agents who are active in your area and where you feel points of contact.Use our “who represents who?” function to discover agents who may have helped other self-pub authors turn traditional.Make a proper professional approach to agents using these guidelines.Do be specific about your sales and review stats. Don’t massage them into looking better than they really are: agents will want to show proof to publishers, so expect to have your figures checked up on. Anyone who succeeds in selling a lot of books, whether that’s self-pub, trad-pub, or any-other-sort-of-pub, deserves respect. It’s not easy to achieve, and if you’ve done it, you’ve done very well. We congratulate you!
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Literary agents for historical fiction

Literary agents for historical fiction Historical fiction remains a wonderfully rich and diverse section of the market. At the top, it comprises such stellar talents as the multi-prize winning Hilary Mantel. But it also includes the commercial talents of Kate Mosse and Phillipa Gregory, the bloodthirsty or thrilling talents of Conn Iggulden and Robert Harris, not to mention such weird and wonderful things as Victorian-inspired steampunk fantasies and even historical erotica. All this suggests (correctly) that historical fiction is a vibrant, intelligent and lively genre but it also means that locating the right literary agent to handle your particular novel is potentially more complex than it would be if, say, you had just authored a simple police procedural. After all, the agent who represents Hilary Mantel might not be the right person to handle your steampunk fantasy. Mere interest in history isn’t enough of a connecting line. That’s why when you have created a longlist of possible agents, you need to filter them. Try to find points of contact with individual agents. (Ah, that person represents my favourite authors, that one has an interest in all things Irish and my book is partially set in Dublin, etc., etc.) Those sorts of things give you subtle additions to your covering letter and may point to the kind of agent who will love your work. AgentMatch And How To Use It AgentMatch provides a full list of every UK literary agent, with full details of what genres they’re interested in, and details on whether they’re seeking clients or not. In short, if you’ve written a novel and you’re looking for an agent, then you’re in exactly the right place. There are plenty of history-loving agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. historical) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. Become a member. More On UK Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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Literary agents for crime, thrillers and action novels

Written a thriller or work of crime fiction and need a literary agent? You’re in the right place. AgentMatch has a complete list of every agent in the UK with full detail about who they are and what kind of work they represent. So here’s what you do. Head over here.Click on the “select genres” box and choose “Crime & thrillers” from the pop-up list.You’ll find that there are a huge number of agents who represent work in this area. (Basically: most of them will happily represent crime; there are just about no agents who specialise only in that area.) So you’ll need to filter your list some more. Use our other search tools to bring your selection down to a manageable total.Then dive into individual agent profiles and read what each agent says about themselves.Make your final shortlist selection The twist in the tail All you need to access all our lovely data and search functionality? Become a member. More On Uk Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) LITERARY AGENT LIST For every genre
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Literary agents for fantasy fiction

Plenty of fantasy novels have made a lot of money for publishers. And there are a good handful of excellent authors who have written in the genre. (China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks, to name a few.) That means that there are plenty of agents ready to dive into the slushpile in search of the next big thing in fantasy. AgentMatch And How To Use It There are plenty of fantasy-loving agents, though you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. With AgentMatch, you can select by genre (e.g. fantasy) and you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, the appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. Signing up is incredibly simple. Become a member. More On Uk Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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Literary agents for science fiction

The market for science-fiction remains as interesting and varied as it’s ever been. You can still write classic space opera and find a market, but there’s an increasing interest in dystopia, genre collisions, and any intelligent idea-driven fiction. The genre remains rich, deep, and you can certainly argue that the literary novelists, Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell, have written sci-fi novels. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are especially famous for sci-fi masterpieces. People like Iain Banks and China Mieville aren’t usually considered literary novelists, but they are excellent writers who write challenging, thoughtful, bold fiction. A healthy, confident market with plenty of international appeal. And AgentMatch can help you tap it. Are You Really Writing Science-fiction? We suggest you think hard about whether you are really writing science-fiction. For example: A near-future thriller involving (say) an as-yet-undiscovered virus could well market itself more accurately as a techno-thriller and be suitable for crime and thriller agents and editors.An intelligent novel, like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, is probably better sold as literary fiction, no matter whether or not it uses sci-fi ideas and techniques. Using our genre search along with careful use of our agent profile pages means that you’ll get the best possible fit for your novel. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of science-loving agents, and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. science-fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. Our AgentMatch search pages can help you look for agents. Peek for the Select Genres box, click that, and choose “Science Fiction”. And the list of agents will automatically be filtered. Simply choosing agents who like science-fiction will give you a list that is too long to be manageable, though, so you will need to pare it back in some way. You can do that by: Figuring out if you would rather be represented by a large agency or a small one;Looking for agents who are “Keen to build client list” rather than “List largely complete”;Looking for agents who have been in the business a little less long, so are hungrier to attract new clients;Other uses of the search filters. You should also explore the profiles of the agents who come up to see who really is a match for your book and who really isn’t. Some agents are happy to look at all submissions that come their way, but won’t have a real keen interest in the genre. Others are particularly keen on the area and would strongly welcome your submissions. Wishing all intergalactic luck! Become a member. More On Uk Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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Literary agents specifically seeking new authors

We get asked a lot of questions over the course of a month, but perhaps the commonest questions boil down to these: how do you find a literary agent? Do you know literary agents who are taking on new and first-time writers? And the answer, of course, is yes. Nearly all agents, great or small, take on new authors. If they didn’t, they’d go out of business. Not straightaway, maybe, but out of business nevertheless. There’s a second point here, too: all agents need to submit to the same bunch of editors (and a small bunch at that: most books will be pitched to between eight and twelve publishers in the first round of marketing). By and large, agents are all looking for manuscripts that meet a certain quality threshold. If they find one, they’ll agree to take it on. If they don’t, they won’t. That’s the homily. A homily which boils down, as ever, to the first and second commandments of getting a literary agent: Write a good book.If you need help, get editorial advice where you can. It’s somewhat easier to secure a less well-established agent than a Giant of the Industry. That’s not because quality standards are lower – they aren’t at all – but because a newer agent knows he or she must work harder to build a list. If you went to such an agent with a novel that is dazzling but imperfect, they may well be prepared to put in the work needed to fix it. An agent with a longer list may (regretfully) turn the book down. That’s worth remembering. If you want to find a literary agent who genuinely welcomes first-time authors, as opposed to merely accepting them, you will do well to approach those who have been less long established in the business – basically, you’re looking for youngsters, or those who have come into the profession from elsewhere in the industry. It is not a sensible strategy simply to pick smaller agencies, because (1) there are plenty of one- and two-person agencies who have been in the business a long time, and whose lists are already amply populated. Also, larger agencies will all have new recruits who are hungry to build up their lists. You shouldn’t rule those people out from your search. With bigger agencies, it’s fine to call the switchboard and ask for suggestions about which agents might be right for a project. Not all agencies (or receptionists) will be helpful, but enough will be, to make it worth your while. Indeed, it was good advice from an office receptionist that encouraged me to approach the Well-Known Literary Agent who ended up offering to represent my first novel. As always, though, these guidelines must be balanced against everything else. You’re looking for an agent who loves your book and believes they can sell it. That’s all. If that agent works for a big agency or a small one, is young or venerable – doesn’t matter. You, the book, the agent. If those three things gel, nothing else much matters. Use our literary agent advice pages to navigate your way. Use our database for reference. And if your book isn’t taken on by the first fifteen agents, then do consider editorial feedback as an option. Writing a book is hard and few get there on their first attempt. We can help. Good luck! More On Uk Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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Literary agents for Young Adult fiction

Young Adult (YA) fiction has become a super selling genre in recent years. J.K. Rowling’s books made it acceptable for adults to read children’s fiction, and then the genre hit a whole mother-lode of superselling authors, such as Anthony Horowitz, Suzanne Collins, Melinda Salisbury, and many more. The fact that so many young adult books are selling means that agents are inevitably interested in the area and keen to take on outstanding work. But that doesn’t mean that finding the right agent for you and your work is all that easy – there are just so many agents, and it’s so hard figuring out what each one wants. Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of agents who love YA fiction and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. children’s or young adult) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. AgentMatch provides: A list of every agent in the UK;Masses of data on each one (photos, biographies, client lists, genre preferences, likes and dislikes, and much more);Search tools to make it easy to sort through all our goodies;Submission info for every agent;Further links to any other key information we’ve been able to locate on the web. Become a member. More On Uk Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre SHARE THIS ENTRY
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Literary Agent Etiquette

Some time ago, a writer, Chloe, wrote this to me: I had two full manuscript requests for my novel this week (I gave it to both agents non-exclusively). One of the agents has now offered to represent me. I plan to tell him that I’d love to meet up and discuss it, etc., etc. I also plan to tell the other agency that I’ve had this offer (I think it’s polite and professional – is that right?). I’ve been trawling around trying to find out what agents expect in this situation and the etiquette. I don’t want to offend the agent that’s made an offer by looking like I’m holding out for another one, but I also want to make sure I’m with the right agent. Anyway, the bit of etiquette I can’t find an answer to is whether I should tell the three other agents I’ve submitted my partial to, or not. At the moment, presumably, my MS is sitting on their slush piles. Should I tell them that I’ve got an offer? Should I just tell them if/when I sign to an agency? They may well not be interested – I’ve had one other rejection already – but I want to be polite and do things “properly”. (By the way, my first attempt at novel writing was critiqued by you and, although I didn’t find an agent for that, I learned so much from the critique. … Thanks very much!) First off, congratulations to Chloe. Woo-hoo for her, and I’m delighted that we played an important role in the early part of her journey. Seeing someone make this huge leap from unrepresented to represented (or published) writer always the most thrilling aspect of what we do. But what about this question of etiquette? What do you say to agents if you’re in Chloe’s fortunate position? Well, you start by dropping the idea that etiquette has anything to do with it. You’re not going to tea at the Ritz, you are about to enter one of the most important business transactions of your life. Naturally, because you’re a good sort of person, you will behave truthfully, courteously and professionally at all times, but you will also look after your own interests with fierce singlemindedness. This is your career, and it matters! So of course you want to do what you can to maximise the chances of securing multiple offers of representation. That way, you can meet the various different literary agents and see who you feel most comfortable with. It’s like getting quotes from different builders – the only difference being that this relationship will likely last longer, have more influence on your career, and (you hope) be of greater financial significance. I’d suggest therefore that you do this. With the agent who has your full manuscript, you drop a note saying something like this: “I’ve had an offer of representation elsewhere, but I don’t want to say yes or no to that offer until I’ve heard whether or not you might have an interest in this MS. If you do, I’d love to come in and see you. Is there any chance that you might be able to read the manuscript within the week and let me know your thoughts? If that was feasible for you, it would be wonderful for me.” An email along those lines in truthful, polite, a tad flattering – and serves your interests very well. In the meantime, it’s best simply to tell the agent who has made you the offer that you’d love to come in and see him but, gee, the next few days look difficult, is there any chance of coming by on Thursday week? Agents are much more used to competing for authors than you might think, so that while no agent wants the competition, they’re most unlikely to be offended. Then there’s also the question of what to do with those literary agents who have partial manuscripts, but not full ones. I would definitely try to loop those guys into your ring too. I would simply send an email – with the full manuscript attached – saying: “I’ve had an offer of representation, but don’t want to commit to it until I’ve heard back from you. I know that you may have a lot on your reading list, but if there was any chance of moving this manuscript up that list, I’d be delighted.” That might sound pushy to you, but really, an email of that sort is welcome to most agents. After all, at the moment, they’ve got 100 manuscripts in the slushpile at their elbow. They know that they might have a real decision to make about 1 maybe 2 manuscripts in that pile at most. By sending the email I suggest, you essentially save a mountain of work for them, by alerting them to precisely the manuscript that is likely to be of most interest to them. (By the same token, when you do sign with a literary agent, you should tell everyone else involved, to save them time and effort.) Of course, tastes differ, and the market is hard. What boils one person’s kettle may leave another’s stony cold. But the fact that things are difficult and unpredictable only means that you should look after your interests as carefully as you can. These things matter and are for the long term. I’ve had at least eight editors in my life as a writer, numerous publishers and more publicists than I can shake a manicured fingernail at. But only two literary agents and I’d be quite surprised if I don’t stay with my current one until one or other of us retires. Best of luck, Chloe! If you’re also searching for agents, this may help, as may this and probably this, too. Happy writing.
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Do I Query US Literary Agents? Or UK Agents? (A Simple Guide)

International writers often have to make choices about which literary agents to approach. Here’s a quick guide to help you. On the whole, it’s simple. British authors write books. They send them to UK literary agents – almost always based in or close to London. A British agent finds a British publisher. Then, once that first crucial deal is in the bag, the process of international sales begins. If you’re unsure about what literary agents do, then have a quick read of this first. For US authors, it’s the same. You find a literary agent in New York. They find a US publisher. You sign your US book deal, and off they go to see what you can get overseas. There are countless complications, though. What if you’re Irish? Or Australian? Or South African? Or Canadian? Or of dual citizenship? Or resident in one place, but citizen of another? There’s no easy way through such complexities. It all depends on your situation, the book you’re trying to sell. International Agent Submissions: The Basic Rules To start off super-simple, American authors (when resident in the US) will almost always seek a US literary agent in the first instance. British authors, resident in the UK or Europe, will almost certainly seek a British agent. So: Rule #1In general, authors in the two largest English-speaking publishing markets should seek an agent local to that market: American agents for American writers, British agent for British writers. Easy. It’s not much more complicated if you are Irish or Canadian (or Aussie, or whatever) and writing a book of strictly local interest. So it’s pretty clear that The History of Kilarney Castle will have its best market in Ireland. Likewise, How To Care For Your Moose is likely to have a better market in Ontario than Orlando. In these cases, again, you can just play it simple. Rule #2Authors in smaller publishing markets writing books of strictly local interestshould query local agents (if there are any) . . .or just submit direct to local publishers – who will be happy to receive submissions. But of course plenty of Irish and Canadian authors are writing books with obvious international sales potential. So Colm Toibin and Tana French (both of Ireland) are great examples of smaller-market authors with terrific international sales. I’m reasonably confident that Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel (both of Canada) have sold a book or two in their time as well. This type of author has a choice. In the case of Ireland and Canada, these are both obviously satellite markets orbiting a much larger one right next door. So, one way or another, authors from these countries need to find a way to access that much bigger market Rule #3Canadian authors with international sales potential can approach Canadian agents or US agents. Either way is fine. Likewise, Irish authors with international sales potential can approach Dublin-based agents or British agents. Either way is fine. If you’re opting for a locally based agent, you probably want to check that the person involved has a decent track record of sales into the larger market . . . but those checks are almost certainly going to come back in the affirmative, because Irish agents would struggle to live on sales into the local market alone. The same goes (if rather less emphatically) for Canadian literary agents. For more distant locales – South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or anywhere else come to that – you need to play it a little bit by ear. UK literary agents tend to be more naturally international, and UK publishers have closer connections with the Commonwealth (which – in publisher-land – includes Ireland, but not Canada). Overall, writers from the Commonwealth will naturally knock on a London door first, but there are exceptions. If I were an Aussie sci-fi writer, for example, I might well be attracted to the US market, because of its depth. So, our (slightly fuzzy) fourth rule runs as follows: Rule #4International authors from Commonwealth countries should probably query UK literary agents in the first instance.International authors from non-Commonwealth countries should probably query US agents. But this rule is fuzzy, because US agents would be perfectly happy to receive a great submission from India / Singapore / Nigeria / Australia. Likewise British agents would be perfectly happy to receive a great submission from Argentina / Japan / the Philippines. Often when (say) a Nigerian writers does choose to query a US literary agent as a first step that’ll be because he or she has some kind of connection with the US that makes it a natural thing to do. So when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chose to seek US representation for her first novel, she did so because she was studying in the US. She felt part-American. She was resident there. For her, it would have been unnatural to query an agent in London, simply because Union Jacks once flew in Lagos. You can apply the same basic tests. Truth is, no one cares too much. And if your manuscript is absolutely amazing, then no one will care at all. And what about if you were an American living permanently in the UK? or a Brit living permanently in the US? Well, our even fuzzier fifth rule is: Rule #5You probably want to prioritise residency over passport when it comes to querying agents.(But no one really cares.)(So you can go either way.) As a matter of fact, if the circumstances of your life are such that you can provide plausible sounding reasons for submitting queries to both major markets, then our (whisper it quietly, tell no one you’re doing this) sixth rule is: Rule #6If you want to query agents in both markets . . .And you’ve got reasonably plausible reasons for choosing either market . . .And you don’t tell agents, “Hey, I’mm just querying everyone,” . . .Then you’ll probably get away with it. After all, it’s not like anyone checks. Or cares that much. You’re not breaking any rules. There’s one curious issue, though, to which there’s no good answer. Bestselling thriller writer (and one of our Festival of Writing speakers) R.J. Ellory writes very good US-set thrillers, but he’s British . . . and for a long time he struggled to find an agent. UK literary agents were reluctant to take him on because his books sounded like they’d been written by an American. US agents were reluctant to take him on because he was British, without representation in London or a UK book deal. That meant that American agents, even if they liked his work, felt kind of suspicious. How come this guy hadn’t got local representation? It sounded like there might be a catch somewhere. In the end, he was so good that he was taken on (in Britain, first). His career took off. Which suggest, I suppose our seventh rule, which is the super-essential Ur-rule in all agency submissions. Rule #7Write a super-incredible dazzling book If you obey that rule, then the truth is that nothing else really matters. Any agent from anywhere will want your work. Where Do You Find A List Of International Literary Agents? Why, you find it here, of course. On Agent Match. Agent Match here on Jericho Writers is a complete, searchable, database of literary agents. From summer 2018, AgentMatch will cover every literary agent active in Britain and America. Before long, we’ll extend the database to cover every country on the globe. (Which isn’t in fact very hard: there just aren’t that many serious literary agents operating in Australia, Canada, and Ireland combined – and the smaller publishing markets have even fewer agents still.) And AgentMatch isn’t just the biggest agent database on the planet, it’s the best one too. So let’s say you wanted to search for: “Literary agents in the USwho are open to historical fiction submissionsand who are currently seeking new writers” . . . well, you could perform that search in about twenty seconds. And get a complete answer. And a complete set of agent profiles for absolutely everyone on that list. I mean, maybe you’d prefer to spend a week on Google (and get a slightly worse set of answers), but it’s totally your call. Access to AgentMatch is restricted to members of Jericho Writers . . . but since membership of JW confers an awesome cornucopia of writerly fabulousness, you probably want to consider membership no matter what. Rule #8Find out more about Jericho WritersYou’ll be rootin-tootin glad you did. I do hope you come and join us. We’d love it if you did! Anymore questions? You can contact us here.
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Literary Agent Fees (What You Need to Know)

How much do literary agents cost? And are they worth it? One thing that puzzles a lot of writers about literary agents is their fee structure. Can you afford an agent? What do they charge? How much do literary agents actually cost? The answer is mostly good news . . . with a little bit of bad news thrown in. The good news is that literary agents charge absolutely nothing upfront. Not a penny. They don’t charge fees down the line either. I’m Harry Bingham. I’ve been a professional author for twenty years. I’ve sold a lot of books and been paid a lot of money for them. And I have never once been given an invoice by my agent. Too good to be true? Well, there’s a catch of course, and it’s this: Literary agents charge commission. That is, for every $1000 they get you in advances or royalties or overseas sales or film rights, they will take their cut. If they earn nothing for you, they will charge nothing. If they sell your book for a lot of money – well, they’ll be doing well for themselves as well as you! The brilliant thing about this arrangement is that your agent’s financial incentives are almost perfectly aligned with your own. That means, when the agent is querying different publishers, or reviewing contracts, or hassling over hiccups in the publication process, their financial goals are exactly the same as yours. For that reason, authors tend to be very close to their literary agents . . . and are often rather less close with their editors! 1) Literary Agent Fees Typical commission rates for literary agents Typically commissions work as follows. Your literary agent will take: 15% of all sales made in home markets (ie: the US if you are working with a US agent; the UK if you are working with a British one.)20% on overseas sales, and20% for sales of film and TV rights. Some agents may vary from this, but these rates are increasingly standard. They are not compulsory however, and if you are bold enough to negotiate, there’s nothing wrong with that. (And indeed, top authors often don’t pay full whack. They don’t have to.) Literary Agent Commissions: An Example Let’s say you’re a Brit and you sell your book to: a UK publisher for £10,000, anda US publisher for $25,000 then your agent will take 15% of £10,000 (so £1,500), and20% of that $25,000 (so $5,000). There would also be fees for any foreign language sales and for film or TV sales. In practice, film & TV deals are relatively rare and generally a lot less lucrative than the newspapers would have you think! 2) Royalties When you sell a book to a publisher, you sell it for an advance against royalties. So let’s say you sell your manuscript to a publisher for $10,000, but that book goes on to be a bestseller. You will be entitled to a per book fee on every copy sold (that’s called a royalty, and the actual calculation of those things is a bit complex.) But, to simplify, let’s say that over the first two years of sales, you earn $110,000 in royalties. The first $10K of that is set aside – your $10,000 upfront advance was an advance against royalties, so you can’t claim it twice. But the other $100,000? Yep, that’s yours, and you will start to be paid that money via six-monthly instalments, depending on sales. Be aware, though, that your literary agent is also entitled to their fees on those earnings (because they brought you the deal that turned your book into a bestseller). So what you would actually get in this example is: 85% of your $10K advance (your agent gets the other 15%)85% of your $100K royalty earnings (again, your agent gets the remaining 15%) Again, be aware that good agents will press for the highest advance they can get away with, so you can easiliy, easily earning a living as a professional author and not see a royalty check from one year’s end to the next. 3) If You Move On From Your Literary Agent If you decide to fire your agent, or otherwise move on, then your agent is still entitled to any commission due following deals that they signed. And that makes sense. If you get rich because of a deal done by your agent, then your agent should be entitled to his or her share of the fruits of that deal, no matter how far down the road. In practice, most author-agent relationships are quite long term, and if you have signed a book deal successful enough that it’s still pumping out money, then you’re not likely to split with your agent. But still: the possibility is there, and it’ll be carefully covered in any contract or letter of engagement you have with your agent. So read that letter or contract – and if in doubt: ask! 4) Are Literary Agents Worth Their Fees? Yes. Was that emphatic enough? I don’t think it was. So one more time, with feeling: Yes, yes, yes!Get an agent!They will make you much more money than they will cost you!It is the best career move you will ever make! A good agent will do the following for you: They’ll make sure that your manuscript is right for the market. That may mean that you need to tweak the book, but those tweaks are intended to get it just right for publishers in today’s market.They’ll approach the right editors at the right publishing houses. That means having impeccable contacts and staying current. (That’s also why, by the way, nearly all agents are based in New York or London. They need to be close to the publishers, and those fine cities are where the publishers hang out.)They’ll run a proper auction. That’s the salesy bit of their job, and most agents are very good at it.They’ll negotiate a proper contract for you. Publishing contracts today are typically up to twenty pages long (in the UK and US, though European ones are shorter). Contracts are full of abstruse terms and royalty rates, and you need to be an industry insider to navigate them properly. It’s not a task you can do yourself. I am a very experienced author myself and (because of my role in Jericho Writers) I am exceptionally well plugged into the wider publishing industry. But you know what? I still use an agent, because I make loads more money that way. And save myself a ton of hassle. And can draw on a ton of expertise that I couldn’t easily access any other way. So get an agent. Pay their fees. Write well. Be happy. Do you find this helpful? We have an entire video course on how to get published – it’s probably the most comprehensive such course anywhere in the world. Better than that: you can get the whole thing for free.Yep: free as in no money. As in: gratis. As in: fill your bootsBut the course is free only to members of Jericho Writers – who don’t just get that course, but they get access to AgentMatch (our super-premium literary agent search tool), a host of other courses and training materials, and exclusive live webinars with agents and authors.Does that sound like it might be of interest to you? We really hope it does. Learn more about membership or simply join us. We’d love it if you did! More On Finding An Agent Link to: 
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What are the odds of getting a book deal?

And how to get a book deal yourself … You’re at that scary submissions stage. Your manuscript is edited right down to the very last comma. It’s time to go out into the big wide world and GET THAT BOOK DEAL. But – uh – what exactly do you have to do … and what are the odds of success? OK, well, first things first – so here’s a brief, brief reminder of how to go about getting a book deal. If you need more info on any of the steps, then just dive into the links included – we’ve got you covered. (And for a jumbo guide on getting published, go here. That’ll be most useful for newbies, but will have something useful to say to pretty much anyone.) How To Get A Book Deal You want a book deal? So here’s the formula. This formula works for anyone wanting to be traditionally published (with a publisher, that is, rather than self-publishing via Amazon.) It also assumes that you are writing fiction or mainstream non-fiction – the sort of stuff you might find on the front tables of a larger bookstore. If that applies to you, then the formula for getting a book deal is: Write a dazzling bookMake a shortlist of literary agents (using this tool and this free signup option)Write a great query letter (using this guide)Write an awesome synopsis (here’s how to do it)Send your material out to 10-12 agentsLight candles, say prayers, drop scented flowers down a wishing well (lucky charms)Get an offer of representation from an agentDo any editorial work the agent suggests and which sounds sensible to youLet the agent auction your workAccept the best offer, which isn’t necessarily the highest one That looks like a lot of steps, but the only actually difficult step in that sequence is the very first one. And creating a blindingly good agent submission pack is pretty simple if you use our free worksheets, available here. What Are The Odds Of Getting A Literary Agent? Those odds are somewhat scary. A typical agent in NY or London receives approximately 2,000 submissions a year. They are likely to accept 2-3 writers from that deluge. Some agents will accept fewer. So, as a rough rule of thumb, and allowing for plenty of variation, the chance of getting an agent are about 1 in 1000. That sounds frightening, but you can and should apply to more than one agent, so the 1 in 1000 is perhaps more like 1 in 100. And, in any case, it’s not about the odds. If your book is blindingly good – if you’ve written a Hunger Games, or a Gone Girl, or an All the Light We Cannot See – your odds of getting an agent are essentially 100%. So don’t focus on the odds. Focus on your book. That’s the only part that really matters. What Are The Odds Of Getting A Book Deal? Well, you can look at this in two ways. From the agent’s end, it’s probably true that a good agent at a top class agency will sell approximately 2 books for every 3 he or she auctions. That is, the odds of a sale are about 67% – which is why most writers, correctly, think that getting an agent is the most significant hurdle between them and publication. But that’s to look at it from one end only. I spoke recently with one editor, who has a key job at one of London’s best publishers (a major part of a Big 5 house). In effect, that editor is as selective as it gets. These days, he receives, via literary agents, about 12 submissions a week. Those 12 submissions equate to about 600 manuscripts crossing his desk each year. And of those 600 manuscripts, he takes on maybe 3-4 new writers a year. (As well as, of course, continuing to publish the work of his existing stable of authors.) In other words, he buys less than 1% of the work being offered to him. Yikes! These stats are frankly terrifying, but they need to be taken in context. In particular: A smaller or less prestigious publisher will be less selective. Robert Hale (for example) or Choc Lit are decent publishers, but are smaller and less selective than the big guys. They’ll offer much smaller advances to authors and they won’t have the marketing heft of their larger rivals – but if you get an offer from them, it’s still a massive compliment to your work. It’s a real publishing deal and you should be elated.It’s also wrong to conclude that if you have an agent, you have only a 1% chance of getting a top-ranked publisher. It isn’t so. If agents are looking to auction a manuscript, they’ll typically send it out to 8-12 publishers – that is, to all the bigger publishers in town. So while an individual publisher might take just 1% of work submitted, that means an overall success rate of more like 10%. Something similar, of course, applies with submissions to agents.The better the agent, the higher that success rate will be. A top agent will reject any work that doesn’t come up to the right standard, will seize hold of any work that does come to the right standard, and will do so with a strong expectation of selling it. Even then, no agent I know has a 100% record, but the best agents will have a strike rate of well over 10%. So why does my Big 5 editor reject so much of what comes his way? In his opinion – and also mine – agents (mostly less well established ones) are sending work out before it’s properly ready. You don’t want your work set out early, which means it’s time to consider … How To Think About Getting A Book Deal In the end, though, the conclusion has little to do with odds or stats. The 2012 British Olympic team contained 541 athletes. The US Olympic team is that little bit larger. Either way, those numbers are larger than the number of debut novels being listed by elite UK or US publishers today. So you need to be (at least!) an Olympian-of-writing to make the grade. That’s the bad news. The good news is simply this: If you are in the world’s top 20-30 sprinters, you will get selected for the Olympics. If you’ve written one of the best espionage novels of the year, you will get published. In brutal market conditions, the standard required by top publishers is rising all the time, but the best work still gets selected, still attracts advances and investment, still gets published. What you need to worry about more than anything else is the quality of your work. Promising will not do, but dazzling is essential. One further conclusion. We’ve always been against writers sending their work to dozens & dozens of agents. Our own rule of thumb is that if you can’t attract a Yes from an agent in 8-12 (intelligently chosen and properly presented) submissions, then your manuscript is not yet good enough. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but for the most part the rule is a very good one. If you find send submissions to 200 agents, your chances of hooking an agent improve, but I’d say that your chance of getting a publisher remains the same as before. About 0%, if the first 8-12 agents turned you down. A Little Bit Of Boasting Here at Jericho Writers, we know a bit about getting agents. Writers who have come to us for editorial help or for one of our courses have a success rate that is at least 10 times better than the above numbers would suggest, and probably more. That’s not because we’re miracle workers, but because we focus relentlessly on the quality of your work. Which is what you need to do. Do that, add talent and a good idea, and you’ll make the grade. Just keep at it. More On Getting Published Link to: How to Get Your Book Published GETTING PUBLISHED All you need to know
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How to Write an Elevator Pitch for Your Novel

Writing is scary – but of all the scary things about it, perhaps the scariest is getting the concept right. The hard fact is: a lousy concept will kill your novel, no matter how good your actual writing is. And how can you isolate the concept? The thing which makes the difference between success or failure? The answer is via your elevator pitch – a very short summary of what makes your book so special. We’ll get to some examples in just a second, but let’s start by defining terms . . . and understanding just why your elevator pitch is such a massive deal. How To Write A Great Book Pitch: Keep it to 20 words or lessBe originalMake it memorable – An astronaut seeking to survive. A woman who fakes her own murder. An ordinary boy – an orphan! – going to an extraordinary school.The result should make the listener say, “tell me more!” What Is An Elevator Pitch For A Novel? And why does it matter so damn much? An elevator pitch is the term given to any sales pitch that could, in theory, be delivered in the space of a short elevator ride. The idea is that you might find yourself in the elevator with Someone Important who can’t, for those twenty or thirty seconds, escape or deflect your attentions – so you can use that time to deliver a sales pitch so utterly compelling that that Person of Importance is drawn in and wants to hear more. To be clear: this is a fantasy scenario. You are never likely to be called upon to pitch your book in this way. It’s just not how any normal submission process happens. (Or, for that matter, how any normal elevator ride happens. I’ve twice been in an elevator with the CEO of a major publisher. On both occasions, we chatted about the weather, or the shiny new canteen, or whatever people normally talk about in elevators.) But that notional elevator pitch still matters, because it’s a neat conceptual way to understand: the very heart of your book’s Unique Selling Point – which in turn determines,how literary agents could pitch your book to a publisherhow an acquiring editor could pitch that book internallyhow a sales team could pitch that book to retail buyershow a publicist could pitch that book to reviewershow you could describe the book – pithily but attractively – on social mediahow the book blurb could pitch that book to readers (online or physically) And no book succeeds unless it’s pitchable in that way. In fact, you can define an elevator pitch like this: An elevator pitch for a novel is a very short summary of what makes the book UniqueStriking,Fresh, andCompelling If your book pitch doesn’t tick those boxes, your book is unlikely to sell. An agent will think “can I pitch this to editors?” and think, No, probably not. An acquiring editor will think, “can I pitch this book in house?” and think, No, probably not. And so on down the chain. The book pitch is, in a way, the very heart of book marketing. It’s the heart of your product. The heart of your brand. How short is very short? Well, there are no set rules, but I’d suggest that fewer than 20 words is ideal. Fewer than 50 words is essential. If you like, you can think of the pitch as being something that would work and stand out amongst the hurly-burly of social media. If you had just 280 characters to talk about your book, what would you say? That’s not a bad discipline to apply. Brevity is key, not because that theoretical elevator ride is short, but because you need to isolate what is special about your book. That means discarding nearly everything about the book – for example, the settings, the plot twists, the great characters, the genius denouement, and so on. Sure, you need to get to those things in time. If the Very Important Person in the elevator gets out on the same floor as you and says, “Sounds great, tell me more”, then all those other things are going to matter too. A great elevator pitch is essential, yes, but it’s never enough on its own. But still. The elevator pitch is very short. And it matters. Example Elevator Pitches How successful novels get that way . . . Here are some examples of elevator pitches. These are our versions of the pitch in each case – our attempt to isolate what makes these books special. So here goes: TwilightA teen romance between an ordinary girl and a boy who is actually a vampire.[15 words] The Da Vinci CodeA professor of symbology unlocks codes buried in ancient works of art as he hunts for the Holy Grail.[19 words] Gone GirlA wife (Amy) goes missing, and her husband is suspected of murder. But the sweet diary-writing Amy of the first half of the book is revealed to be a very different woman in the second half . . .[36 words] The MartianAstronaut, stranded on Mars, has to figure out how to survive.[11 words] Brokeback MountainA love story between two male cowboys[7 words] Harry Potter seriesOrphan boy goes to school for wizards[7 words] Alex Rider seriesYoung James Bond[3 words] I hope it’s obvious that these books all have great premises. We’ll look at exactly what makes these ideas so great in a second . . . but first let’s have some (made up) examples of elevator pitches for books that could never sell. So here are some really bad elevator pitches: Eco-fantasy for 6-7sThree children go to a fantasy world where they must save the planet and learn about the importance of recycling and the dangers posed by electro-magnetic radiation. Non-literary literary fictionA slightly mediocre book about two somewhat boring people in whose lives nothing seems to happen. Paranormal romance (2018)A teen romance between an ordinary girl and a boy who is actually a vampire. We get books like these, as do literary agents. Anything lacking a grabbing, easily communicated pitch is already at a disadvantage . . . or to put that more bluntly: will simply never sell. And notice that the paranormal romance pitch in the list just above is exactly the same as the pitch we put together for Stephenie Meyer’s hyper-successful Twilight. What makes this second pitch so terrible, and the first one so great? It’s timing of course. Agents need something that will make editors sit up and say, “Hey, tell me more.” When Twilight first came out, that pitch was electric. Now? It’s so tired, it needs to sleep. Need more help? If you want more help on anything in this post, then do check out our How To Write course that has a crazy-good 1 hour video on these exact topics. The course itself is quite pricey, so we generally recommend taking out a cheap monthly membership which gives you access to EVERYTHING we offer in terms of video courses, masterclasses, etc – and at an easily affordable, cancel-any-time price. Find out loads more here How To Write Your Elevator Pitch OK. So you know why an elevator pitch matters so much – because it’s THE key sales element in the chains that runs from: You ⇒ Agent ⇒ Acquiring editor ⇒ Publisher Publisher’s sales team ⇒ Retail buyer ⇒ ReaderPublisher’s publicity & marketing team ⇒ Reviewers ⇒ Reader You know what you want to achieve: a pitch that is Short, Unique, Striking, Fresh, and Compelling. So how do you actually achieve that? The most important thing to understand is that you throw out almost everything in your novel. Take that Harry Potter elevator pitch: “Orphan boy goes to school for wizards.” That doesn’t say: Anything about VoldemortAnything about Harry’s parentsAnything about his muggle uncle & auntAnything about Hermione & RonAnything about his summons to the schoolAnything about the specific storylines once Harry is at Hogwarts And that’s not just OK. It’s  good. That’s the whole point of the exercise. You are not seeking to explain your book in the elevator pitch. The only answer you are seeking to elicit is, “Hey, that sounds interesting. Tell me more.” When you get the “tell me more” type response from anyone (the agent, the acquiring editor, etc), you know you’re golden. That’s the point at which you can start to explain the broader context and story of your book, confident in the knowledge that you already have a good hold on your listener’s attention and interest. Great pitches combine a tiny bit of WHAT the book is (eg: in Twilight‘s case, that’s a teen romance), with a sense of WHY the book will be great to read (eg: “ooh, a girl and a werewolf: that sounds dark and sexy . . . and scary . . . and sexy . . .”) So the way to write your elevator pitch is to ignore everything about your book . . . except the aspect that will most make your reader say, “tell me more.” There’s no one approach you have to take. So the Harry Potter elevator pitch worked with a setting (that school for wizards. The Gone Girl one relied on its twist. (Real Amy is different from diary-Amy!) The Martian one relied on a setup / premise. (Astronaut stranded on Mars: how does he survive?) And so on. Remove everything from your book description except the part that most interests the reader. And keep your pitch intensely short. Under 20 words is good. Under 10 words is excellent. Anything over 50 words? That’s not an elevator pitch; that’s a snoozefest. Is Your Elevator Pitch Any Damn Good? And what you should do if it’s not. So write your elevator pitch. And that means: Actually do it! Or, in fact, it means: Actually do it right now this minute,or I’m going to get a mite tetchy. Reading a blog post about elevator pitches is a genius idea if it impels action: if you actually start to write and examine your own elevator pitch. Reading the same blog post if you don’t actually DO anything as a result doesn’t count as research. It’s procrastination. OK, so you have written / are currently sketching your elevator pitch. So is it any good? Do you have a saleable novel in front of you? Or an unsaleable clunker? Well, once you have a draft of your elevator pitch, you simply need to ask yourself, is it: Very short (<20 words, for preference)?Unique – does it feel original? Does it feel distinct from all the other books out there at the moment?Striking – is there an edge? Do you feel a glimmer of steel somewhere? (An astonaut seeking to survive. A wife who fakes her own murder. An ordinary boy – an orphan! – going to an extraordinary school.)Fresh – does your idea feel timely? Does it feel like part of the next iteration of what’s happening in your genre / fiction in general?Compelling – does it make any listener say, “Hey, that’s great, tell me more.”? If your pitch checks those boxes then, my friend, you have a winner. Sure, you still have a lot of work to do in actually writing the novel that lives up to the pitch – but yo’re on the right track. Congratulations. And if not – if you have an uneasy sense that you haven’t yet nailed this issue – then you have to nail it. Don’t con yourself into doing more work on that awkward Chapter 27. Or finessing the character of Bazhran the Bad any further. You have to write a novel whose pitch gets a reader to that crucial, “Tell me more” point. Oh, and if you aren’t sure whether your pitch has nailed it or not, then – trust me – your pitch hasn’t nailed it. We’ve got some great suggestions for how to develop and improve your core ideas right here. And of course members of our club get absolutely tons of help, all wrapped up free within your (cancel-any-time) membership. We’ve got an awesome How To Write course, plus masses of material on getting published, plus filmed interviews with agents and publishers, plus so much more as well. Do pop over to the Club welcome page and learn more. We’re here for writers – and we’d love you to join us! About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide)

Do you need an agent? Are they worth it?And how do you actually maximise your chances of getting one?A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE Getting an agent may feel impossible, but it really isn’t. There’s only one difficult step in the whole process (that’s step 1, below). The rest of it, honestly, is fairly easy. Just be disciplined, persistent, and follow this guide to finding agents. Find A Literary Agent In 8 Simple Steps: Write a wonderful bookHave realistic expectationsPrepare your manuscript properlySelect agents with careSend out simultaneous submissionsPrepare for agent rejections – it happens, a lotReview your progressGet out there: go to events and meet agents We’re going to tell you everything you need to know to get the literary agent of your dreams . . . but before we even get there, have you wondered: Do I Actually Need A Literary Agent? The answer to that question depends on who you are and what you are writing. You definitely DO NOT need a literary agent if: You are self-publishing your work on Amazon. You can just upload your material for free without anyone’s permission or approval. The only time you would need a literary agent as a self-published author is if you sold a lot of copies in the English language, and you needed an agent’s help with foreign language sales, audio sales, film/TV rights, and the rest.You are writing poetry or flash fiction or other non-commercial art forms. Basically: agents are there to make money. If your work is basically art-for-art’s-sake then (a) great for you, but (b) forget about an agent – they’re in it for the $$$.You are writing niche titles that won’t attract significant advances. Let’s say, for example, you are writing a book on “How to Care For Your New Alpaca”. I guess there IS a market out there for alpaca owners who need that kind of book. But any advance from a traditional publisher will be probably zero, or maybe $1000 at the very, very outside. Take 15% of that number, and it’s just not enough to get any agent excited. So titles like that are great. They totally deserve to exist. But forget about agents. They’re not interested. Flipping to the other side of things – the zone where big advances are (often) sought and (sometimes) paid . . . You DO need an agent if: You are writing a novel. Basically: all the big publishers (the ones who dominate book stores; the ones who dominate the reviews pages in newspapers, etc) only take seriously submissions that come to them via literary agents. So if you don’t have an agent, you are seriously harming your chances of being taken seriously by the exact group of firms you most want to have bidding for your work. So get an agent.You are writing a children’s novel. Read the paragraph above. Every word of that applies to you.You are writing broad, general interest non-fiction. Walk into a large Barnes & Noble or a large Waterstones, if you live in the UK. Look around at the front tables and seek out any of them that are selling non-fiction. Ask yourself, “could my book live here?” If the answer to that question is YES, then you need a literary agent, essentially for the exact same reason as applies to novelists. If the answer to the question is NO (probably because the book you’ve written is too niche to appeal to the general reader), then it’s doubtful whether you need an agent . . . or an agent needs your business. There are of course plenty of shades of grey in between these two basic blocks. So common “well, it all depends” type authors might be: Authors of picture books or other very short books for children. Some of these authors choose to have agents. Some don’t. I think the best advice for newbies (given without me knowing your specific situation, obviously) is: Use a literary agent when you first enter the industry, then take stock after a year or two, once you’ve got a sense for how things work.Authors of narrowly subject-led non-fiction, where the potential market is large. So books on health, diet and cooking can be niche and subject-led in some sense, but since books of that sort often pop-up on bestseller lists, agents are interested. You just have to be sensible in judging the sales potential of your work – agents will be ruthless in doing the same! Clear? Great. There’s just a couple more questions we get asked A LOT, so we may as well clear those up too. They are: How Much Do Literary Agents Cost? And this question has a really nice, clean, clear answer. First: agents cost nothing. Not one dime upfront – or, in a way, ever. They charge only on commission – so, typically, they ask for 15% of any income earned on home sales and 20% of anything earned on overseas or film/TV sales. So if they don’t make money for you, they don’t make money for themselves. But the upfront cost to you is $0.00 . . . or, if you prefer to think in the British pound sterling then, at current exchange rates, that comes to exactly £0.00. (I’m writing as an author of 20 years experience and, aside from commission, I have paid my agent exactly nothing in those years. My agent has done very well out of my business, all the same!) Are Literary Agents Worth It? And are agents worth it? Well, let me see: You get access to publishers who would otherwise not take you seriously – and those are the publishers with the huge sacks of money availableYou get access to the exact right person at those publishers (because it is an agent’s job to know who’s who there.)You get someone with intense experience of conducting auctions for properties like yoursYou get someone who can organise the exact same thing globally – and where your agent doesn’t know the territory themselves (Bulgaria say, or South Korea), they’ll work with a trusted counterparty who doesYou can get someone who has trodden the book to film route before and can guide you through that (most treacherous) maze.You get someone of real editorial acuity who, most importantly, knows the market for your book and how to optimise your writing for that marketYou get someone whose financial interests are slam-bam exactly the same as yours. So, uh, is an agent worth it . . .? It’s a daft question. Personally, I’ve made a lot of money from writing over the years, and have shared a chunk of that with my agent. And also: I’m almost certainly more plugged into the market than you are; probably know more about selling books; have better contacts; and much else. But my agent hasn’t just earned back his 15% over the years; he has increased my income severalfold over what it would have been if I’d had sole charge. I’m a very experienced author with superb industry contacts and I wouldn’t even dream of being without my agent. So if you are in the “gotta have an agent” category above, then get a damn agent. You need one. You’ll make more money that way. You’ll also have a stronger and more personally/artistically rewarding career. So just do it, OK? Right. Preamble over. Now let’s jump into how to actually find that literary agent – assuming you are a good writer, but with zero track record. Write A Wonderful Book Bear in mind you’re competing against the very best in the business. If you are writing spy thrillers, your books will be competing against John Le Carre’s and at the same price, with less publicity, less uptake from the bookstores. The moral there is simple: Hold your work to the highest of high standards. A competent book will never be taken on by an agent. A good book is unlikely to be taken on. A dazzling book WILL be taken on . . . and could well go on to sell for a lot of money. Most writers don’t want to hear that advice, but truthfully? It’s the only advice that really, really matters. You can’t ignore it. And though this blog post is not just going to pressure you into buying our services, it’s probably helpful to remind you that the gold-standard way of improving your manuscript is to get editorial advice from professional readers such as those we can supply. The details of what we offer can be found right here. If you’ve tried your luck with agents and got nowhere, then the chances are that one of the following apply to you: You haven’t tried enough agents, or you’ve tried the wrong ones.Your approach to agents has been howlingly bad.Your book just isn’t yet good enoughYour novel has just totally misjudged the market – for example by having a word count that is either way over or way under what agents and publishers are seeking. (Word count guidelines here.) Of these, the third issue is by far the most common one, so if you’ve sought admittance to Planet Agent and got nowhere fast, then your probable next step should be to get editorial help. Need more help? Members of Jericho Writers can get free access to a ton of materials, including our 17-video course on How To Write – a course that has had a zillion rave reviews from writers like you already. The course itself is quite costly to buy outright, but Jericho members get free access to it, and everything else. Learn more about our cancel-any-time membership, or just treat yourself and sign up. Have Realistic Expectations Literary agents spend most of their time handling existing clients. A typical agent might take on just two new authors a year, and most agents receive around 2,000 manuscripts a year. That means that, inevitably, they reject most submissions. What’s more, very few publishers have interest in unsolicited contributions. This is disheartening, of course – but it’s not about odds, it’s about: Quality. If your book is strong enough, it will sell. We have virtually never seen an exception to that rule, and we have handled thousands of client manuscripts over the years.Professionalism. We’ve had clients who have sent their (very good) manuscripts out to 2-3 agents. They didn’t get a positive response. So they gave up. I once encountered such a client at a crime writing festival. I knew our editor had rated her manuscript, so I asked how she’d got on. She told me that she’d been to three agents, hadn’t got anywhere, and just shelved the manuscript. I pretty much yelled at her. You can’t do that. I told her she needed to reach out to at least a dozen agents in total before drawing any final conclusions. So she did. And she got an agent. And then a book deal.Persistence. And let’s say you take your first book out to 12 agents. No one offers you a deal, but you get back some encouraging comments. What then? What choices are you going to make. if you quit, you are not a writer and never really were one. That’s when the real writer keeps going. You might write another book. You might take your existing book and get editorial help on it. You might rework your idea, and just take your original idea down a different and more exciting road. Shortly before writing these words, I watched a TV show here in the UK, in which a writer – Mandy Berriman – talked to a major TV host on primetime TV about her debut book deal. I was so proud, I actually had tears in my eye. You want to know why? Because Mandy had been one of our first ever clients. More than ten years previously, I’d read the first words of creative writing she’d ever written as an adult. The work was raw, but still shone with a warmth and authenticity that I always believed would and should result in a book deal. It took a long time – and there were agents and rejections aplenty along the way – but she got there. Like you, she started out with no track record at all – and she ended up on TV, with a great publisher and brilliant sales. Persistence or talent, which would you rather? After a long time in this game, I can tell you that persistence wins every single time. Prepare Your Manuscript Properly Agents see hundreds of manuscripts. Don’t rule yours out on silly things. Eliminate spelling errors and don’t rely on a computer spell check (too to his four ewe). If your spelling is poor, ask a friend to help. If your punctuation is bad, do the same. And get the layout right. That means Times New Roman font or Garamond or something similar, with a font size of 12. Normal margins. Double-spaced, or 1.5 line spacing. If you really want to go sans serif in your choice of font (what’s sans serif?) – and we’d advise against – go with something normal and widely seen, like Arial or Calibri. Lay your manuscript out like a book, not a business document, which means no space between paragraphs, and with the first line slightly indented. Every page should be numbered, your title and your name in the header. Your title page should contain your title, your name and your contact details. Nothing else. You do not need to worry about copyright, either – you already own the copyright. Making a fuss about it marks you as an amateur. Really though, there are no absolute rules when it comes to manuscript presentation – unlike in screenwriting, for example, where incorrect formatting means you’ve failed before you’ve started. That means that as long as you produce a clean, professional-looking document nothing else really matters. Pro tip. Don’t name your documents for your convenience; think about your agent instead. So whereas you are unlikely to be confused by a document called novel.doc on your computer, that’s of no help to an agent sifting 30 unread manuscripts on her e-reader. So call your manuscript, for example, A Farewell to Legs, Ernetta Hummingbird, First 10K words. doc. That’s cumbersome from your point of view – but amazingly helpful to the agent. And it’s the agent you’re trying to impress! Select Agents With Care Agents may take up to two months to read your book (or pretend to read it, anyway). You may need to apply a fair few times before you strike lucky, so we strongly recommend you make multiple simultaneous submissions. The old “one agent at a time” rule was only ever for the benefit of agents, not authors, and you should ignore it completely. How To Find An Agent The Hard And Painful Way It’s easy to find an agent the painful way. You just Google “literary agents” and spend the next three days solid researching. Bear in mind that Google has no idea which agents are good or bad, so the search rankings on Google have virtually no relation at all to agent quality. Not happy with that? OK, here’s another painful approach you could take. You could buy a book. (Remember those? Things made out of pulped up wood. You used to see them around a lot.) In the US, you’d probably buy Writer’s Market. In the UK, you’d get the quaintly named Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. Then you’d sit there turning pages, and hitting the internet hard, when the text was insufficient. How To Find An Agent In A Clunky But Acceptable Way Better than either of those approaches would be to sign up to – a free agent-search tool that is remarkably good given the price point. The tool is OK-ish for the US, and a bit crummy elsewhere, but I’d still prefer to start a search there with Google or with a book. One step up again, and you have the agent database tools of Writer’s Market. Those are paid-for and better than AgentQuery, but frankly they still look like something developed ten years ago and not improved since. The world of today can surely do better than that, right? How To Find An Agent With Ease And Happiness Or of course you could become a member of Jericho Writers. Our AgentMatch tool is quite simply the best in the world. If you want to find, let’s say “A relatively new literary agent, who is actively seeking new clients, and is open to SF/fantasy submissions” then you can perform that search in approximately 15 seconds. Or maybe just 7 seconds if your fingers move fast. Then when you want to learn more about any given agent, you just dive into their individual profile, where one of our native English-speaking graduate researchers (most of whom have BAs / MAs in English or Creative Writing) has put together a detailed profile, along with a ton of specific data about that agent. In the meantime, you can view our comprehensive lists of: All the literary agents in the USAll the literary agents in the UK You should probably also take a look at our jumbo literary agent “your questions answered” page. Sounds interesting? Course it does. Learn more about becoming a member of Jericho Writers or just sign up now. Send Out Simultaneous Submissions Most agents have submission guidelines that require the following: Your first 3 chapters, 10,000 words, or 50 pages of your manuscript (check individual requirements);A short query letter (or covering letter; they mean the same.) Get help on your query letter here.A 500-700-word synopsis, unless agency guidelines explicitly ask for something else. Synopsis help here. Most agencies take submissions by email, but again, check guidelines and follow agency submission guidelines scrupulously. (They will vary.) How Many Literary Agents Should You Approach? You are aiming to generate a shortlist of about a dozen names. What you’re looking for is: Agents who are open to your genreAgents who are genuinely open to new clients (which will often mean younger, newer agents)Agents with a good attitude to authors generally – something you can often tell from how open and transparent they are on their website or in interviews.Agents with whom you can find some point of contact. So it might be that a given agent has one of your favourite authors on their client list (in your genre or out of it), or said something in a blog post somewhere that really resonated with you, or shares a passion (for sailing say, or synchronised swimming.) Why a dozen agents? Answer, because if you approach fewer than that, you risk being rejected just because the handful of agents you approached had their hands full of existing work at the time you approached them. So why not more than that? Well, OK, you could go to more. 15 would be fine, and maybe even 18 wouldn’t be crazy. But really, as soon as you are querying 10 or more agents, one of those guys WILL pick your book up, if your book is good enough. If you send your book out to 12 agents, and get either rejection slips or silence then you are normally better off getting top quality editorial advice on your manuscript (we recommend our services!), than just badgering more agents. In at least 99% of cases, the issue is to do with the manuscript, not with the initial selection of agents. Where Should I Look For Agents? The two centres of publishing are New York and London. Most literary agents are based in one of those two cities, because most international trade publishing is based there too. (In the English-language, I mean.) If you are American or Canadian (or resident there), you should almost certainly be looking for a US agent, or at least one who is very intimately involved in the New York publishing world. Likewise, if you are British or Irish (or resident there), you should be looking at a UK-based agent (most likely London), or at least one who is highly acquainted with that world – as for example some agents in Dublin or Edinburgh. If you’re not lucky enough to be a citizen of one of those fine countries, then you can pretty much take your pick of London and New York. Because you don’t quite belong in either territory, you can perfectly well take your pick of either. Australians can certainly consider local representation, but equally well look further afield. Lucky you. How To Write A Query Letter (Or, Covering Letter) It’s not hard to write a good query letter (still often called a covering letter in the UK.) In fact, if you can write a half-decent book, you can unquestionably write a perfectly good query letter. Here for example, is a fine example of the genre: Dear Mr Redintooth,I am currently seeking an agent for my first novel, A Farewell To Legs. The novel (of about 70,000 words) tells a love story, set against the background of a busy amputation clinic in Bangalore. I have enclosed the first three chapters plus a brief synopsis with this submission. I am a thirty-year-old accountant.[Then one short paragraph of no more than 100 words describing the setting / hero / premise of the book]The story arose from my own experiences during a recent trip to Bangalore. The book attempts to deal with themes of loss and suffering in an accessible, moving, and uplifting way. I was particularly keen to write to you, after your success with Goodbye, Little Ear, the autobiographical work by Mr Van Gogh.I very much look forward to hearing from you.I look forward to hearing from you.Yours,Ms Mildasmilk If you have completed a well-recognised MFA or creative writing course, then say so. If you are a professional writer in any other capacity (in journalism, TV, radio, etc), then say so. Ditto, if you’ve won any prize that has real merit. If you have a recommendation from ourselves or any other person or organisation likely to command respect, then you can say so too – but expect to be checked up on. But it’s really OK if you are Mr or Ms Unknown of Nowheresville. My own literary agent once had a totally unsolicited submission from an unknown Englishwoman living out in the Middle East. He liked her writing and took her on . . . and that author has gone on to write (and sell) a book or two – and win a small mountain of literary prizes to boot. ALL agents have stories like that, so you need have no anxieties about being unknown. It’s the manuscript that matters, not the person behind it. Need more help with your query letter? Probably – it’s really important to get things like that right. Well, funnily enough we have an entire video course on Getting Published, with a full length video on writing the perfect query letter . . . and writing the perfect synopsis . . . and absolute everything else mentioned in this blog post. If you wanna get your hands on the course, you can buy it (but it’s pricey), or become a member of Jericho Writers and get unrestricted access to it – and everything else – at no additional cost. Interested? Learn more, or sign up here. How Not To Write A Covering Letter Never write a covering letter which looks anything like the following. Dear Ms Redinclaw, Allow me to present my first novel, an epic tale of love and cannibalism set against the sweeping backdrop of the Hackney Road Cleansing Services department. My style combines the sassy, street-smart writing of Martin Amis with the philosophical scope and ambition of George Orwell. I’ve attached a five-page synopsis, blurb for the rear cover, a short three-page bio and photograph, and a sketch marketing plan for the North American areas. I have sent the book to several agents and expect to be ready to interview my shortlist in the last week of December. Yours in expectation, Mr Littlelamb When you’re ready, send out your letters (which don’t look like the above). How To Write A Synopsis For Literary Agents Most literary agents will ask you for a synopsis of your work. (More synopsis help.) Your synopsis: Should relate the story of your novel, from start to finish.Should be about 500 words long, and no longer than 800 words. (It’s true that some agents ask for bizarrely long synopses, but those guys are definitely in a dwindling minority.)Is not a book blurb. It’s not selling text, and it doesn’t cut off at a “would she solve the crime? or lose her life?” type of cliffhanger. It just relates the whole story, soup to nuts.Should be written in clear, good EnglishShould sketch in character’s emotions and emotional journeyBut here’s a time where you should definitely tell not show. (So you’d say, “Feeling hurt by the rejection, Briony  . . .” This is not a time when you’d say, “Tears of hurt and fury trembling on her lashes, Briony . . .”)Does NOT have to detail every plot twist of the story. You can’t do that. You don’t have room – and the agent doesn’t want all that here anyway. How do you do all that without going insane? You do it by building up, not paring down. Starting with the structure and building upwards from there. One really good tip to make sure you do this right is to make sure you don’t have your manuscript at your side or open on your laptop when you put together your synopsis. If you do that, you’ll start to worry how to incorporate that stunning plot twist in chapter 27, and how to convey Dorothy’s perplexity in Chapter 41. You’re going to tell me you’ve got really great training material on all this, aren’t you?Uh-huh. Like really great. material that will help you write a great synopsis in one hour flat.And that it’s free to members of Jericho Writers.Uh-huh.Ah, dammit. ** Goes to check out the sign up page ** Prepare For Agent Rejections – It Happens, A Lot It doesn’t matter how good your book is, it’ll be rejected. J.K. Rowling was rejected, too – it doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad – so don’t take this too personally. Reasons Why Literary Agents May Reject Your Work They’re busy with clientsThey’re on maternity leave and haven’t updated their websiteThey’re not very efficient and have 2,000 unopened submissions. (Not a fictional idea that – we’ve come across worse in our time.)They’re just not that into your book, but thought it was basically fineThey have an author who is writing closely competing workThey have gone mad / fallen drunk / decided to follow the Buddhist pathThey really, really liked it. They just didn’t like it quite enough We recommend approaching about a dozen agents and splitting that into two waves of submissions. If you want to approach as many as fifteen, that too is fine. If you can’t impress about one in ten agents, your chances of impressing a publisher (harder to sway than agents) are proportionally small. If you have sent the book to Mr Jones at XYZ agency, then it is okay to send the book to Ms Smith at the same agency, and unless you’re very purist, don’t feel the need to mention your earlier rejection. (By the way, this tip was given to us by an agent. You don’t need to feel especially naughty doing it). In truth, there are plenty of agents out there, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty in finding possible targets. Again, using AgentMatch, our proprietary search tool, should make all that a lot, lot easier. Review Your Progress If you’ve received fewer than ten rejections, keep going. If you’ve had twelve or more, review your book – where is it flagging? Remember that there are only two reasons why manuscripts fail: Your book isn’t there yet. This is overwhelmingly the most common reason.You’ve made a mess of approaching agents. If you handle your submissions process with proper professionalism – and the fact that you’ve read a monster post this far already is a very good sign! – then #2 above won’t apply to you. So then the question is, how near or far are you from success. The submissions process itself should give you some clue: You have had warm, personal and encouraging rejections. That’s great. That means you are in the zone. You just need to identify any remaining issues in your text, then nail them. If you are in this category, you would be nuts not to seek professional editorial feedback. We recommend our services, cos they’re the best!You have had at least one request for your full manuscript. Sort of like the above, except the slightly dilute version. Again, if I were in that camp, I’d certainly be seeking editorial help.You have had no full manuscript requests / no warm feedback / silence / standard issue rejection slips. All that means – nothing much. Your manuscript could be in the top 10-15% of all manuscripts submitted and come to that same end. You really could be a future bestseller, and have that outcome with your first round of submissions. (We’ve actually had numerous clients of whom something like that is basically true.) Remember I told you earlier that I rated persistence above talent? Yep. Well, this is the stage where you find out quite why that matters so much. You just keep on keeping on. You’re a writer. You’re made of steel. Get Out There: Go To Events And Meet Agents Finally, if you want to meet agents in person and get feedback from them directly, you can. Our Festival of Writing brings committed writers face-to-face with agents every year. You’ll get direct feedback on work and, just as useful, hear agents talk about the realities of their industry, what they’re looking for, any tips and advice they can give. (Joanna Cannon is one author who signed with her agent just after the Festival.) Keep up-to-speed with our events, hosted (chiefly) in London and Oxford. You’ll meet agents, editors, publishers – and it’s uplifting to realise the industry is warm, welcoming, open to new writers. Oh, and lengthy as this guide is, we know that some of you will still have questions. For that reason, we’ve put together our jumbo literary agent explainer – a kind of FAQ for all things agent. You’ll probably want to take a peep at our Getting Published guide as well. You can get that here. Hope that helps. Happy writing – we’re rooting for you.
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