Updated: Oct 6, 2021
The process of “applying” for an agent to represent you is called querying and there’s a lot that goes into it. To help you stand out from the crowd, check out these tried-and-true tips to help you get agented:
Send your strongest manuscript
When an agent likes your picture book, they usually respond with “What else do you have?” Most of the time, agents are looking for career authors, so you want to have a few other manuscripts on hand but you should be sending out your strongest one to capture an agent’s attention and give yourself the best chance of gaining representation.
One of the best ways to do that is to put your book beside similar titles and pinpoint what makes yours special. If you can’t find anything, then head back to the drawing board and get to work!
Find strong comps
Comps (comparable titles) are other books that are similar to yours. When you query agents, they may ask for comps. Some authors get confused by this because they think that agents and publishers are looking for stories that are 100% unique. But that’s only half true.
Agents and publishers want to make money, which means they don’t want to take risks. They want to know that your book will sell. So the key is to find other successful books that have elements similar to yours and present those as evidence that your book will be a hit! It’s also proof to an agent that you’ve been investing time reading other picture books and learning the industry. If you can’t find any/many, you can always say: _______ meets _______ to pull specific elements from other titles.
Do NOT mistake strong comps for big name authors. For example, if your book rhymes, don’t name-drop Dr. Suess unless your book is similar to his in many ways. Instead, find other rhyming books with similar content and themes as yours. Strong comps = relevant to your book.
Do your research
The submission requirements for agents are all different which means you need to read carefully before you submit. Not only that, but their tastes change. An agent might have been looking for non-rhyming picture books about seasons one week but then received hundreds of queries for books like that and is now looking for something different this week. Their tastes are fluid as they see, hear, and learn what publishers are actively looking for.
Some agents use an online platform for queries while others prefer email. Many who ask for emails don’t want attachments so it’s important to read the guidelines for each agent you’re interested in before you query them.
Some of the best places to look for agents for your book are Query Tracker, Manuscript Wishlist, and Twitter (#MSWL)
For more information on how to use Twitter to get traditionally published, read this blog post next!
Make sure you develop some way to keep a log of who you’ve submitted to and what their response was. Most agents don’t want to be queried by the same person more than once but that is a loose rule. It’s more about the impression you left on them.
Use social media
Throughout the year, there are various Twitter pitches that you can participate in. During these events, agents skim through people’s pitches and favorite the ones they like. When they do, that’s an invitation to query them!
But Twitter is a great tool outside of pitch events too. It’s the best place to network with authors, editors, and agents in the traditional publishing industry easily and for free. All you need to do is start following some literary agents and before you know it, your recommendations will be full of people from the book industry that you can connect with and learn from.
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