Finding a Literary Agent

I know we have some working authors around. How does one hook up with an agent? I’m working on a manuscript that I’d like to eventually have published by a press in the Penguin group or something of that caliber; my boss recently confided that she has written a Harlequin-type manuscript that she is interested in publishing. What is the next step?

Sorry if this has been covered before; it appears my search talents are not what they should be.

Writer’s Market.

She sounds ignorant of the romance market though. That’s never a good sign. Harlequin’s submission guidelines. They take unagented manuscripts, as long as they conform to their very specific guidelines. BTW, they don’t take anything, agented or not, that doesn’t conform to their guidelines.

Check out Preditors and Editors, too:

Just a note – I’ve had one book published by a major publisher and have been a Contributing Editor myself, with two regular columns and a host of other publications. I’ve been trying to get an agent now for several years, without any success. Most of the time, I don’t even hear back from my queries.
Tell your friend to keep persevering, but it might be a long haul.

It is always difficult to get an agent, and there is a temptation to cut corners.

Keep in mind the one inflexible rule: never, under any circumstances whatsoever, pay money to an agent.

If an agent asks for money, no matter how reasonable it might sound, run away. He will not get you published and will only take your money and do nothing.

The next step for the OP, before anything else, is to finish the manuscript. (That includes proofreading.) Agents interested in your manuscript will want to read the entire thing. Then Preditors and Editors.

She isn’t too far down the road, no. We’re talking big toe in water.

There are a number of books - go figure - on obtaining a literary agent. You should be able to find them in a local library, although those are often too old to be useful. The publishing world is changing rapidly. If you have a bit of money search Amazon or go to a bookstore.

It is more difficult to get an agent now than ever. The number of people who want to become writers keeps increasing. To get an agent you have to do everything right, and by everything I mean that’s what the book would be for. But it would include proper manuscript presentation, writing a cover letter, finding out how to find an agent that works in the field you want to write on, and so forth.

And yes, finishing a novel before doing anything is critical. (Nonfiction usually requires a chapter and outline instead.) Proofreading too. A single mistake in a cover letter or opening page will get you bounced. Quite rightly. It means you aren’t professional enough to be worth the time spent on a client.

The romance novel field is almost a separate world. The Romance Writers of America accept would-be writers as members and provides them with loads of instructional materials and contests. A few romance publishers will accept non-agented submissions and the RWA will have the info on which, along with info on which agents are open to submissions. I also hope your boss knows that the generic Harlequin-type manuscript hasn’t existed for many years, not even inside of Harlequin.

Just as a general comment: I hate it when people say things like they are working on a manuscript and want advice. That’s the equivalent of saying I need to buy a machine that moves on wheels, can you help me? The difference between a mainstream novel, a genre novel, a YA novel, and a children’s book alone are as big as the differences between cars, buses, golf carts, and humvees. And that goes up by an order of magnitude for other types of manuscripts. Generic advice can’t be given, and following it may be fatal.

The only interest that an agent has ever shown in representing me has come from the agent, not as a result of my searching for one. Once, I got a short story published and an agent wrote to me asking if it was part of a novel (and it was–the title chapter, in fact.) Another time, an agent approached me about a children’s book I mentioned. But my searches for agents have always resulted in rejection, so I’ve got very little encouragement for oyu.

Just one thing…we already are writers. What we want is to become published authors. There. Emotions addressed.

Practicality-wise, I hope to be published posthumously. If my death is sensational enough.

Check out Publishers Marketplace There you can find the top selling agents of any type of work, romance, sci-fi, etc. You will also see the works they represent. Find agents who represent the kind of stuff you write then look around online for interviews with them, articles by or about them, blogs, all of that. That’ll help you get a feel for them and see if they’re a match.

From there just follow their individual submission guidelines.

Oh, PM Is a paid site but it’s reasonable and in my experience incredibly helpful. (FYI: I am an agented novelist who publishes with a major house)

Thanks, Cloud. Good stuff.