Tag Archives: I want to get published

Researching Literary Agents in 2022

16 May

As promised in my last post – Writing a Great One-Line Pitch for Your 2022 Query LetterI wanted to talk about researching literary agents in 2022. Granted, I am going to start with the caveat that I only have experience querying kidlit books. More specifically YA/MG, contemporary and fantasy. So that’s where this post will lean. 

That said…

Let’s start by talking about Query Tracker. Why? Because it’s a godsend. Not only is it free to use–unless you want to pay an annual fee of $25 for the premium version (which I recommend)–it’s also a fantastic research tool for querying writers (and a super easy way to stay organized). I cannot emphasize this enough: I love Query Tracker. Not only can you look up agents by genre and age category, you can also track your letters, see agent response times, read comments from other querying writers, and put agents on a to-query/not-to-query list. But there’s even more tools than that! Did you know you can look up the representation of specific authors? It’s called the Who Reps Whom page. This is a fantastic tool if you are looking at comp titles and the author doesn’t list their agent on their website or social media profiles. Granted, it’s my understanding that this page is showing who currently represents the author, not necessary who sold their books, so if you have a specific book you’re looking at as a comparison title, it might be a good idea to look up that particular sale or look in the acknowledgements page to see if the author mentioned that agent. 

Query Tracker also shows response/request rates, which I think can help you decide who to submit to (particularly at agencies where a “no from one means a no from all.”) It’s also really easy to see if the agent is even open to queries before you dive deep into researching. (There’s nothing more frustrating than spending thirty minutes researching an agent only to find out they’re closed when you finally go to submit.) So many agents/agencies are closed right now! I cannot tell you how much time you’ll save by checking Query Tracker first. 

Other than Query Tracker, I recommend subscribing to Publishers Weekly’s free newsletters. If you know you are about to query a kidlit book, for instance, I highly encourage you to subscribe to Children’s Bookshelf. While writing my novel, I used it to track recent sales and get a feel for how those pitches are worded. (Also, while you’re taking some time to jot down which agents are selling, take note of which editors are buying similar books, too. That may help you suggest some editors you’d love to work with to your future agent!) If you see an agent or agency you’re not familiar with, now’s the time to pop on over to Google and figure it out. There’s a lot more agencies out there than meets the eye. In fact, the trickiest part of researching agents in 2022 is the amount of new agencies and agents on the market. There are a lot of brand-new agents and agencies that are super legit. (Mostly agents who left agencies to form their own or editors who left editing to agent.) That said, there’s also lots of agents/agencies that are…not so legit. When it doubt, check in your writer friends and Writer Beware. Regardless, researching sales is going to be important. Granted, no sales from a new agent isn’t necessarily a red flag, nor is a new agent in general a red flag. (You gotta start somewhere, right?) Just do your due diligence and make sure the agency has a strong foundation and the new agents have good mentorship opportunities. 

The #1 way to check sales is a subscription to Publishers Marketplace. Granted, it’s just too expensive for many folks. That said, if you can afford PM, I’d encourage it. Or, if you have a friend group, pool your money together for one person to be your reference librarian. Also, it never hurts to try to look up the agent on there regardless of your subscription status. Many agencies/agents have pages that are open to the public for free. 

Another fan favorite is MSWL (Manuscript Wishlist), where agents post their dream wishlist items. That said, the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter has gone to hell in a handbasket with spammers and disgruntled trolls, so I don’t recommend it anymore (unless you’re willing to spend a lot of time muting.) I do, however, recommend the main website, with one caveat: Keep in mind that these are dream wishlist items, not necessarily everything that agent represents, so I suggest using it more as a reference tool. Same with the agents’ personal website. (Not to be mistaken with the agencies’ websites.) Double check both of those for special wishlist items, interviews, or other insight that may be relevant, such as their Goodreads reading list. 

If you can attend in-person or virtual conferences/webinars where agents are speaking, great! This is particularly helpful with agents who are closed. (Sometimes they give special permission to those in attendance to query them.) But again, don’t feel obligated to spend tons of money during your querying journey. I did that a few years back, and it was one of my biggest regrets. And the time I did end up with an agent? I didn’t spend one cent.

I personally love Lit Rambles’s agent interviews. They give really good insight, not only into what the agent is currently looking for, but what kind of agent they are (editorial, hands-off, etc.) This is SO important and yet the information is so rarely shared at the querying stage. (Agents, if you’re reading this, I wish y’all would include this information on your submission page. Just the basics: editorial/not, preferred method of communication, etc.) 

Other than that, I recommend creating a private list on Twitter with the agents you are planning or thinking about querying. Why? Because agents often announce when they are going to open/close to queries, and it’s good to keep an eye on that in one place so you don’t miss out on an opportunity. Also, while you’re on Twitter, take note of agents that request books from pitch parties (or any competition, really) that sound similar to yours. Chances are they’re a good fit for your work, too! 

These places and resources might seem very similar to those that were available a few years ago, but many of them have changed in significant ways. MSWL, for instance, has a much more in-depth search engine than it used to (with instructions on how to use it). I personally believe Query Tracker is a lot more accurate than it used to be. And there’s so many more virtual conferences/webinar opportunities. 

At the end of the day, research is key. But also, don’t spend too much time researching. At some point, you gotta hit SEND. 

Try to do that this week. 

Pick three agents to do a deep dive on, and query one by Friday night. 

I believe in you! 

~SAT

Boo Boo the cat

P.S. For my regular subscribers, some sad news: My cat Boo Boo passed away on Monday, May 9. He lived 22 years. We were super lucky to have him in our lives, and I am still missing him like crazy. You may recognize him as the face of my newsletter on the righthand side of my website. I’ve also put one of my old favorites right here. I’m keeping him as the face of my newsletter for now (and for the foreseeable future). It’s nice to still have him in some places, even if only virtually. Hug your pets tight. ❤

#WW Rejected? How to Keep Submitting

15 Apr

Rejected? How to Keep Submitting

Lately, I’ve been trying to help a lot of fellow writers find publishers, literary journals, and websites where they can share their work. The market is HUGE (hence the giant, capital letters), but for many, this is both a positive and a negative description of the industry. With so many options, how does someone know where to submit? And with so many opportunities, why do I keep getting rejected?

rejectThere are so many answers for this, and none of them are accurate. It’s all guesswork. I can’t tell someone why their manuscript was denied by so-and-so, and I can’t explain why someone else’s poetry made it into The Gettysburg Review over someone else. Only the judgers could, for certain, say why, but even then, it often comes down to their mood that day or their theme that month or how well it would fit in with the other work they already accepted. Again, guesswork.

That being said, this is when I see too many writers give up hope. They’ve submitted to 20 or so places and either received rejections or nothing at all, so they stop. Now, I want to take this moment to clarify that I’m talking about submitting to places today. I’m not discussing self-publishing. While I completely support (and often suggest) self-publishing, it isn’t for everyone, and many people do give up when submitting starts to overwhelm them, so this post is more for them – this post is for those writers who have specific journals they want to see their name in, to see a certain label on their work, to be among the voices of their favorite journal. That’s their goal and their decision, and I see nothing wrong with it. So, again, while I support self-publishing, this post is directed at writers who are submitting to places who might feel discouraged by the process. Below, I’m outlining a few steps to keep your pen up and your ink flowing while also submitting and submitting and submitting until that rejection pile becomes an acceptance pile.

Here are ways to keep submitting: (I’m going to use poems for the example)

Keep a Submission Journal

Set a goal for submitting a certain number of times during a specific timeframe. Ex. I will submit three poems to three journals every month. Now, here’s the tricky part – keep track of that goal. Write down what poems, what journals, and what dates you submitted. This will help remind you that you are currently submitting, and even if you get rejected, I guarantee you’ll already feel better because – chances are – you’ll already have other poems circulating for submission. Many journals, for instance, take months to get back to someone, so submitting different poems in different places will prevent you from getting that “I’m never submitting again” feeling because you’ll already have other submissions pending.

Keep Writing

While I believe it’s okay to have a specific poem you definitely want to get published, try submitting other ones too, and definitely keep writing new ones. A story I like to tell everyone involves my poetry publications. When I started submitting them, it was almost always the poems I NEVER thought they’d pick that were chosen in the end. My “best” poems in my mind are not my “best” poems in someone else’s mind. Remember that one reader won’t like everything, so send out more than just one piece of work. Send out a variety. And then write some more. And keep writing.

Keep Reading

One mistake I see many writers make is the lack of reading, especially of the journals and/or publishers they’re submitting to. I, myself, have made that mistake by accidentally submitting a controversial piece to a journal that no longer accepted controversy. Despite the fact that I kept reading the journal, I never noticed the theme change – so it’s important to read the journal and also take notes on the journal’s overall voice and goals. Sometimes writers think they can go around this by just reading the submission guidelines, but it isn’t rare to see “to get a feel for what we accept, read our latest edition….” at the top of submission pages. Even better, many literary journals offer a free copy for you to review, so read, and read a lot. You might even find a new writer you love.

Make a Mentor List

You know you have them. Your favorite novelist. Your favorite poet. A TED speaker. We all look up to someone, and it’s great to figure out where that someone came from. Even better, find someone with similar topics and/or voice, and check out where they came from and how they got their start. That famous writer wasn’t born a famous writer. They had to submit too. And you know what? I bet they even received rejections. But they never gave up, and you shouldn’t either.

Keep on submitting!

~SAT

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