Lee Child once said, “Getting an agent is procedural.” What he meant was there was no mystery to it, no magic. It’s just a process, you follow the steps. And he’s absolutely right about that.
Of course, the assumption is that you have a darn good manuscript suitable for today’s market. I realize the problem with most writers at this stage is that they’re not sure how good it is, but hopefully you’ve gotten honest feedback from your writing group.
The thing to remember about getting an agent, like others have said, is that it’s a lot like getting married. A bad agent is worse than no agent at all.
So how did I do it? Once my manuscript had gotten the approval of my very discerning writing group, I started by subscribing to Publisher’s Marketplace. I used their powerful research function to find agents that carried YA authors I’d admired. I didn’t stop there. I googled the list of agents I’d created and read every interview they’d given and any news articles written about them. I probably spent a month doing this.
I narrowed my list to a few choice agents when I remembered one agent I had been introduced to in a social setting a couple of years prior. We didn’t talk business at the time, but I recalled liking her personality. But I thought she didn’t handle YA, only adult fiction. Then I stumbled on a list of top YA agents while doing my research, and there was her name. I knew many of her clients, but didn’t want to ask them for a recommendation. Not because I was shy but because I knew that it’s much more important to learn if the agent is attracted to the manuscript on its own merits.
All the agents responded quickly and soon spoke to me on the phone. Then it was a matter of seeing what they envisioned for the manuscript in terms of rewrites as well as the selling plan. I was also looking for what kind of chemistry existed between us, as I’m sure they were with me. This is the stage to ask your questions and I did. In the end, they were all great, highly professional, top agents. But I went with the one that I had met. She had said that it would end up being a gut decision and yes, it was.
Which is ultimately how you decide who to marry, right?