Anyone that has gone to a writing conference or workshop has probably heard it said that finding an agent isn’t easy. Obviously, all agents aren’t the same. One that would be excellent representing a particular author wouldn’t necessarily be good representing a different author. I’ve heard the working relationship between author and agent compared to a marriage. Even if it doesn’t work out, books written by an author and represented by an agent, still belong to both.
So finding the right agent is essential.
The first time I met an agent was at an SCBWI conference in Cleveland in early 2005. Four months prior, I’d sent him a few pages of my MG historical fiction novel for review at the conference. I was astounded when it came time for the face-to-face critique and the first words out of his mouth were: I hate historical fiction.
Kind of put a damper on my hopes.
I did learn some things from that agent. For one thing, I will never sub a manuscript to an agent without checking to see if he/she has certain likes or dislikes concerning a particular genre (even if it’s at a conference where it’s been advertised that the agent will critique “every” genre). For another thing, I learned that the children’s book industry is a business. No matter how good the writing is in a manuscript, if the agent doesn’t think it will sell (for whatever reason), he/she will pass on it.
I’ve since met other agents (and editors and authors) who have been very encouraging. I’ve learned a lot more about the children’s book industry, and I’m still writing.
My most rejection letters are the hopeful variety: “No, thank you, but if you have something else please feel free to send it.” However, those responses came when I was writing other genres. I had contacted those agents/editors with different books in mind. To sub to them now, I’d need to read their websites and see if they are interested in acquiring YA fantasy. I know already, a few won’t be interested.
In the meantime, I’ve found two agents to whom I am inclined to sub Jane’s and my book: Joe Monti who is with Barry Goldblatt Literary (Mettie Ivie Harrison’s agency), and Edward Necarsulmer IV who is with McIntosh & Otis (Alane Ferguson’s agent). Respectively, Mettie and Alane spoke highly of these agents.
Joe Monti describes himself in the bio section on the BGL agency website, and he’s very qualified. He likes fantasy. I liked the sound of his “voice” and I think he would like Jane’s and my book.
Edward Necarsulmer is also very qualified. I found a quote in an interveiw where he describes how he thinks an agent should feel about a book he/she represents. “As Christopher Morley said, ‘There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.’”
Finding an agent goes both ways, he/she has to love an author’s writing and want to work with them. Whether that happens will remain to be seen, but, for now, these two have made it to my short list. And I hope to one day meet them in person.