On Getting an Agent

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in General, Publication

I’ve had many discussions with writers, agents, and more about the argument of acquiring a literary agent or to not bother. Finding one in Canada can be a real challenge, considering our market is so much smaller. With just a handful of agents to choose from (you can find a list in the Canadian Writer’s Market book or the Writer’s Union of Canada), finding one that suits your needs, will work hard for you, and for heaven’s sake will just take your manuscript from the slush pile and actually consider it, can be difficult to say the least.

I had a great conversation in the fall with Trena White, principal at Page Two Publishing Strategies. Owners, Trena White and Jesse Finkelstein, were former employees of D&M Publishers, so these ladies know their stuff. On top of owning their own publishing consulting firm, they also serve as agents for Transatlantic Agency, a well-known firm with offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Portland and more.

Trena was nice enough to take a peek at my manuscript (I used to intern at D&M) and offer some wise advice on the publishing market. Essentially, writers have two major choices to make at their professional crossroads: 1) Seek an agent to land larger publishing houses like Penguin Random House and HarperCollins, or 2) Approach smaller publishers directly if your work fits their publishing mandate. The issue remains that agents are hard to come by, but smaller presses often don’t have the resources to really market your book as well as a larger house. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule!

Regardless, when it comes to finding an agent or a publisher, the rules are always the same.

  1. Research. Don’t send a manuscript to an agent or a publisher without ensuring that your work fits their genre, style, and unique mandate. Otherwise, it is a surefire guarantee that your work will end up in that unread slush pile.
  2. Send your work to a specific agent, not just to the random “info@blahblah.com.” Read about their interests online and approach politely and respectfully.
  3. Craft a perfect query letter. More on this in our next post…
  4. Don’t get discouraged. We all know writers are professionals at rejection. Just chalk it up to experience.

Whether you land an agent on the first try to spend years looking, or if you choose to approach publishers directly with your work, keep these tips in mind as you navigate the interesting world of publishing!

Kelly S. Thompson, Co-Pres UBC CRWR AA

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