How to find a hungry agent

Here’s a literary agent who’s very specific about the kind of book she’d like to see in her inbox:

“I love books with some kind of psychological element, like if the MC has a mental illness or if they can’t trust their mind.”

Working on anything like that? Or something close? Want to know more about this agent? Well you can find her on Twitter. She’s Annie, of the Annie Bomke Literary Agency, tweeting as @Abliterary

Twitter: Start here

Commercial publishers, agents, editors and publicists have for years relied on Twitter as an important element in book marketing. It’s also an essential tool for agents looking for new writers to build their client lists.

Annie Bomke, for example, is included in the Writer’s Digest Oct. 2013 cover story 28 Agents Seeking New Writers. Twenty of those agents are active on Twitter.

Bomke tweets regularly not only about what she’s looking for, but also about how to submit a book to her: “If you’re going to attach your synopsis/sample chapters, make sure you still put your query in the body of the email.” Here she is on the art and craft of writing: “Avoid descriptions that are obvious, like ‘the yellow sun’. The only time you should mention the color of the sun is if it’s not yellow.”

Not bad. Wish I’d said that. She packed a lot into the official Twitter 140 character limit.

More tweeting agents:

Lori Perkins at L. Perkins Agency (@loriperkinsRAB) writes that she’s looking for “time travel novels with female protagonists who change the world (without looking for love).”

Brandi Bowles of Foundry Literary & Media (@brandibowles) reminds authors, “Don’t neglect your platform while searching for an agent. We browse magazines, newspapers, and journals for great writing all the time!”

The biggest little agent-author conversation in the world

In a previous post called Strategic Tweeting for Authors, I described Twitter as a huge, noisy cocktail party, packed with publishing insiders, agents, editors, journalists, book bloggers, reviewers, your readers, potential new readers, other writers – just about everyone you’d ever want to connect with — there and waiting for you to drop in and mingle your heart out.

Now that more agents are using Twitter to build their client lists, it’s gone way beyond marketing to become a treasure trove of useful information for authors about what agents want and how to find them.

Remember that it’s OK to lurk on Twitter. You can search this resource as much as you want without ever posting a tweet yourself if you’re not ready or willing to jump into the fray. That’s some of the advice in a highly recommended primer for the uninitiated: 10 Must-Learn Lessons For Twitter Newbies .

Quick and easy ways to start your search

• Go to Twitter Search and insert #literaryagents in the box See what’s happening right now. You’ll be rewarded with a long list of tweets to and from literary agents. The scroll is in reverse chronological order, often beginning with a tweet only minutes old. The participants offer a bounty of useful chatter and links.

• Or try searching #MSWL, which stands for manuscript wish list, another Twitter address used by agents and publishers to let people know what they’re looking for. For a very useful archive of MSWL tweets organized by agent (and editor) names, go to this Tumbler page.

• Check out Galley Cat’s list Best Literary Agents on Twitter . You’ll find a terrific collection of agents with links to their Twitter feeds, from not only the generation of hungry new faces but also veteran agents like Jason Allen Ashlock, Stephanie Evans, Jennifer Laughran, Meredith Smith, Scott Waxman and Rachelle Gardner.

Twitter etiquette

As in all forms of social networking, certain rules apply.

• Don’t try to submit to an agent via Twitter. It won’t work. Go to the agent’s website or blog and pay close attention to the instructions on query letters, proposals, and sample pages.

• Be service oriented. Your tweets should offer a helpful comment or link to something relevant and useful. Try to be positive, altruistic, and empathic. Keep it upbeat.

• No hard sell. Never come right out with “Read my book” or “Please be my agent.” As per above, follow their rules about sending anything. Refer back to your own website and blog, which of course you’ll have by this time, right?

Be cool

Finding good agent matches on Twitter for your project might take a little time and patience. When you’ve located the agents you’d like to focus on, register on Twitter so you can restrict your own tweets to your targeted audience.

Then follow these agents and everyone relevant they link to. Check out how they want to be approached and be ready with the best possible query letter, proposal, sample pages or, in the case of most debut fiction, the entire manuscript.

And remember, agents are deluged with submissions, so once they reject a project (or ignore the submission) you won’t get a second chance. So be sure your manuscript is in the best possible shape before sending it in.

Some great advice

Listen to agent Rachelle Gardner, who advises writers to work with a professional developmental editor to “Get an experienced set of eyes on it to help you identify problems and figure out how to fix them… It’s a terrific learning experience and can help you grow as a writer… almost like having a writing tutor.”

Hear hear.

What about you?

Is Twitter already one of your sources to track down good potential agents for your book? If so, how is that working for you?

If this is a new idea for you, give it a try, and let us know how it goes. We welcome stories of your experience and your tips for fellow authors.

15 Responses to How to find a hungry agent

  1. Greg Strandberg

    Thanks for this post. I visited the Twitter website for the first time because of your links, and it does seem that there’s a lot of potential there.

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  3. Madison Woods

    I sold my first short story because of an opportunity that I found out about through a Tweet, but I didn’t know about this hashtag, so thanks for sharing that!

  4. Annie Bomke

    Wow, thank you for this wonderful shout out! I’m thrilled and honored to be mentioned in your blog!

  5. Carol Dance

    The uber smashing Annicus Von Bomkers is my agent. And mate, and editor, and spell checker, and eater of weird foodstuffs, and deleter of the extraneous, and all round bit of a good egg. Just never send her anything about vampires or fairies cos she might turn green and all her clothes burst orf and then you’ll be sorry! Oh, and then she might come round your house and tell your mum, and then your mum’ll probably give you a wallop! Nah, kidding! She’s a marvel! Big up the Bomkers!

  6. Alan Rinzler

    Carol,

    Your exuberant comment is a revealing snapshot of a great relationship with your agent, who’s featured in this post. Humor, informality, free-spirited language, but also a clear and professional focus on creative ways to get the work done and sell it. Thanks and good luck.

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  8. Jacob Richardson

    Very, very helpful article. I thought writing the manuscript was the hard part, but no, the publication jungle is much more intimidating. Thanks for giving me some new ideas on ways to utilize social media in a larger scope. I already got two more followers(which is a lot when you look at my Twitter numbers)!

  9. MRS N

    I totally agree with you on Twitter! It is a huge resource for writers! The best piece of advice I would offer is to just be yourself. Agents can see through the BS so don’t try to be someone you’re not! :-)

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  11. ken hall

    I havn’t tired twitter yet but i plan to it sounds like just what i’m looking for to move my work in the right direction thank you for the advise and i look foeward to reading more from you

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  14. Anita Diggs

    Great article! Twitter is becoming an extremely useful tool for writers, as well as, editors and publishers. I know I have it! I do think it’s best to find out a little about the agent before tweeting them. Find if they have a list of books that they’ve handled before. If you loved one of them, and you really did, say so. “I loved such and such title by such and such person, and I think that my book would be a good fit for your list.”

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