Thursday, May 19, 2011

Technical Topic: Finding an Agent for Romance

Someone writes:
"I've finished my Romance manuscript.  Now I'm looking for an agent.  How do I find one? 

Congratulations on finishing the manuscript.  You are now part of the 'finished your manuscript' fraternity.  Only one person in a hundred who says, "I'm going to write a book" makes it this far.  I am so glad you picked Romance.  The world needs more great Romance stories.

As to finding an agent . . . 

There are a couple of books that list agents.  Writer's Market and Jeff Herman's Guide are the two standard.  Most libraries carry them, but it's probably worthwhile owning one or the other. 

I used my own copy of one of those books to make marginal notes of information I found in many sources.  It was my 'central file", as it were. 

I could cross through agents who flat-out didn't handle Romance.  When I tracked down the agents of my favorite writers, I could add this information right in the Guide.  When I googled agents and read interviews they'd given, I wrote my impression of their outlook and personality in the guide. 

It kept everything nicely in one spot.

Another source of agent information is Agent Query here , which will give you a quick, partial list of Romance agents.  Between the two books and the online source, you'll find more agent names than you can shake a stick at.

The trick is finding the right one for you.  You and your agent are going to be together for many years.  You don't just want 'an agent'.  You want an agent who is both good and right for you.

Preditors and Editors here is a good spot to 'vet' your candidates, as is the Absolute Write Bewares and Background Checks Forum here.   This will help you eliminate the outright frauds and the incompetents.  Remember, being listed in the Guides or Agent Query and having a website is not a guarantee of quality or honesty.

Absolute Write also has sections for asking questions about agents and query letters and is just a generally excellent spot for a writer to hang out. 

moving right along . . .
It's worth subscribing to Publishers Marketplace here for a few months.  PM lists many of the sales agents make to publishing houses.  It will tell you which agents have sold and the sort of books they're selling.  It is by no means exhaustive -- many excellent agents don't supply information there -- but it's another source of information.

Another useful line of approach in your agent search is to look at folks who represent writers whose work has something of the flavor of your own.  This is good to do with long established midlist writers, of course, but you might look especially at debut writers whose work you admire.  They'll have agents who are taking on new clients. 
To get the name of an author's agent, check the acks page of their books, or google "author name + agent + literary".

I'd suggest a Romance writer with a completed manuscript join Romance Writers of America for a year.  Join your local chapter.  Join some of the online, special-interest groups.  You will meet other authors, which is reassuring in the sense that we are all in the same boat.  You will meet published authors who can give you advice.  And, with luck, you will make friends.  

For information on query letters, see Miss Snark's Blog here and Evil Editor here.   

Finally, if you plan to submit to some publishing houses -- Harlequin, for instance, and all of the e-pubs, you do not necessarily need an agent right now.  You can submit directly to HQN, e-pubs, Avon and Tor.

I wish you the very best of luck.


  1. We don't have a local chapter of RWA! As if I need more craziness in my life, but... I'm hoping to try to start one, as soon as my MS is ready to query.

  2. Yes! Do that.

    But there is a certain amount of work involved in doing this.

  3. I know, I'm scared [g] But! If I'm in the midst of querying, it'll be something I can focus on while waiting for all those agent replies...