By Catherine Linka, author
Agents champion books they believe in. They work unpaid until they get you a book contract.
And they are also human beings. They may love rom coms, but not horror. If you write rom coms and they love to read rom coms, they’ll be more likely to read your submission. They’ll be more likely to have sold rom coms and to know which editors are fans of rom coms. They will be more aware of the other rom coms in the marketplace.
Not every agent knows every editor. Agents build relationships with editors over time and different agents have varying levels of access to individual editors. You want an agent who can open the right doors for your book.
So when you look at the Rights Report on Publishers Weekly or the weekly deals on Publishers Lunch, you should be looking at who has sold books that most closely resemble what you write. Those are the agents you should submit to because they have the connections you need.
With all the pressure to get an agent who can open doors for you, it’s easy to forget that your agent is your partner in this working relationship. As your working partner, their personal style should complement yours.
Observe agents at conferences or on social media. Based on how they talk and treat the people around them, do you like them? Do you respect them? Would you trust them with your future?
If you submit to an agent and they request a full, take a breath and note how they treat you during the process. How do they communicate with you? Is there anything they do that gives you pause? Listen to your gut. This person may have to give you bad news as well as good.
Lastly, accept that the process of finding the right agent may take time. It’s not that different from applying to college or getting a job or finding that special someone. The right fit requires patience.
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Catherine Linka is a longtime member of SCBWI which she believes has helped her on every step of her publishing journey. Her third young adult novel, What I Want You to See, launches in February 2020.
Photos provided by Catherine Linka, book covers courtesy of MacMillan and Disney Hyperion.