Tag Archives: querying

What I Learned Last Year No. 1: Querying and Querying and Finding an Agent

Last week I told you what I did last year. Now I will give you a series of posts sharing what I learned last year. Starting with the answer to “How do you find a literary agent?”

Why, you throw a rock in a bar in Manhattan! Ha, ha.

But seriously, what if you don’t live in Manhattan?

Last year, I learned that there is no one way to get an agent.

There is much advice on the Internet about finding an agent, and much wailing about the agony of finding an agent.

In fact, essays about “How I got an agent” are a whole genre unto themselves. They are agonizingly addictive to read while you’re waiting for responses from agents.

Stephenie Meyer cold-queried to find an agent for “Twilight.” Ignore the part about how writing her book and finding an agent took all of six months. (Although she got a bunch of rejections, so it wasn’t all roses.)

Erin Morgenstern revised her manuscript of “The Night Circus” based on several agents’ feedback, then resubmitted (more than once). (Writing and querying took her more like five years. I know it’s silly, but that makes me like her.)

Kathryn Stockett snuck off to hotels to revise “The Help” while she was looking for an agent.

I think all this sharing of stories stems from the fact that finding an agent is like planning a wedding. It’s a lot of work and a pain in the ass and you hope to never do it again and at the same time you don’t want to waste all that hard-earned knowledge.

Tips for Finding a Literary Agent

So, here are some things you can do to find a literary agent:

  1. Send out query letters to agents that represent the type of book you have written, asking them to represent the book you have written.
  2. Attend literary conferences and network, something writers are all really good at, right?
  3. Tell everyone you know that you finished a novel and want to publish it. Especially tell former writing teachers and friends who live in New York, who have the highest likelihood of actually knowing an agent.

It doesn’t hurt to do all three of these things. I found my agent by cold-querying, but I also tapped a couple of connections.

Links for Finding a Literary Agent

Here’s some advice I like about searching for an agent, and some sites I found useful:


Finding an agent can take no time at all or a really long time, and no matter how long it takes it can feel like a really long time. It can also feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

But never fear, because (a) You’ve already done the hard part by finishing your novel (right?) and (b) Anything you want to know about looking for an agent–like, what to do if an agent asks you for an “exclusive,” whatever-the-heck-that-is, or how long to wait before following up after you’ve sent a full manuscript to an agent who requested it–you can find out by Googling, visiting the Janet Reid, Literary Agent website or by asking me in the comments.


Places I’ve Been

Let’s start with the place I’m in right now: purgatory. Yes, my writing mentors told me that querying agents (i.e., contacting them to see if they’re interested in reading your manuscript and then, hopefully, representing you) is harder than actually writing a novel. And they were right. Two weeks in, I’m feeling very obsessed and a bit insane.

My husband says I should distract myself by writing something else. So, I’m resolving to start my next novel (ack) and to blog more.

Here I am blogging more! (Blogging at all!) And here’s a list of many of the spots where I worked on my book. Most are places I visited numerous times.

  1. The Library of Congress
  2. The Library of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
  3. Lauinger Library at Georgetown University
  4. The George Camp Keiser Library at DC’s Middle East Institute
  5. Firehook Bakery on Capitol Hill (this and the previous four bullets thanks to the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, MD)
  6. The Oysterville Guest House, thanks to the Espy Foundation
  7. Caribou Coffee near my house
  8. The Corner Bakery near my kids’ day care
  9. Various Starbuckses in the DC area
  10. The Silver Spring and Rockville, MD, Paneras
  11. A Barnes and Noble
  12. The Whole Foods near my office
  13. The Rockville (MD) Library
  14. Davis Library in Bethesda, MD
  15. Just about every room of my house

As you might guess, I love libraries and coffee shops equally, but when I was pregnant, coffee shops usually won out.

Where do you write?