If you read my blog from time to time you may have noticed that I recently won an award at The London Book Festival for my debut novel ‘Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan?’ I think I may have mentioned it. Indeed, not only did I win the prize for General Fiction I also won the overall Grand Prize across all categories and was honoured along with the individual category winners at an awards dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in January 2018. This was the second award that ‘Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan?’ had won, having picked up a prize at the National Indie Excellence Awards back in May 2017.
This week I had a belated birthday brunch with a friend, her birthday not mine, and she asked about the awards ceremony, as I may have mentioned it to her too!
‘Well maybe you can use these prizes to get yourself an agent,’ she said.
I self-published ‘Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan?’ In December 2015 to critical acclaim from friends and family. Actually I’m not being entirely fair to myself as I have promoted my book on internet blog tours, successfully entered it into competitions and received many wonderful reviews from people I have never met. But it’s obvious after all this time that to reach a greater audience I need professional help, so my friend’s suggestion that now might be a good time to find an agent spurred me into activity.
I already own an old copy (2015) of Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book but I had seen a reference from a publisher to an online site called Agent Hunter which looked like an interesting idea. I went straight to the site and was delighted to see that it offered me the chance ‘to find literary agents – the easy way.’
There’s a small charge to sign up to the service ranging from £6 for a month to £27 for a year and £195 for the Platinum service where a detailed review of what you are hoping to submit to an agent is on offer as well as a professional editor taking a look at your first 5000 words. Luckily for me there was also another option. If I was prepared to try the website and write about it on my blog I could have six months subscription free of charge. So here we are.
What I really like about the site is that the agents are listed individually as well as giving you the company that they work for. Literary agencies come in all sizes and may have many agents working their own lists within the company. The search tools on the site allow you to select the genres that you are interested in and the sort of agency you would like to represent you – large or small, well established or up an coming. But oh boy, there are a lot of literary agents and from what I can tell they can be quite a secretive lot. There are many entries on the site that only offer sketchy details about the agent and quite a few entries note that Agent Hunter has requested information from the agent that has not yet been forthcoming. It really is a buyer’s market. However, once you find an agent that you like the look of there is a useful search tool that allows you to find agents with similar interests. Some agents offer detailed information about what they are looking for with others offering advice that they do not appreciate over familiarity, edgy jokes or sarcasm in your covering letter. Good to know!
It has to be said that on the whole agents seem to be much clearer about they are not looking for than what they are interested in. Short stories and poetry are not hugely popular but everyone seems to be looking for a distinctive voice and commercial success across many geographies. No pressure then.
Even with the filters that you can employ the amount of information can be overwhelming. Set aside plenty of time to find the agents you want to approach. A very useful FAQs page on the site suggests approaching 8-12 agents in total in 2 separate tranches, leaving 6 – 8 weeks between submissions. Advice on your covering letter is offered and how crucial that letter will be in your success. If you can’t write a good letter your prospective agent will doubt your ability to write a good book.
There is a blog section where founder of the site, Harry Bingham, interviews agents and you can get a better idea of their literary interests and whether you’d be a good fit for their list. What to expect from your relationship with your literary agent is also discussed and how the whole thing works financially.
Agent Hunter covers every agent and agency in the UK so be prepared to invest time in putting together a long list that with further exploration can be whittled down to a manageable short list. It’s a daunting exercise and one that I have managed to put to one side today, preferring instead to write this review of Agent Hunter.
But if you know of a literary agent looking for a debut prize winning author then please do send them my way. I’ll be so grateful.