A Recipe For Finding the Right Agent
In the same way that there are husbands and husbands, you don't want just any literary agent. You want the one who is totally in love with your book and will put his or her heart and soul into selling it and supporting you.
I think the best way to find the right agent is to read the acknowledgments in books you love and you feel are somehow connected to the one you've written. Authors who love their agents always thank them in the acknowledgments.
Once you find out who represents the author, Google the agent to track down his or her contact info. (There are no secrets anymore!)
Send a well-written, heartfelt query letter seeking representation. Keep it to one page. Say who you are and what you've written, and give the agent exactly what s/he asks for in exactly the format s/he wants it in. Again, Google is your friend here, and it is really important to do your homework.
Ask with grace and courtesy, and check for typos. Say how impressed you are with this agent's client list. Tell the agent why you think your book would be a good fit for his/her list. And if along the way, you discover it isn’t, then move on. I mean, if the agent is looking for literary fiction and you’re writing sci fi, why waste both of your time?
Include your contact information and say that you have a completed, polished book and would be delighted to send a full or partial manuscript. Say thank you for his/her consideration.
A few years ago I was teaching a master class at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans about how to write the book only you can write. Someone asked a question about finding an agent, and I started sharing the information I’ve just shared. I looked up and noticed my own literary agent, the famous Lisa Bankoff of ICM, standing in the back of the room. Belatedly, it occurred to me that I probably should have asked her opinion!
Later that day I did ask her, and she told me my advice was spot on. Good to know.
Claire Cook wrote her first novel in her minivan outside her daughter's swim practice when she was 45. At 50 she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of her second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She is now the bestselling author of seven novels, including The Wildwater Walking Club and her latest, Seven Year Switch. She teaches writing and reinvention workshops and shares tips for both on her website, ClaireCook.com.