In Part I of this series, we talked about prepping your query letter. In this part, we’ll discuss how to put together your own list of agents to query.
The most common advice I read was to search the Acknowledgements section of books/authors you love, and to query those agents. This is a good starting point but only yielded me a couple agent names. Not all of my favorite books are in the same genre that I write. And not all of those agents accept unsolicited submissions.
I searched far and wide for a “Top 20” list of literary agencies but couldn’t find one. The closest I came was writer Tony Tulathimutte’s excellent list on Catapult. You should read the entire post because it’s full of great advice, but the list I’m referring to comes in the sixth paragraph.
Pony up for a subscription to Publishers Marketplace and go to town. It’s $25/month, so not cheap, but also not a forever commitment. (Once I signed with my agent, I cancelled my subscription.) PM is a fantastic resource for all kinds of publishing industry info, but what I found most useful were the lists. You can look at top agents overall, top agents by genre, top agents for debut authors, top agents with six-figure deals—you get the picture! This was how I found Maddy. I’d initially limited my search to US agents, but when she kept showing up over and over again towards the tops of these lists, I became intrigued. I quickly discovered she was Gail Honeyman’s agent (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) and was sold. When I realized she was CJ Tudor’s (The Chalk Man, among others) and Fiona Barton’s (The Widow, among others) agent too, I was frothing at the mouth. Biased I may be, but I’m telling you: PM is worth it.
In alphabetical order, here are the agencies I queried. (You find the specific agents that fit your genre best!)
Aaron M. Priest Literary
Brandt & Hochman
C + W (UK)
Caskie Mushens (UK)
Dunow, Carlson & Lerner
Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
Fletcher & Co
Janklow & Nesbit
Levine Greenberg Rostan
Madeleine Milburn Agency (UK)
Massie & McQuilkin
Northbank Talent Management (UK)
Sterling Lord Literistic
The Bent Agency
Victoria Sanders & Associates
Next up, we’ll discuss my favorite part of querying: organizing the process!