Following a recent discussion with friends on where to find advice about approaching literary agents, I’ve realised just how many excellent resources there are.
Here’s a round-up of some places to go for inside information:
Help from agents themselves
Carole Blake’s book From Pitch to Publication provides a comprehensive and very readable explanation of everything that goes into pitching and selling a book. The advice takes you from the point where you try to win an agent over to the time when it’s your end reader you want to convince.
Wade and Doherty provide writing advice for would-be clients on their website.
Caroline Sheldon helpfully lists her twelve pet submission hates.
And Andrew Lownie shares fifteen no-nonsense tips to follow when seeking representation.
Publications and Networking Organisations for Writers
For help with Andrew Lownie’s tip number 5, you can visit Writers and Artists Online, the site associated with the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Here you can look up agents you are interested in and find out exactly how each likes to receive submissions. Obviously checking on individual websites is the surest way of getting up-to-date instructions, but one or two don’t have an on-line presence, so the WAYB site is still a useful resource. A copy of the directory itself is also invaluable for initial browsing.
The wonderful Mslexia, the magazine for women who write, has on-line resources including advice from agents applicable to males and females alike. (And each quarter the magazine provides fascinating insights into the publishing industry as well as great new writing. Guest editor next quarter is Val McDermid.)
WriteWords gives subscribers access to feedback on agents from other writers though its Directory section.
The Bookseller is good for general industry news including agent moves.
The benefits of surfing
Finally, Googling an agent’s name sometimes produces links to interviews, either with the agent or one of their authors, giving further useful background information.