Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 14, 2014

Researching Agents – Erika Wassall


Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

Researching Agents

A completed, polished and ready to be submitted manuscript is a beautiful thing. Now it just has to find a home! But not just ANY home. It has to be just right.

You want the world to see this manuscript! See it’s creativity, it’s uniqueness and the joy it will bring others!

You’ve written your query letter and you’re ready to track your submissions.

But who should you submit to?

If you’re like me, the first thing you think to yourself is…


Then I have sit back… rein in my crazy… and remind myself… absolutely nothing is for everyone.

Plus, agents want to know that I’m submitting to them for a reason specific to my manuscript and not feel like I’m just going down a list sending to everyone who popped up when I Googled “Picture Book Agent”.

And wouldn’t you?

Some agents receive 100s of queries a DAY! That’s a LOT to shift through. It’s important that they immediately know that you are submitting to them because there is something special about THEM that makes the manuscript a good fit.

Okay, okay. So I’ll only submit to agents who are a good fit. How do I find that out??

Research!! Research!! And more research!! 

Newsletters like Publishers Lunch and sites like Publishers Weekly contain valuable information about deals being made and what’s going on in the industry. This can keep you in the loop about what specific agencies are looking for, or where they think the industry is trending.

Websites like Writer’s Digest have all kinds of agent lists to give you a good starting point of who to look into.

Social media like Twitter or Facebook are excellent ways to learn a bit about the agent personally. You can learn a lot from reading through their posts. You may even find them talking about their MSWL (manuscript wish list)!!

Blogs like this one! Kathy frequently has wonderful posts about what an agent or publisher is looking for. You can also check out blogs like Guide to Literary Agent, and Literary Rambles.

GOOGLE THEM! (Did you know Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary officially listed “Google” as a verb in 2006? Crazy!!)  

Before submitting to ANY one, I do a THOROUGH Google stalk… I mean search. I read and re-read every interview I can find with them it. I look at what conferences they attend and what organizations they are a part of. I look up who their past and current clients are and read interviews of them.

And it’s worth it. Being able to say in my query letter that I was drawn to their definition of literary development in their 2007 interview with such-and-such is a great way to show that I’ve done my research!

Which leads me to my last…. And possibly most important point:

BE HONEST! Most of this is obvious. Don’t say you attended a conference they were at if you didn’t, don’t say you were referred to them by someone if you weren’t.

But it’s more than that.

You don’t want to portray yourself as someone you’re not. Don’t say you align with their thoughts on where MG novels were trending towards if you really don’t.

Oh why not? What’s the harm of buttering them up a bit? It doesn’t REALLY matter.

But it does.   In this relationship, trust and honestly MATTER.

While there is obviously no need to tell them you do NOT agree with a comment they made, or hated the last book deal they signed, it can be detrimental to the future relationship to say anything that is not an accurate representation of who you are, as both a writer a professional and a person.

The relationship with your future agent will be a give and take that will rely on trust and mutual respect. As innocent as it may seem, you do not want this connection to start off based on a bait and switch tactic.

When you DO land an agent, it will become an important relationship in your life.

Like other important relationships, not everyone is the perfect match and there is some vetting out that is done on both sides before coming together.

You and your agent will join forces and present your manuscript — your blood, sweat and tears, your creation — out into the world. You don’t want that to be a person you just picked off of a list!

It’s worth it, to do the footwork, see who’s out there, and truly find the place your work will be happiest to call home.


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,




  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve got my query letter ready to go and my agent excel spreadsheet started, so this was helpful to read over as I continue mentally preparing myself for sending out those submissions.


  2. Thank you, Erika, for your reminders.


  3. Thanks to both sjoycarlson and Barbara Gold. I appreciate your feedback and am glad you find it useful! Thanks for your comments!


  4. Reblogged this on thejerseyfarmscribe and commented:
    Hey guys! Check out today’s guest post on Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustration blog.

    So you’ve got the polished manuscript and you’re ready to submit. But to who? It’s worth it to research your agents beforehand! Here’s how.


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