I'm a newb to the whole writing and publishing thing, so if this is a stupid question, just ignore me. I've read enough to know I can't just send my book off to the publisher of my choice and expect to hear anything back. I know I need to get an agent if I want one of these publishers to take me seriously.
My question is, how do I know which agents to query? There seem to be so many! Do you have any advice about which ones I should be targeting?
All the best,
Diving into the query trenches can be overwhelming, and without doing a bunch of research before you start, you could end up wasting a whole lot of time.
The first thing to do is to identify where your book fits. Many agents only represent certain types of books and there's no point querying an agent who doesn't represent your genre or category.
There are a number of websites that can help you narrow down your search. I like The Official Manuscript Wish List & #MSWL ® Website because not only can you search the agents by genre and category, they list what they are specifically looking for as well. The information isn't always entirely up to date, so I suggest going to the website and looking at any agent you think is suitable before you send anything. Guidelines often change and you don't want your query vanishing into limbo because you emailed instead of filing out an online form.
Another good place to start is QueryTracker | Find literary agents and publishers with our free database. Users leave notes about how quickly agents respond and other useful tidbits here, and again, you can sort agents by genre and category.
Another really helpful tool in narrowing down a potential list of agents is to read the acknowledgements in books you feel are like yours. Authors often thank their agents in these pages, so this is a way to find out who might be receptive to a story like yours.
Following agents on Twitter is also a good way to get to know what they are looking for and what their pet peeves might be. You may even find you have something really unique in common you can use to personalise your query - perhaps you both have toy poodles called Toby, or both enjoy crocheting hats for balding alpacas while warbling along to Hamilton... Any way you can forge a connection is valuable.
I hope that helps as you start on your journey. You may not get an agent with the first book you query, but you will learn a lot and begin to build a network around yourself and your work.