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An agent is a great resource to help you sell your children’s book to a publisher. They work as the go-between for you and the editor and can help you negotiate the best deal. But how do you find an agent to help you sell your book?
Like an open publishing house, you will need to go “on submission” for a children’s book agent. Here’s how you can do that.
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The Best Way to Find an Agent for Your Book:
Having an agent is definitely an asset as an author, but it’s not required. You can send your children’s book to a publisher without an agent, however, there are some publishing houses that aren’t open to unagented authors. In these situations, you’ll want to find an agent to help connect you to them.
What does an agent do?
A literary agent works as a mediator between you and the publisher. They will help you get the best contract and negotiate for other things, like foreign rights and media rights. In return, they will earn a commission off your writing advance and sales.
Think of it as the middleman who does the selling work for you. 😉
To make sure you find a good agent that will get you the best deal though, you need to do your research. (Having a bad agent is worse than not having an agent at all.)
When do you need an agent?
There isn’t a set timeline on when to find an agent. Instead, it will depend on you and your goals for your story because you can get a publishing contract without an agent. These publishers are known as “open” because they accept “unsolicited” manuscripts from unagented authors.
However, if you want to submit to a “closed” house, like one of the big 5 publishers, you will need an agent to connect you. (Learn the difference between small and big publishers in this article here.)
You cannot send the same story to both publishers or agents, though, so you will need to decide which path is right for you BEFORE you go on submission.
What do you send to an agent?
While submission guidelines can vary from agent to agent, you will always need to send them a query letter. A query letter is simply an introduction to you, your story, and why they might be interested in reading it. (Think of it like a job cover letter.)
Your query should be less than 300 words and should be focused mainly on the one book you’re trying to sell to them. Along with the query, you’ll want to send them any additional information they requested like a set number of pages of your manuscript, comp books, synopsis, etc.
What does a query look like?
A query is a cover letter or introductory email to your story. Less than 300-words, your query should be professional and to the point in order to lay out why the agent should read your book and try to sell your story.
No pressure, right? 🙈
Your query letter should consist of six parts:
- A greeting
- Your connection to the agent or reason why they might be interested
- A story hook
- A short summary of your story
- A short bio about you and why you’re qualified to write this book
- Your sign-off
When you’re thinking about your book summary, or the best way to pitch your story, think of it like the back of the book copy. If you were standing in the bookstore, reading the inside cover flap, what would draw you in to read more? Use that in your query.
If you want help getting started, grab our query letter template here.
The #1 way to find an agent is to do your research:
In the traditional publishing world, there’s a lot of competition to sell a children’s book. This means an agent will receive THOUSANDS of queries every single month from authors seeking representation.
In order to help yourself stand out above the slushpile, you need to do your research and know what agents you’re sending your story to. Don’t mass email a canned query to a long list of agents!
Here’s how you can find an agent that is right for your story.
Where should you look for an agent?
There are three spots for you to find an agent in the children’s market:
All three are beneficial in their own way.
1. The Book from SCBWI
If you are a member of SCBWI, you get a FREE resource known as “The Book”. It has a list of all the publishing houses and agencies, along with contact information for both. This book is updated regularly throughout the year.
Although the book is free, the membership is $85 for the year. So, if a membership is not in your budget, then you should consider getting the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book instead because it contains the same information.
2. The Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market
This is a very cost-effective resource for less than $20! The children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is a comprehensive list of publishers and agencies with their contact information. Plus it’s updated yearly!
I like to get the hard copy and highlight the agencies/publishers that work best for each of my stories. And I try to find an agent that will sell all types of the children’s market since I write for the whole spectrum–or would like to!
3. Online Literary Agent Search
Although this isn’t a great place to start, it can be very helpful to learn more about an agency or agent you’re interested in working with because it will help you find more articles about them and what they’re interested in.
You’ll want to use sites like Literary Rambles, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Manuscript Wishlist to help you find out more about what an agent is interested in reading. Then, you’ll need to go to their websites to find out more about their submission guidelines and if they’re open to queries.
It’s a long process to find an agent, but with the proper research, you will be able to find an agent that will be best for you and your story!
Remember these tips before you submit to an agent:
- Know if Your Manuscript is Ready to Submit
- Be Sure Your Formatting is Correct
- Write a Successful Query
- Ask These 25 Questions BEFORE You Pick an Agent
Go further with the Kidlit Publishing Toolkit! Everything you need to know in order to publish a children’s book. Learn more and get your copy here!