Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Debbie Ridpath Ohi FAQ > Getting Into The Business > How did you get your agent? Any advice on how I can get an agent?

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This is a list of questions I am frequently asked. Here's a list of links to my more popular pages. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie

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(Last updated May 3, 2017)

Q. Any advice on how to get an agent? How did YOU get your agent?

I've been asked more and more frequently about agents, eg. "I just finished my middle grade/picture book/YA novel and am hoping to find an agent. Any advice?" If you're hoping to get your book published by one of the larger publishing houses in the U.S., having an agent will greatly increase your chances of getting your mss in the door. 

My agent is Ginger Knowlton, an agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. I adore her.

How I got my agent:

Years ago, children's book author Lee Wardlaw generously agreed to look at my manuscript as a (BIG!) favour to my father-in-law. She gave me some advice on how to improve it and after I revised it, she passed it on to her agent. Ginger accepted me as a client.

Although Ginger is still open to snailmail submissions, she very rarely accepts new clients.

Please do NOT ask me for a referral to my agent if: (1) We don't really know each other in person and especially if (2) I've never read your unpublished work (in the latter case, please read this post before asking me to critique your work).

In Aug/2015, I asked children's/YA writers and illustrators with agents to answer a survey about how they met their agents and what resources they found most useful. Here's what they said.

MY ADVICE:

Do NOT sign up with an agent before doing your research. Having the wrong agent can be worse for your career than having no agent at all.

Have realistic expectations. Getting an agent may enable your manuscript to reach more editors, but your manuscript may still not find a home. My agent and I sent out two of my middle grade manuscripts over the years and although I got very close sometimes (editor liked it but it got rejected by sales/marketing), we ended up pulling both from circulation.

Find out how an agent can help you before you sign with them. Are they respected in the industry? Do they have a reputation for offering the right manuscript to the right editor because they know what the editor likes? Do they already have a lot of contacts in the industry, or are they just starting out themselves? Do they work on their own or with an agency that might have extra resources (like a foreign rights department)?

Are they a good communicator? Do they respond to emails in a timely manner? Would you feel comfortable reaching out to them if you have a question? I try to be respectful of my agent's time since I know she has many other clients (I don't bug her with minor stuff) but I also know that when I do ask her a question, she responds quickly and honestly. One way to find out more about an agent's communication style is to talk to one or more of their current clients. This is yet another reason to become an active member of a kidlit/YA community; approaching someone who doesn't know you with this kind of question is more likely to get a generic or wary answer.

Do you need an editorial agent? Some agents will work with you on helping to improve your manuscript before they send it out. Not all agents do (mine doesn't). This may or may not be something you want, but you should decide this before you start approaching agents.

Attend children/YA author and illustrator conferences where you can meet agents like SCBWI events, both annual and regional. Many agents who attend these events are actively looking for new clients. Look for any opportunities which will let you meet agents face-to-face. In Canada, check out CANSCAIP events like Packaging Your Imagination. 

WHERE TO FIND AGENTS AND AGENT INFO ONLINE

Find agents online (there are many). Several of them have their own blogs, and this can be a good way to find out what kind of books they like and get a peek into how they work. I also strongly recommend that you join Twitter; I've compiled a list of agents on Twitter who represent kidlit/YA.

Some helpful links:

Harold Underdown on Agents for Children's Book Authors & Illustrators: If you're not sure what an agent does, I strongly recommend you read this overview of the basics.

My list of agents on Twitter who represent kid/YA.

Literary Rambles: lots of great info about different agents and what they're looking for.

Agentquery.com: Searchable database on literary agents.

Questions to ask a prospective agent: from Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bournet.

What Can I Expect From My Agent? from Editorial Ass.

Guide To Literary Agents: by Chuck Sambuchino. Esp good for finding new literary agents who are actively seeking clients.

The Truth About Being An Editorial Agent: by Molly Jaffa.

Querying Do's and Don'ts from agent Rebecca Sherman

8 Myths About Literary Agents - by Ingrid Sundberg

Last updated on May 3, 2017 by Debbie Ohi