Category: Agents Page 1 of 2

12 Questions – Are You Ready for an Agent?

This information is for writers of fiction seeking an agent.

If you hope to have your book published by a traditional publishing house (Christian or general market) you will very possibly need an agent. Have you been thinking about searching for one? The task is daunting. Before you begin you need to figure out whether or not you are ready for an agent. That ultimately means knowing if your manuscript(s) is ready.

Here are 12 questions to ask yourself to decide when you are ready.

Picture book writers check out Carol Baldwin’s post 6 Tips for PB Writers Getting an Agent.

If you plan to self-publish your work of fiction you won’t need an agent. But answering these questions will help you to make your book the best it can be.

1. Is your manuscript finished?

Do not query an agent unless your book is finished.
Also, if you write for young children (below Middle Grade) do you have several finished manuscripts? Agents want to represent you and all of your work, not just one story. Do not send several manuscripts. Query only one. However, if the agent like your manuscript they may ask for more.

2. Is your manuscript perfect?

Is it perfect according to industry standards, not yours? Has it been through your critique group several times? Have you incorporated the changes you think work? Has it been edited for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.? Can you pay a professional editor to go through it?

3. Have other people read your manuscript?

If your story is for young children (picture book, board book, early chapter book, easy reader) have several people who have never seen it before read it aloud to you? Your ear will pick up problem areas. Listen and take notes.

If the story is a MG or YA have several beta readers read it and given you their comments? A beta reader is someone who isn’t necessarily a writer but likes books in the genre of your book and is willing to read it and note questions and problems.

4. Have you written a query letter?

Have you written a query letter for this book? Has that been critiqued by your critique partners? This is what you send to the agent. Follow the individual agency’s submission guidelines exactly. If they use a specific form for submissions, fill it in with the information in your query letter. If the agency uses a submission website like Submittable, use it.

Check out these websites for help with writing a one-page, three-paragraph query letter.
Agent Query: How to Write a Query Letter
Jane Friedman Query Letters
Reedsyblog Query Letters

Those who plan to self-publish will find this step a big help in making sure your theme, character arc and plot are strong.

5. Have you written a synopsis?

If your book is for middle grade students or young adults have you written a synopsis, and has it been critiqued by your critique partners? A synopsis is basically a 4 to 10 page detailed plot summary of your novel. Even if you plan to self-publish writing a synopsis is critical to making sure your plot is seamless. Check these websites for help.
Jane Friedman Novel Synopsis
Writer’s Digest Write a Synopsis
Jerry Jenkins Synopsis

6. Have you written a pitch?

Have you written a pitch of 50 words or less for your story, and has it been critiqued? A pitch should include the main character, the problem or decision they face, and the change the character passed through—that is, the theme.

Jericho Writers Elevator Pitch

BookBub Elevator Pitch

7. Do you know your book’s intended audience?

Do you know who is your audience is? Is it written for boys or girls? What is your target age group? Does your vocabulary and reading level match that age group? Does the subject matter fit that age group? Does the content?

8. Does the word count fit industry standards for your target audience?

Each age group and each genre of children’s books have specific ranges for the number of pages editors will accept. Do not expect them to make exceptions for your book. Word counts equal numbers of pages. Each page costs money to print.

9. Have you researched the agent?

Do you know what types of manuscripts they are looking for? Do you know their submission guidelines and procedures?

10. Have you read many books in your genre?

Have you read current books—published in the last 5 years—in your age group and genre? For young children have you read and studied 100 picture books, board books, easy readers, or early chapter books? Have you read at least a dozen recently published MGs or YAs in your genre?

11. Have you put the manuscript(s) away and not read it for 3 to 6 months before you query the agent?

12. Do you have a professional website and a regular presence on social media?

This may not be important to you and me, but it IS important to editors and agents.

How to Get an Agent

Have you considered obtaining a literary agent? It can be time consuming and frustrating. The Christian Writers Institute is bundling several of their courses into one and offering a significant discount to help you on your way. NOTE: the discount ends October 31, so there’s no time to waste!

This program comes with the following courses:

  1. Mistakes New Writers Make by Kathy Ide – Explore the biggest mistakes writers make and how you can avoid them.
  2. The Ten Enemies of Good Writing by Rene Gutteridge – The better your writing, the easier it is to find an agent.
  3. The 10 Ks of a Good Book or How You Can Make 10k on Your Next One! by Steve Laube – Steve talks about what makes a good book. This talk is also a special glimpse into the mind of agents. Find out what they are really thinking.
  4. Do I Need an Agent? by Steve Laube – Find out what an agent does and why you need one for your career.
  5. The Publishing Process by Len Goss – Learn the process of turning a manuscript into a book.
  6. The Elements of an Effective Book Proposal by Steve Laube – Create a book proposal that gets noticed! A complete audio presentation. Plus BONUS materials including book proposal templates and examples.
  7. How to Sell Everything You Write by Bob Hostetler – Learn Bob’s special approach that ensures he sells everything he writes.
  8. Redeeming Rejection by Steve Laube – Perhaps the most powerful talk in this whole course. How you handle rejection defines your character as an author.
  9. The Power Book Proposal by David Horton – Engage an editor with a powerful book proposal for both nonfiction and fiction.
  10. How to Use The Christian Writers Market Guide by Bob Hostetler – This is a key tool for finding an agent.

This bundle is an entire writers’ conference worth of lectures. But unlike many writers’ conferences, it doesn’t cost $500. It’s normally $85, but for couple of weeks, you can get it 70% off! That brings down the price to $25.50. Use coupon code “oct2019” at checkout or click this link to activate the coupon code.

Please contact the Institute directly with any questions.

Looking for an Afternoon Pick-Me-Up? **PLUS A GIVEAWAY**

Here’s a sneak peek at conference presenters with descriptions in their own words. We’ll be posting a teaser page each  Monday. You still have time to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount.

To register, visit:


Kim Peterson – Selling Snappy Sidebars

Sidebars fill the pages of magazines, our computer screens, and even some TV shows. Sidebars are short articles that accompany and relate to a larger work, yet they present a different angle. With today’s online and “everything now” mentality, these high-demand mini pieces often serve as the article. Come to this workshop to learn why editors, writers, and readers love sidebars. We’ll also examine the different types, how to be creative in assembling a sidebar, and how to write these snappy pieces to entertain and inform readers. You’ll soon be providing the extras your editor craves.



Vijaya Bodach – Writing Memoir (Part II): Being a Witness—Writing the Most Important Story

Can you think of any modern-day witnesses? These are people who questioned Christianity and found it to be true! And they will do anything to keep this Pearl, this Treasure, this Gift. Can you state the reason for your hope in Christ? Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you. We are now living in a post-Christian society. We have the greatest number of people who have no religious affiliation. They are the “nones” (not to be confused with nuns). It is YOUR story that will make a difference in their lives, as you sow seeds of faith and hope in them. Yes, I’m looking at YOU!


Terri Kelly – How to Write Devotions for Children

Turn yourself into a writing machine. Don’t you want to publish a children’s picture book or a magazine article for teens? How about a middle-grade chapter book or nonfiction for children? There is a surefire way to sharpen your story: Write Devotions. In How to Write Devotions for Children, you’ll learn a simplified method that you can apply to all writing. Not only will you walk away with a plan for a publishable devotion to the best audience in the world—our children, you’ll gain a writing tool belt to wear for life.


Edie Melson – Writing for the YA Audience

We live in a world with a savvy and sophisticated young adult population. In their young lives—through media and the ready availability of digital information—they’ve been exposed to a lifetime of experiences. The first rule of YA writing is respect—respect for our audience, and respect for their experiences and opinions. The second rule is authenticity. Our YA readers can spot a fake a mile away. This workshop will cover the mindsets and expectations of this audience. We’ll discuss how this mindset affects our writing in multiple genres and for different age groups.


Tessa Emily Hall – Create Book Buzz by Coordinating a Blog Tour

Marketing isn’t always an author’s best friend—but in today’s publishing landscape, it’s a requirement. What if I told you it could be both exciting and cost-effective? And that, even with no prior marketing experience, you could reach readers from the comfort of your own home? 

This is what I have found to be the case through coordinating blog tours for my own books. Coordinating these tours have proven to be a powerful strategy to reach target readers and spread online buzz surrounding a new release. By tapping into my passion for the book, I have discovered how to create unique tours that invite my target readers to share in this excitement. 

Come to my workshop, Create a Book Buzz with a Blog Tour, and learn these five steps on how to kick off your virtual tour from the ground up—in a way that is both organized and efficient. You will also discover secrets on how to infuse your passion with creativity to brainstorm unique and fun content for your tour. 

Who knows? After coordinating your first blog tour, you might realize that marketing isn’t your worst enemy after all.

Steve Hutson – Why You’re Not Getting Published: Rejection-Proof Submissions

Have you sent off your manuscript to dozens of agents and editors, only to be rejected again and again? Learn the things they won’t tell you; discover the most common problems, and how to avoid them. Hint:  It may have nothing to do with the quality of your writing or your story.


You’ll Love These Rise and Shine Workshops AND A GIVEAWAY

Here’s a sneak peek at conference presenters with descriptions in their own words. We’ll be posting a teaser page each  Monday. You still have time to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount.


Tessa Emily Hall – How to Sell Your Book to an Agent: What to Do and What to Avoid

You’ve spent months, if not years, writing and polishing your manuscript to perfection. It’s finally time to send it off to agents! You have no doubt they will spot your storytelling gift immediately and beg for you to send the manuscript their way. 

After making a list of prospective agents, you write your query letter—and then off your submission goes into the publishing world. 

But the responses don’t roll in like you had expected. In fact, days go by. Then a week. 

Finally, an email pops into your inbox. An agent! You open the email, preparing for the glowing response . . . but it’s not the manuscript request that you had expected. Instead, it’s a rejection letter. 

Does this sound familiar? It’s no secret: The submission process to a literary agent is often just as hard as writing the book itself. The competition is tough, and the slush piles are high. An agent could fall in love with your writing, storytelling ability, and still feel as though he/she would not be a good fit for you. 

So how can you, an aspiring author, capture the attention of an agent? Is it possible to write a query letter in such a way that your email rises to the top of their submissions pile? And finally, is there a reason for all of these rejections—and what can you do to decrease your chances of receiving one? 

In my workshop, How to Sell Your Book to an Agent: What to Do and What to Avoid, I will discuss the answers to all of these questions and share secrets on how you can stand out. You will learn how to properly submit to a literary agent in a way that has the agent begging for more. 

That way, you will someday receive that manuscript request you have been waiting for. 

Kim Peterson – Developing a Strong Supporting  Cast of Secondary Characters

From the moment Anne of Green Gables smashes her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head, their competition makes her stronger, faster, smarter and, eventually, a better person. Readers wouldn’t understand Anne half so well without Gilbert Blythe. That’s the purpose of memorable secondary characters: Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley give insight into Harry Potter, Hector Zeroni knows the truth behind Stanley Yelnats’ innocence long before Stanley does, and Dorothy wouldn’t have made it home without the rather-smart Scarecrow, the compassionate Tin Man, and the Lion who truly is the King of the Forest. Learn to craft compelling secondary characters that make your protagonist unforgettable, without stealing the show.

Vijaya Bodach’s Workshop – Writing Memoir for Kids (Part I): Techniques


Learn some basic techniques of writing memoir for kids. Think back to your childhood. Begin with: I remember…my favorite place, my best friend, my favorite game. Go. Give yourself 5 min for each. Now write: I don’t remember…Wait, you say, how can I write something I don’t remember? We often suppress difficult times, but you’ll be surprised how much you remember if you allow yourself to. I don’t remember…the kid who was mean to me; the time I lied to my parents about…; when my pet went missing…Go. Give yourself another 5 minutes for each. These and other exercises will develop your memoir techniques. 

Lori Hatcher’s Workshop – Ten Ways to Charm an Editor       

As a writer and a magazine editor, I’ve sat on both sides of the editorial desk. I’ve received rejections letters and I’ve sent them. Over the years I’ve identified six sure-fire ways to earn points with your editors and four mistakes to doom your submission to the shredder. I’ve also learned that editors are not God. It’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to disagree with them. We’ll talk about why and how to do this and still maintain a positive relationship. In this fast-paced workshop, I’ll give you a sneak peek into the mind of an editor and share proven tips to help your editors say YES to your next submission.



Attention Teens! – Brenda Covert – Poetry Workshop: Playing with Words

Question: What do an eraser, paint chips, and Africa have in common?

Answer: They are all inspiration for the poetry teens will write in the Playing with Words workshop!

Brenda Covert’s interactive poetry workshop will help teen poets refine their creative voice as they learn to write 3 different types of poems. Students will also have a chance to share their work in class. Whether a student has yet to write a poem or has written volumes, all are welcome to come have fun playing with words!


How To Find an Agent:  Six Questions for Picture Book Writers

As an aspiring picture book author, I had high hopes for breaking into children’s publishing. I worked on my craft, joined a critique group, revised and polished my picture book manuscripts, then sent them off to publishers, hoping my dream would soon be reality. That’s when I encountered two seemingly impossible hurdles: the slush pile and, worse yet, the wall – you know the one I mean – the one that has this sign posted: “Open to Agented Submissions Only”.  So, after two years of submitting  picture book manuscripts unsuccessfully, I decided it was time to seek an agent. That search took over a year, but finally, with an agent representing me, I sold my first book, then three more, all acquired by top-notch publishers. What made the difference?  Having an agent. Taking that step, however, required thought. Here are six questions to get you started.

Question  #1: Am I ready for an agent?


Newer writers sometimes seek representation prematurely, so my first bit of advice is to make sure that the manuscripts you are presenting reflect your very best work and clearly demonstrate an understanding of your form. For example, it should be clear from your picture book manuscript that you understand that the story needs to be told in 14 spreads and that the text needs to leave room for the illustrations. Your text should be so smooth and tight and full of heart, that it will be clear to prospective agents that you’ve spent a lot of time revising and polishing. Finally, an agent is not going to be interested in just one picture manuscript.  They will want to see a body of work. So make sure, before sending that first story to an agent, that you have a whole portfolio of at least five solid stories that are ready to be seen.

Question #2: Are you sure you want an agent?

How can you be sure that you want and/or need an agent? Here are a few considerations: 1) If you intend to self publish, you do not need an agent. 2)If you are primarily interested in publishing for the children’s magazine market, you do not need an agent as most children’s literature agents are interested in representing book-length projects.  3) There are still a few publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts, so it is possible to submit on your own.  4) However, if you are serious about publishing with a traditional publisher and want the expertise of someone who not only knows the market, but also has the skill to negotiate a contract to get the best terms possible, and who also has many contacts within the industry to help connect you with the right editor, then I would recommend that yes, you might want an agent. That is what I decided was best for me.  

Question #3:  What kind of agent do I want?

Once you decide you want an agent, the next consideration is what kind of agent you want. Some agents, for example, are highly editorial. Is that something you are interested in or would you prefer an agent who sends out your work without that editorial stage? Different agents also have different philosophies regarding submissions.  Some prefer to send pieces out one at a time in small batches.  Others send larger batches. And what is their procedure for following up on pieces they have submitted?  Most important, what would YOU like from an agent?  These are all questions to consider before starting your search.  You might even take the time to create a list/chart of what you are looking for in an agent, so that when you start your search you can keep track of which agents fit those requirements. 

Question #4:  How do I start my search?  


I started my search for an agent by doing a little investigating to see which agents and agencies my favorite authors were represented by. Then I went to those agencies websites and read through every bio of every agent, making notes as to which agents I thought might be interested in my work.  I also signed up for my local SCBWI’s annual conference and made a special effort to meet each agent there, not to foist my work on them, but just so I could get a sense of what they were like.  I also looked online for interviews with prospective agents.  A fantastic resource for that is Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, which includes a page with links to dozens of agent interviews. Finally, once you are ready to query your list of agents, go back to each agent’s website and follow the submission guidelines EXACTLY. Then, be patient…. This journey is not for those who are in a rush.=)

Question #5 How do I know the agent I am querying is legit?

Unfortunately there are some scammers out there hoping to offer representation to gullible writers. To avoid finding yourself in unwanted situation with a questionable agent, it’s helpful to know a few things.  Legitimate agents will not charge you to read your manuscript, nor will they demand any upfront costs.  They will not charge editing fees, nor will they submit your work to publishers that charge fees.  For more details on this important understanding, I recommend you check out an expert source called Authors Beware, managed and run by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This, in my opinion, is a must read before beginning your agent search.

Question #6:  What do I do when I get the offer?

Most likely an offer will be preceded by a phone call.  This pre-arranged phone chat is a chance for you and the agent to connect live.  It’s your chance to make sure your are both on the same page and can communicate easily.  It’s also your chance to get to know them a little bit better and to make sure they will represent you in the way you want.  (Remember they are working for you, and you are benefitting from their expertise and connections.) So, before “the call”, as it is excitedly known, go back to that list you generated (see question #3) and create a list of questions that you want to ask during the call.  If the call indeed ends with an offer, be excited, but also keep your wits about you.  Make sure that before signing the contract with your new agent that you read the fine print carefully and ask any final questions that you want answered.  Once you’ve signed, have a little celebratory chocolate (or whatever)!  Then be ready for the next step… going out on submission as an agented writer!
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of four picture books: GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a 2015 Christian Book Award® finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories and won First Honors in the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award, and her newest release LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).
Find Laura on the web:

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