I need an agent!

This time, a review of a new website, Agent Hunter, which offers an online database of agents and publishers…

If you’re a writer, and getting serious about it, at some point you will want to consider getting yourself an agent.  You don’t have to.  If you have enough drive, you can go ahead and self-publish quite effectively, especially online.  However, if you’re serious about trying to break into the mainstream, whether “traditional” publishing or through e-publications, it certainly helps to have a professional agent batting for you.  Someone who can sell you and your work (quite literally!) to the publishing houses, many of whom won’t even consider looking at an unknown, unagented author.

Of course, deciding that you need an agent and persuading one that he/she needs you are two completely different things.  Your submission, no matter how well crafted, is just one of hundreds, maybe thousands, crossing their desks (or desktops) every year.  You can make things a little easier on yourself by taking some time to consider very carefully who to approach – and how.

So, where to start?  A directory of agents is a good bet and I’ve just been trying out Agent Hunter (http://www.agenthunter.co.uk/index.html), a new website which offers an online searchable database of literary agents, agencies and publishers.  The full service is accessible by subscription,  but there is a “try before you buy” facility, which allows you to get a feel for how useful you think the site will be for you before you sign up.

The listings do seem pretty comprehensive and the search engine is pretty user friendly and you can tailor your search for agents using more specific criteria, eg likes/dislikes,  size of agency, whether they take email submissions, etc.  I tested it by using a range of criteria, including searching for several agencies and publishers by name to check that they were there.  I like the fact that you can search for individual agents rather than just agencies as a whole.  This allows you to adopt a more targeted approach.

I also like the general information sections which are included on the site.  For example, “everything you need to know about literary agents” provides an insight into what agents actually do, as well as advice on how to approach them.   This is useful background for those new to the game, as well as good “revision” for those who have been at it for longer.  After all, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics when you’re mired in the plot of your latest creation…  There are also plenty of links, such as those leading to the Writers’ Workshop site, to help you do your research, which you can follow up as and when you need to.

Would I recommend Agent Hunter?  Well, it’s certainly useful for the general information alone and the signposting offered via other links.  You’ll need to consider for yourself whether you think it’s worth the investment of a subscription.  My view is, it depends on how serious you are about trying to get published, using the traditional route at least.  If you are, then it’s  probably worth signing up for the full service.

Overall, I’d say that this website is at least as useful as the annually-updated Writers and Artists Yearbook, which includes similar listings and which also incurs an upfront cost (OK, unless you borrow it from your local library).  Agent Hunter has the advantage, too, that, being electronic, it can be updated as and when necessary.  Any database is only as useful/current as the information it contains, and according to the information on the website, the entries are updated annually, although “key entries” (ie the most popular/high-profile?) are updated more often.   And, yes, I will certainly be making a return visit.

There’s no easy route to finding an agent (unless you are extremely lucky).  It takes hard work, persistence and a thick skin.  Anything that can help you with your search and provide a few signposts is definitely worth investigating.  Whatever stage of the journey you are at, good luck!