Despite the massive and fast-moving changes to the world of book publishing, most writers I know still want to go down the traditional route of finding themselves an agent and have that agent fix them a publishing deal. There is tonnes of information out there about how best to approach agents and why having one is both hard to achieve and enormously beneficial for most writers. But how do you know which agents to approach?
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook has been a valuable resource for a long, long time, but there are more modern ways of finding out which agents represent your genre and are looking for new clients too. Or at least, there should be. Agent Hunter is a brilliant website for UK-based writers looking for representation. It is the brainchild of The Writers' Workshop which is itself a fantastic organisation. But even they can only work with what they've been given. If agents don't provide enough information then it's going to be hard to know whether to submit to them. This is an annoying problem for writers, and Agent Hunter are now fighting back. With statistics.
If you've read my blog more than about three times, you'll know that I love a good bit of data. Agent Hunter has tonnes of it and they've used it all to create this rather lovely infographic about Planet Agent - what does the world of literary agents look like in the UK today? It's an interesting graphic, go and look at it. Right now. I'll wait for you...
Did you look at it? Good. So you'll know then that the most common names for agents are Caroline and John, and that there are 170 agencies in the UK. You'll have also noticed that the major part of this inforgraphic is about transparency. Are agents providing enough information? Agent Hunter have launched their Manifesto for Change, urging agencies to get on top of this problem. How can writers connect with the right agents if they don't know what they want? Why should writers connect with agents when they don't even have a photo or basic preference information? It's a waste of everybody's time.
I won't rehash everything they've said so well here. You can read the manifesto itself (it is, essentially, a longer version of the inforgraphic). But I'd be interested to know what frustrations you've had with approaching agents.
I am fortunate to be represented by David Haviland at the Andrew Lownie Agency, which is one of five picked out by Agent Hunter for having good transparency. (Andrew Lownie himself has the most clients of any UK agent and consistently makes more publishing deals than any other agent in the world). I had my time of frustration though. The thing that used to annoy me most was the widespread advice to address your submissions to a named agent, but then to find that an agency I really wanted to approach had no information on which agent might be interested in the kind of thing I wrote! It felt as if I was on the back foot from the start. What are your experiences of approaching agents?