A few weeks ago I announced in a blog post that I intended to start looking for literary agents to submit my picture book manuscript to. As if by magic, I then received an email from Harry at Agent Hunter offering me a free subscription to their website in exchange for an honest review. It seemed like a highly sensible idea, so I said yes and signed up.
Was it a good idea? In a nutshell – yes. Here are my thoughts:
Agent Hunter claims to be “A simple way to find your literary agent or publisher.” and is basically a big, searchable, database of UK agents and publishers.
I used the ‘agent search’ section of the site so this review focuses mainly on that.
When you begin the agent search there are lots of different options for narrowing down your selection, for example by agent likes and dislikes, number of years experience, how many clients they represent and their accessibility (are they on twitter? Do they attend literary festivals etc). All very useful in terms of finding an agent who suits your style of writing and appeals to you.
I found the ‘genre’ option particularly useful – it narrowed down the type of books agents were looking for into three main groups (fiction, non-fiction and children) and then 24 sub-categories within those, so I was able to be really specific and pick only agents who represented picture books. I also liked the ‘client list status’ option which allows you to select either ‘keen to build client list’, ‘open to new clients’ or ‘client list largely complete’ and thus avoid approaching agents who simply aren’t on the look-out for new clients.
Once you’ve created your filtered list (and there are more options that I have space to mention here) you can save it to avoid faffing around again next time you log on. When you go through your agent list there is lots of useful information for each one including:
- An ‘agency page’ which has biographical information about the agency they work for and lists all the agents who work there alongside submission advice and links to their websites and social media accounts. Of particular use here is the ‘standard response time’ which can vary a fair bit between agencies.
- An ‘agent page’ which has biographical info about that particular agent and (of particular interest/use) personal information about some agents, such as their literary likes and dislikes and their passions.
- A question and answer section (on the agent page) which – although not all agents have answered it – could be very illuminating.
- An ‘interesting links’ section. I loved this, as following these links could take you to all sorts of different information – agency news, interviews with the agent, articles about their clients success – really anything that gave you a flavour of what this particular agent was about.
All this information gives you a pretty good idea about whether you’d like to submit to an agent and, if you would, you can add them to your shortlist.
A quick look at the ‘publisher search’ part of the site reveals that there are also plenty of useful ways to refine your search in this section too, including ‘type of publisher’ and an ‘accepts un-agented submissions’ option which I can imagine being very useful if you’re thinking of approaching publishers directly.
Sounds good – you might be thinking – only couldn’t I just type ‘literary agents’ into google and come up with the same list? Well sort of, but when you do that (and I’ve tried) you end up with loads of agencies. You then have to search them for different agents and try and work out if the agency, or anyone within it, is looking for your sort of book. It would take much longer.
Also, having had a good trawl through lots of agents sites there was certainly information on Agent Hunter that I couldn’t actually find on the agents websites. Agent Hunter has collected information that can help you to be better informed.
Is it a perfect site? Not entirely (is anything?). I would really have liked to have had ‘location’ as part of the search function. Not everyone lives in London (the site itself acknowledges this) and it would have been nice to search for ‘agents in Northern England’ (even though these are few and far between, it seems!). If this information was even on the initial list of agents details, that would be useful but instead I had to click through to the agency information on each page to find where they were located.
I also found in one instance that an agent with a ‘closed client list’ was on my list of agents ‘keen to build client list’, and I suspect there are always going to be little details like that that sneak through the net. Things change, and I suppose the site can’t be totally up-to-date with everyone all the time!
These are very small gripes though in what is ultimately an incredibly useful website. When approaching agents you really want to be sure that they are a good match for you and I definitely felt better equipped and more confident having used this site. I have a shortlist of agents I’d like to approach and I’m not scared to use it!
I should probably mention the cost, which is £5 for a month’s subscription, £8 for six months or £12 for a year. I got a subscription for free but I can honestly say that, for the amount of time it has saved me and the extra information it contained, I would have been willing to pay. My thanks to Harry for giving me the subscription.
Finally, here’s some useful advice (taken from the Agent Hunter site) for any of us currently looking for an agent.
“Be persistent: agents make decisions about whom to represent for very different, personal and specific reasons. Your manuscript just needs to land on the right agent’s desk at the right time. It’s alchemy, really, magic but unpredictable. Make absolutely sure that the first few pages of the manuscript or sample chapters are impeccable and brilliant. We read thousands of submissions and we make important judgements (and, yes, decisions) on the first few pages, so they need to be very, very good.”
Tim Bates, Pollinger