How to Find Your Agent in < 280 Characters

Author Allison Ashley found her agent using hashtags on Twitter. Here she shares her story and how you can find your agent via Twitter.
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Author Allison Ashley found her agent using hashtags on Twitter. Here she shares her story and how you can find your agent via Twitter or other unconventional means.

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How did I get my agent?


Yeah, you heard me. Twitter.

Listen, I’m in my mid (*cough* upper) thirties. I’m not cool on social media. Facebook was my jam (don’t laugh, Gen Z) because that one blew up when I was in college. A year and a half ago I didn’t even have a Twitter account, and had no clue what a RT or DM was, but my friend Heather told me all about the #writingcommunity on Twitter, and how it was crawling with authors, agents, and publishers. It was the place for the industry to talk about books in a unique way. Agents randomly tweet their manuscript wish-lists, and sometimes giveaways where you can win a query critique. You meet other authors who are in the trenches just like you, who can offer a word of advice or comment of commiseration. And the most important part: there are these things called pitch events, where you get a free chance to pitch your book in the character space of a Tweet, and if an agent is interested, they hit that “Like” button, which basically signals they want you to query them.

But hold on, let’s take a step back.

(Should writers use social media?)

Before Heather told me about Twitter—before I broke down and joined what I’d previously thought was a place for celebrities to say things they probably shouldn’t—I’d already tried to find an agent through traditional methods. I’d been querying about six months, which I know isn’t very long in the publishing world. But it felt like forever in my head, and I was eager to do anything that might increase my chances of being noticed.

Traditional publishing isn’t for everyone, but I knew early on it was the road I wanted to travel. I wanted the support and knowledge of an industry professional who knew what they were doing and who could advocate on my behalf to get my book in front of publishers.

Also, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tiny aspect of self-validation in the whole idea. If an agent liked my book enough to take a chance on me, surely it was sort of decent, right? But mostly, it’s the fact that I like to work as a team and finding an agent who liked the kinds of things I wrote and who would work with me seemed like the way to go.

So off I went, researching various agents and trying to find those who represented contemporary romance and were actively accepting queries. I shudder as I type the word “queries,” because man, that was a rough phase. In a traditional query letter, you get one page to pitch yourself and your book to them. Think it’s easy to summarize an 80,000 word manuscript into three sentences?

Try stuffing an elephant into a Prius, and get back to me.

[Read more about querying here.]

I tried cold-querying. I sent out maybe 25 queries for the first novel I ever wrote. I did them in batches, because I’d been given the following advice: If you send out 5 queries, and get zero requests for pages of the manuscript, your query isn’t strong enough.

So, I changed it up every 5 queries or so, but still didn’t have a ton of interest. It was my first book, and in hindsight, maybe wasn’t ready for publication (it might never be…a hard truth many authors must face about their first book-child).

I was a little down after 25 rejections, but I kept writing. I wrote two more books to total three full-length novels, and I learned something from each. I got better as I wrote each one. And then came…

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of writers band together in an online forum and commit to writing an entire novel during the calendar month of November.

I’d had a certain story brewing in my head for months…even as I wrote those other novels. I’d thought about it so much that I had a pretty good idea how to approach it, so I figured I’d give NaNoWriMo a go, and tell Lauren and Andrew’s story. On November 1, 2018, I typed the first words of Perfect Distraction, my novel coming from Entangled Publishing in March 2020. The words poured out of me like a fire hose, and by the end of the month, I had a 75,000-word novel.

Now, back to the Twitter thing. On December 6th that year, #PitMad was happening, which is one of those pitching events where agents, editors, and publishers scour Twitter for books they want to hear more about. I knew it was risky to put a book I literally just finished out into the world, but I write fast and edit faster, so during that first week of December I cleaned it up as best I could and went ahead and Tweeted the book (by this point, I’d been on Twitter for 4 months or so…I’d figured out the basics). I remember thinking to myself, “What do I have to lose? So, I Tweet, and no one sees it, or likes it. No biggie, I’ll continue to polish it and seriously query it in January.”

Y’all, I never expected the response I got. I had over a dozen agent “likes,” (a.k.a. query requests). I scrambled to send each agent what they asked for, and just a few days later had two offers of representation. Not long after that, I’d signed with Andrea Cascardi with Transatlantic Agency.

(39 queries that worked.)

After my experience, here’s my advice: If you’re querying, keep at it and don’t give up. The traditional route can still yield positive results (and is almost like a rite of passage). But don’t forget to look for those additional opportunities, like Twitter pitch events. You never know what might happen.

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Are you done writing and revising your manuscript or nonfiction book proposal? Then you're ready to write a query letter. In order to ensure you make the best impression on literary agents and acquisitions editors, we recommend getting a 2nd Draft Query Letter Critique.

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