A-Hunting We Will Go! On the prowl with Agent Hunter.

At last you’ve finished writing your masterpiece.  It’s time to take a journey.  Either to find a publisher, or to venture into that no less terrifying and treacherous terrain that is… (cue tribal drums and the distant cries of wild beasts) … literary agent territory.

If you are lucky you might find a small herd around a watering hole, discussing their latest acquisitions, while more boisterous agents lock horns with passing publishers over foreign rights.  Sometimes a young, defenceless author  may venture into the clearing, separated from its pack (or Writing Circle).  Scared, confused, it pads up to the water to take a much-needed drink in a last attempt to prolong its dangerously uncertain life.  It is then that the agents pounce.  The poor author submitted her manuscript to ten at once, addressing all her scruffily packaged, misspelled submissions with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.  She has no chance.  The agents tear her apart in seconds.

But what if the poor author had researched her agents properly?  What if she had targeted an individual, found out what they liked, and sent off a professional submission?  It might just have saved her life!

Recently literary consultancy The Writers’ Workshop kindly offered me a free subscription to their searchable agent database, Agent Hunter.  It costs £12 to join for a year and instead of trawling through the web for information you are able to search their databases.

To start a search, you simply click Start Your Search (obvious when you think about it, isn’t it!).  On the left hand side are filters.  I called up the list of literary agents, then filtered them by children’s agents, then agents who are actively looking to build their list, then agents who use Twitter, have blogs and accept email submissions.  This quite specialised search brought up five agents.  When you select an agent’s name you can view much more detailed information such as their client list, how to submit and sometimes a personal manifesto or advice.  Of course this can all be found on the internet as well if you look hard enough.  It’s the filters that really help.  Being able to draw up a list of agents that are actively interested in your subject is really useful.  You can even be more specific and search on Picture Books or Young Adult.

They also have a database of publishers on there which I was keen to see.  I set the filters to children’s publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts.  Unfortunately it’s a bit out-of-date already as Egmont are listed accepting unsolicited manuscripts and, as we know, they’ve stopped.  Ragged Bears are also listed and they are no more!

Agent Hunter is a great idea and I certainly think it will be a good resource.  However, it needs to make sure it is absolutely up-to-date before people subscribe or they will not feel they are getting their money’s worth.  I also think it would be useful to have links to other sites open in a new window rather than replacing the Agent Hunter window.

You can try out Agent Hunter for free, although some information will be greyed out.  It’s a useful way to see how the database works and what information is supplied.  You can also try and cancel within 7 days.

Ready?  Let’s go bag us some agent!

The Greenhouse Funny Prize

Thank you to author and fellow Talkback forum contributor Rosalie Warren for drawing my attention to this exciting new prize.  Aimed at flushing out the new Roald Dahl, Andy Stanton or Francesca Simon, the prize is being organised jointly by The Greenhouse Literary Agency and The Writers’ Workshop.  All you have to do is submit the first five thousand words and a synopsis of your funniest novel, chapter book or picture book by 30 July.  The prize is representation by this exciting and dynamic young agency and a free ticket to The Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing where you will be presented with a bottle of champers to boot.

The submission guidelines are here; as usual, follow them to the letter to maximise your chances.  Entry is free and submission is by email.

Of course you can just submit to The Greenhouse in their usual way but the benefits of this prize are the attendant publicity and boost to your career.  And sometimes knowing that you are in competition with others can bring out your best writing.

Good luck!