My Journey for a Literary Agent

My personality has been a “get it done” and “focus on the destination” person. That changed as I began my writing path. I began to slow down and be more intentional and reflective. If you are pursuing writing, you will be all too familiar with the fact that things don’t move as fast or in the way that we would like them to move. And sometimes this can be a good thing as we learn more about ourselves in the process.

Here’s a few of my reflections and suggestions based on my journey for a literary agent.

1. Join Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as they have a plethora of resources. Spend time reading and reflecting on what you discover by keeping a writer’s journal of helpful tips or a file on your computer. I anticipate receiving their quarterly bulletin and devour it over a cup or coffee or maybe a glass of wine. Join The Canadian Children’s Book Centre as well. Their newsletters and resources are fabulous.

2. Get to know your writing community through social media. My personal preference is Twitter. At the beginning, I would look up children’s authors I admired and follow them (not literally as that would probably mean a restraining order). By doing this, you also see who may “rep” the author as a literary agent which also leads to the literary agency. Using my handy writer’s journal, I would make specific notes. By following well known authors and up and coming debut authors it gives such valuable insight into the writing world. Now this can become time consuming. You don’t want to actually spend all your time on social media and no time devoted to writing. I would block out a set time period and even set my timer. When time was up, social media was put away. I received my first writing opportunity for Get Bedtime Stories app through my involvement on social media and connecting with other storytellers globally. Check out my five stories “Carter and the Cedar Forest Critters” and other authors’ story worlds on the app. The publishers are always interested in meeting new authors.

3. At first I would look at my list of literary agents and feel a little overwhelmed. Who should I send to? Will she/he like me?Feeling a little like a teen back in high school trying to fit in, I began my search for a literary agent. This takes time and maybe a glass or two of wine the first few times you receive rejections. I would go to my writer’s journal and look up an agency that I had written down in my searches. Spend time looking at the various authors and the genre of books they represented. Then look at the individual agents on the website and read about each agent. Take time to get to know them. This has been a process I’ve truly enjoyed. There are some amazing agents out there that have a true passion for literature. Take note of the agents that fit or rep what you write. Don’t waste your time sending to lit agents that are looking for something you don’t have. Not only is it frustrating for you by wasting your time, it is equally frustrating for them sifting through emails of irrelevant material. So don’t submit to an agent who has a wish list of YA or thrillers if you write about rainbows, unicorns and puppies. Often I will be reading about a literary agent or follow his/her tweets and think, “I’d love to hang out with this person!” (Again this is where your thoughts should stop to avoid that restraining order.)

4. Now is the time to start reaching out and querying. This is very important. Go back to the literary agency’s website again and specifically the agent’s info and query EXACTLY how you are instructed to query. Follow the guidelines and don’t go rogue. By following precisely what is asked, you will demonstrate to the agent that you are willing to respect his/her guidelines. After all, this is the first impression the agent receives from you. You don’t get to dazzle with your winning smile or charismatic charm just yet. I would query several agents at a time (not at the same agency though). Be aware of the agency guidelines.

5. Write down when you query and with what agent. And again, I prefer to write it down versus a spreadsheet as I feel it is almost therapeutic in a way. Now this is the hardest part. Put it out of your mind. Not checking your inbox every two minutes is one of the hardest parts in this process. The best advice I received from a fellow author is to get moving immediately onto another project. Even put your devices on “do not disturb” while you are writing so you don’t become distracted.

6. When I first began this process it was hard if I did not hear back from a literary agent. It was a blow to the self-esteem at first. After all, you are handing over a little piece of your heart. But it is getting easier. Just this January I had a revise and resubmit request from a lovely agent. She took the time to provide such valuable feedback. Now unfortunately, not all agents can do that or can even respond as the amount of queries they receive is unbelievable. And when you do get a rejection, look at it as an agent looking out for you. An agent does not want to rep an author that he/she feels might not be a good fit. After all, it’s like those pair of jeans. You want a great fit, otherwise it’s not going to feel comfortable or make you look as good as you should.

7. Take a rejection with your head held high. Don’t feel you need to argue your point or prove why your book would work. This does not do you any favour in the literary community. Take a page from Covey, “People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” If you want to let off some steam, go for a walk, soak in a tub or crank up the tunes and dance it off (but close your blinds if you choose the last two…take it from my personal experience). Just don’t hastily respond back to a rejection. You will have emailing regret later, my friends.

8. Connect with an author community. Authors get authors. An author community is one of the most supportive groups of people. They are amazing cheerleaders and they also understand the highs and lows. Family and friends, as great as they are, may not always know how to encourage or kick you in the butt when you need it.

So I am still on my journey for that great pair of jeans and my BFF literary agent. But I’m actually enjoying it. Meeting amazing people along the way. Doesn’t mean I still don’t have my eye on the prize. It just means that the prize will be oh so much more rewarding when I reach it. Your journey may have some detours, washed out roads or switch backs up a mountain. But it is your journey, so embrace it, believe in it and pat yourself on the back for continuing on it.

I’d love to connect and hear about your journey too.

May your day be filled with good stories and your cup with coffee!


Nikki Bergstresser

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