If you’ve been writing for long, I don’t have to tell you how hard or how frustrating the search for an agent is. The books are incomplete and the biggest website, Publishers Marketplace (publishersmarketplace.com) is anything but user-friendly, in my opinion. Designed more for industry professionals than for writers, it’s fine if you want to find out how much a certain agent sold a certain book for, and how many books that agent has sold this year—in short, it’s not bad for statistics. But if you want a qualitative look at an agent, and know little about her in advance, it’s not much use to you. Enter Agent Hunter, (www.agenthunter.co.uk) a British site I’ve recently discovered that’s far and away the best resource I’ve found for writers trying to place a book—at least for writers based in the UK.
Agent Hunter is ‘a database of all UK literary agents’ that is ‘regularly updated, continually fact-checked’ and in my experience (only a month or so of use, so far) extremely informative, comprehensive, and accurate. Over 400 agents are profiled. You can search by name or by agency; you can search according to certain criteria. For instance, I filtered, saying I only wanted to see agents who handled literary and general fiction, and who were ‘keen to build their client list’. That brought down the list to 83. Then I started looking. For each agent there’s a general profile, and you can usually find out how many clients she has, how long she’s been an agent, genres she’s interested in, authors and books she likes (very useful, obviously), and how to make a submission. There’s a section of useful links for each agent, often comprising such things as their Twitter account, online interviews, essays they’ve written and so on. Generally you get a full client list (obviously this depends on what the agent is willing to divulge) and their contact information.
It should be noted too, that unlike Publishers Marketplace, which abstains from any qualitative comments about the agents, Agent Hunter will refer to an agent’s proven energy, or lack of proven sales record, etc. It saves you a lot of time.
Fairly obviously, this is an invaluable resource. Does it have any drawbacks? The only ones I can see are that North American agents are not included. (I wonder if they will ever expand to include them?) There is a charge, too: £6 for one month’s membership (Bronze) which includes full access to the database; £12 for 12 months’ membership (Silver); ) and £27 for Gold membership, which is the same as Silver, but gives you access to a review of your cover letter and synopsis. Compare this with Publishers Marketplace, which charges you $25 for a single month, and you see what a bargain it is.
What’s more, Agent Hunter will give you free membership for six months if you have a blog or some other platform and are willing to review the site for them—which, I confess, is what I have done. But, as should be apparent, I really do think this is a superb resource for writers in the UK, or writers hoping to get an agent (or publisher) in the UK.
Does it work? I’ve been using the site for a month, and have submitted 26 queries for my novel, an upmarket romantic comedy. I’ve had seven rejections, and so far none of the agents has requested the whole manuscript. However, a month is no time in this game. I may write a second instalment of this essay, relaying the eventual results, if anyone is interested. All I can say for now is that Agent Hunter has made my task far easier.