Writing Wednesdays Guest Post: Nikki Kelly - All about literary agents

Wattpad sensation and author Nikki Kelly shares her ultimate advice guide and info-dump on literary agents in this guest post.

The penultimate post in this month’s guest Writing Wednesdays is by the fantastic Nikki Kelly - whom some of you may know as TheStyclarSaga on Wattpad!

Find Nikki on her websiteFacebookTwitter, and Tumblr.

Now - on with the post!

“Nikki, I hope you don’t mind me emailing direct, but I’m a fellow writer who dreams of being published and I was hoping you could answer some questions for me about Lit Agents…”

…the opening to an inbox message I received this week, and I can tell you now it’s not the first time I’ve been asked a ton of questions about this subject, and I highly doubt it will be the last. A common topic of conversation for up and coming writers, the mystery that seems to surround the ‘I’ve finished my book, (hurrah!) but what comes next?’ conundrum.


Before I begin, I should explain why working with an agent can be beneficial, and why you might want and/or need one in the first place:
  • A beautiful friendship…  An agent will work with you in a variety of ways – from offering guidance to ‘making good’ any areas of your MS that need a little TLC before going out on submission to the houses, to offering support and advice throughout your publishing career.
Think of a good agent as your Sat Nav, on a long and winding journey.
  • Typically, the big publishers do not accept unrepresented submissions, and the ones that do, such as Harlequin and TOR have large slush piles, where your MS will ultimately land.
  • Agents have formed relationships with various editors and know who likes what, and who is looking for what, at any given time – it’s part of their job.
  • An agent will broker your deal.

If/when a publishing house offers on your novel (by the way this is when you’d whip out the tea pot and Jammy Dodgers for an Alice In Wonderland-esque celebration!) your agent will gather all interest, before then negotiating the best possible deal for you and your book(s). 

Not only will they likely secure a better deal for you than you might have been able to yourself, but they understand all the legal stuff, such as what rights to sell and which to hold onto, multi territory deals, if there are any, and all the nitty gritty stuff that can baffle the rest of us. They also turn their hand to reading your contract (or in some big agencies they have a legal department) to make sure everything is as was agreed and fair for all involved.



Back in the day you would have gone out and bought or borrowed a copy of the Writers and Artists Year Bookwhich details pretty  much every major literary agency in the world, giving you their agents specifics and address in which to write to.  You can of course still do this, and the Writers and Artists Year Book have a really helpful website you should take a gander at…


A great website I came across in my initial search for a literary agent was AgentQuery.com.

Not only does it offer a free, detailed search engine with filters ranging from genre to agents currently accepting submissions, the site also offers lots of useful information about publishing land, both traditional and e-pubbing. Trust me, it’s worth a look.


Raid your bookshelf… Pull out all of your favourite novels in the genre you yourself have written in, and head on over to the acknowledgements pages. More often than not, the author will thank his or her agent, and usually they will use the agent’s full name, or a first name with a nod to the agency he or she belongs to. 

Make a note of these agents, then Google them! Head on over to the literary agent’s website to read up on the bio of the agent, what else they have secured publishing deals for and whether or not they are open to submission. If you think you’d be a good match and you have something they might well be interested in, then query them! And, while you’re there, do explain why you are querying them – they agented one of your all time favourite books after all!


Possibly the most ‘modern’ way to search for an agent, yup, you guessed it, using social media, namely Twitter.

In the search box of Twitter type:
  • Literary Agent
  • YA Agent
  • MG Agent
…you see where I am going here, right?

Lots of new agents are taking to twitter, and their bios will contain such keyword search terms just waiting for you to find them J Take some time to go through the agents profiles, read their tweets, to see what and who they are representing, and what and who they are looking for next, and decide if you think any of them would be a good fit.

Type in the hash tag  #AskTheAgent

I first discovered this when Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group began tweeting on a Sunday night using this hash tag. She was an agent I had my eye on, and she was actively using twitter to invite submissions as she was growing her list at the time. By reading her tweets I was able to establish that not only was she someone I would happily sit and have a tipple with, but she was an agent who might well be interested in the type of novel I had written, which gave me the confidence to reach out and query her.

So what is #AskTheAgent exactly?

It does what it says on the tin.

The uber-cool agents that tend to participate in this weekly/bi-weekly twitter chat tend to be a mix of super awesome agents looking to grow their own list, and some solid, been there done that (still doing it in fact) types, who have a wealth of knowledge they are happy to share. 

Of course, what #AskTheAgent also does is allow the agents to effectively advertise themselves to all the wonderful writers out there in twitter land who are querying. With any luck, by being involved in the chat the writers will take the time to note what each agent is/is not in the market for and what does/does not work for them, so this in turn (hopefully) cuts down the amount of queries they receive which simply aren’t their bag, while simultaneously encouraging the ones that might be!


Search the above hash tag. When #PitchWars is on, you have one tweet in which to ‘sell your story’ to the participating agents. The agents will sift through the 140 character pitches and invite those that interest them to submit a **partial MS.  

Phew! So there you have it, my quick and dirty guide to searching for an Agent/ Sat Nav extraordinaire!

Additionally, I’d like to take a quick moment to highlight wattpad, where I first launched LAILAH to the world, and where Beth wrote her wicked story The Kissing Booth. Not only is wattpad a great place to share your stories with the world, but the team at watty HQ run the most fantastic competitions — there’s one running right now with a traditional pub deal to be won with Harlequin!

And while we’re talking all things online, be sure to check out SwoonReads.com – An imprint of MacmillanSwoonaccepts unrepp’ed submissions in an innovative way (no slush pile here my friends!). You simply upload your entire MS to the site for the general public to read, comment and vote on. Each upload is considered a submission, and are all read by the SwoonReads team, in order of popularity on the site. Every quarter, Swoon selects several new novels to be published traditionally, and has already seen some great success!  

**Query = To ask if the agent will accept a submission from you
**Partial = Opening chapter, or the first 3 chapters.
**Full = Entire MS

Where you can find me…
Twitter: @Styclar
Tumblr: styclar.tumblr.com

- Massive thanks to Nikki for such an epic post, which I hope lots of you will find helpful! :) Don’t forget to follow Nikki at the links above and check out her books.

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