When and Where to find a literary agent

I honestly believe that the best way to find a literary agent is to go to a conference or somewhere you’ll have the opportunity to meet them in person. That way you can both use your instincts to decide whether you like each other and could work together.

Conferences often offer the opportunity to have one-on-one assessments with an agent so you can get feedback on what you write.

Of course it’s not always possible to go to conferences or events to meet agents, but these days there are some great opportunities that exist online through places like:


  1. Twitter – If you type #MSWL in the search box, you’ll find a thread called Manuscript Wish List where publishers and agents post what kinds of manuscripts they are looking for.   Manuscript Wish List also has a website where opportunities are posted too, and they run Man
    uscript Wish List Academy.
  2. Type in the #MSWLMA hashtag on Twitter to find Manuscript Wish List Academy Manuscript Wish List Academy runs an online conference with opportunities to pitch to agents. They offer sessions like ‘10 minutes with an expert’, writing classes, writing critiques and writing consultations.
  3. #PitMad – ‘#PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch.’
  4. Pitchfest – Savvy Authors – opportunities to pitch to agents and editors.


  1. Query Tracker – https://querytracker.net- provides information to help you find a literary agent. They have over 1500 listings with information about each agent – and the opportunity to track your query. 
  2. Publishers Market Place https://www.publishersmarketplace.com is ‘the biggest and best dedicated marketplace for publishing professionals built on the foundation of Publishers Lunch, read by 40,000 industry insiders and considered “publishing’s essential daily read”.’


  1. Writers and Artists Yearbook UK https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/writers-artists-yearbook-2020-9781472947512/ ‘an up-to-date directory of thousands of contacts for the book publishing industry including almost 400 Literary agents.’
  2. Guide to Literary Agents 2019 –  by Robert Lee Brewer – ‘Guide to Literary Agents 2019 is your go-to resource for finding that literary agent and earning a contract from a reputable publisher. Along with listing information for more than 1,000 agents who represent writers and their book’ https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Lee-Brewer/e/B002GO21SC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
  3. SCBWI – https://www.scbwi.org The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children – Agents Directory – available to download f
  4. ree from SCBWI members.
  5. There are Facebook Groups like Sub it Club where authors and illustrators offer information and support to others who are looking for an agent. ‘Sub It Club is a support group for writers and illustrators who are submitting (or thinking about submitting) their work. Writers of any genre are welcome to join us. We talk submissions, critique query letters, help each other with pitches, share tips, and more.’  There’s also KidLit411 run by the founders of www.Kidlit411.com where they have an agent spotlight.
  6. Literary Rambles http://www.literaryrambles.com A blog spotlighting Children’s Book Authors, Agents and Publishing. Does interviews with agents about what they are looking for and books they have represented.


Of course this is different for everyone, but I’ve found that it’s something that shouldn’t be rushed into. When your work sings, when your characters leap off the page, when you have an amazing story concept that you can sum up in a single paragraph, that’s when I would go looking for an agent.

You only get one chance. If you submit a manuscript that’s far from ready, an agent is unlikely to invite you to resubmit.  Revise, revise, wait, revise, revise, revise then submit. Don’t waste your opportunities!

This concludes the ‘Choosing an Agent’ series. I hope you’ve found these posts helpful.

Please feel free to share your experiences, tips and questions in the comments section of this post.

Good luck finding your dream agent.


How to Stay Optimistic About Your Writing

Today’s world is controlled by economists and accountants.

So unfortunately, the reality is that a great deal of modern book publishing is more about making money than making a difference.

It doesn’t matter how lyrical your lines or how moving your monologues, the publisher’s decision about whether to publish your book will be based on how much money they think it will make.

Fortunately, these days there are other options open to storytellers and creators who want their work to be read by others.

There are smaller presses and there’s the opportunity to independently/self-publish your work. (Although as I warned in last week’s post there are pitfalls to avoid here as well.)

Last weekend I went to a fabulous Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) workshop run by the very talented and inspiring Simmone Howell.

During the breaks I had a number of discussions with other authors about the current market. We are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been published or not, it’s very difficult at the moment, particularly in Australia to get your work published through traditional channels.

So here are my tips to keep you optimistic in the face of publishing adversity.


At the SCBWI meeting I was surprised to discover how many of my children’s writing colleagues had entered the Scarlett Stiletto Women’s Crime & Mystery Short Story Competition.

It’s hard to slave over a novel for a number of years only to find that nobody seems to want to publish it at this time, in its current form. So it can be quite satisfying to work on shorter pieces like short stories (or paintings) and have the satisfaction of completing something you can feel good about in a much shorter space of time.

E-zines like Buzz Words and PIO provide information about publishing opportunities for shorter works, particularly in the fields of Children’s and YA writing. Your writer’s centre may also produce a magazine/e-zine which lists publishing opportunities in these markets.


If you’ve tried a particular market for your book, for instance Australia, and there has been no interest in it, consider overseas markets like the US, UK and Europe.

Sometimes you won’t have to change much about your book to make it more relevant to these markets. For instance, my book Eddy Popcorn’s Guide to Parent Training had a lot of interest in Australia but in the end, wasn’t taken up by a publisher.

UnknownI’m now rewriting the manuscript to adapt it for an international market. Instead of setting it in Australia, I’m having my main character Eddy, an Australian boy move to Chicago. This will not only make the story more relatable for the US market, but it has also added a whole new dimension to the plot.


It’s not about how old you are or where you’re from, it’s about the book you create and whether the publisher determines that people will want to read it.

Dorothea Tanning‘s first book Chasm: A Weekend was published in 2004 by Overlook Press, New York in 2004 when she was in her nineties.

imagesHarriet Doerr published her first book Stones for Ibarra to critical acclaim when she was in her seventies.

Unknown-2Helen Hooven Santmyer published the bestselling  And Ladies of the Club at age 88.

It was published originally in 1982 by Ohio State University Press and sold only a few hundred copies. Thanks to the efforts of several enthusiastic and well-connected readers, the novel was chosen by the Book-of-the- Month Club and given a 150,000-copy first printing. It was adapted as a television miniseries, and its author was compared with Jane Austen, Thornton Wilder and – yes, even Tolstoy.

The book that made Helen Hoover Santmyer a celebrity was in the works for more than 50 years. (And I thought that taking 10 years to write Letters to Leonardo was a long time 🙂


It’s great to have goals. I’m a big goal setter – it’s how I get things done.

But most of what happens in publishing is beyond your control.

You might have written a great book, but publishers have one on their list already that’s similar. Or marketing might have decided no more horse books, or a bestselling author might have been commissioned to write a book on the same topic/theme already.

There is so much happening inside a publisher’s office that you don’t know about. So try not to take it personally.

Their decision not to publish is not about you. It’s not about your writing. It’s not about how you look or where you come from.

It’s about whether the publisher thinks that your book will earn its keep and hopefully make a profit for them.

Try to be realistic about your goals and expectations.

Even if a publisher has expressed strong interest in my work, I always have a backup plan – someone to send the manuscript to if the deal falls through.

I ALWAYS have a plan for where I’ll send my manuscript to next if it is rejected.

Even though a rejection is disappointing, sending it out again means there is still hope and the possibility of acceptance.

And you never know when something might come back into vogue. Sometimes you need to put that manuscript aside for now.

I wrote a play in 2009 that was rejected. That same play has just been accepted by an educational publisher.


Unknown-1There will always be someone who seems to get the lucky breaks with publishers and there will always be someone with more bad luck stories than you.

Try to ignore what’s going on around you and focus just on you, on what you’re writing, on your goals, on making your own luck.

With social media constantly bombarding us with other people’s successes, it can be easy to lose sight of our own achievements. Sitting down to write is an achievement. Completing a manuscript is an achievement. Editing a manuscript is an achievement. Sending it out is an achievement. These should all be celebrated. They are not things that just anyone can do. Celebrate these achievements.

Remember that social media is a promotion tool. People never post on Facebook when they had a pitch with a publisher who said, “That story’s not for me.” But they post in big headlines when they pitch and a publisher asks to see their work.

People never post pictures of themselves being photographed with a waiter at a conference dinner – it’s more likely to be a photo of them with a celebrity author or publisher. It’s all about keeping positive, but it’s also about exuding an aura of success.

Be happy for the achievements of others, but most of all be happy for what you achieve. And remember that social media always makes things look glossier than they really are. For all you know, the food was terrible, the conference speaker put everyone to sleep and the accommodation had a rat in it. It’s just that people don’t tend to post these things on social media. They’ve spent all that money going to a conference, they want to believe that it was worth it. And honestly, most of the time it is.

I only mention this because social media gives a distorted reality. Try and keep things in perspective. If the conference looked great and you wished you were there – try and put $10 away every week so you can go to the next one and see for yourself.

Remember why you write. You write because you love it. You write because you have something to say. So keep writing and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Write for you, write for the people who will one day read your words. Don’t give up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Feel free to share your tips on how you stay optimistic in the face of adversity.

Happy writing:)




Writer’s Conferences – When and Where Are They? How To Find Out About Them

Following my posts about Why Attend a Writer’s Conference and Preparing for a Writer’s Conference I recently had a question from a blog reader, “How do we find out about writer’s conferences?”

CYA Success stor

CYA Success stories 2015 conference

So today’s post is designed to give you some tips on where to start.

I also wanted to mention that there are a lot of writer’s festivals around too. These are great for being inspired by other writers, hearing how they write and learning about their work and what their favourite reads are/were, but I find that conferences are a usually a better place to meet and present your work to publishers and agents.

So conferences are the focus of today’s post.

Seeing as I write for children and young adults, I find that the best place to start for these conferences is The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Their website is divided into regions so you can click on any region around the world and it will take you to a specific page that has any upcoming conferences listed.



SCBWI Australia 2010

One way to find conferences that might be worth going to is to look at the genre you write in and then research organisations for writers in those genre. Some of these organisations host their own conferences, others can give you information about them through newsletters and websites.

For example, there are organisations for

  1. Romance Writers – Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America
  2. Speculative Fiction writers – Conflux, Clarion
  3. Horror writers – Horror Writers Association
  4. Crime writers – Australian Crime Writers Association, Sisters in Crime
  5. Children’s writers – Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators
  6. Comedy writers


Reading Matters Conference – Held every second year by the State Library of Victoria.

Check with your state or national library – they may be able to give you information about upcoming conferences.


ACT Writers Centre

Booranga Writers Centre
New England Writers Centre
NSW Writers Centre
Hunter Writers Centre
Northern Rivers Writers Centre
South Coast Writers Centre
Sydney Writers’ Centre
Varuna – The Writers’ House

NT Writers Centre

Queensland Writers Centre

SA Writers Centre

Tasmanian Writers Centre

Writers Victoria

Writing WA
Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre

If you’re overseas – for example in the US, google writer’s centres in your state, area or town.


1. ASA – Australian Society of Authors newsletters – There may be an author organisation in your country that produces a publication that will list conferences in it.

2. PASS IT ON – e-zine for Australian Children’s and YA writers lists conferences and upcoming events.

3. BUZZ WORDS – for Australian Children’s and YA writers lists conferences and upcoming events.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverBEST CONFERENCES I HAVE BEEN TO

There are lots of conferences I haven’t been to that I’m sure are fantastic, but I just wanted to finish by mentioning ones I have been to that have been extremely beneficial to me.

My book, Letters to Leonardo was picked up by Walker Books after I pitched it at the SCBWI Australia Conference in Sydney. I recently attended the CYA Conference in Brisbane and received three manuscript requests from publishers and one from an agent. I attended the 40th Anniversary SCBWI LA conference and apart from being loads of fun it was a huge global networking experience.

If you’ve been to a great conference or have any other tips on how to find out about conferences, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)