Sunday Morning Writer’s Blog:
First of all, most agents are too busy to regularly submit short stories and poetry to magazines on your behalf. They will likely place a piece of fiction or non-fiction for you at the time of your book’s publication, but for the most part, your shorter submissions are your responsibility. And the easiest way to find out who you should submit your work to is to read American and Canadian literary magazines as well as Harpers, the New Yorker and the Atlantic. McSweeneys takes edgier writing at http://www.mcsweeneys.net
Secondly, you must check out the submission guidelines on the website of a literary agent before submitting a cover letter with a sample portion of your manuscript. Each agent has slightly different guidelines. Some like email submissions; some don’t and so on. And some agencies, like the Anne McDermid and Associates in Toronto and Amanda Urban in New York, now don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means you would have to get a veteran author to introduce you to their staff.
McDermid’s agency is also one of the first Canadian agencies to publish their authors’ work in an e-book format. Other agencies as well as Amazon and Kobo do some digital publishing too, and there is likely going to be a lot more online publishing by agents and big box book sellers as time goes on. So keep your eye out for who is doing what. Publishers’ Lunch in the US is a good place to keep track of this sort of news. http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/lunch/free/
A blog called the Shatzkin Files also has up-to-date news and opinions on trends in publishing. http://www.idealog.com/blog/
Unless you have a non-fiction scoop like the secret sex life of Stephen Harper, your manuscript should be finished and very polished before you try to find an agent. AN AGENT WHO HAS REJECTED YOUR UNPOLISHED DRAFT WON’T LOOK AT A MORE POLISHED DRAFT. Keep in mind that most agents get between 20 to 30 submissions a day from new clients, and eighty percent of published Canadian writers don’t have agents because competition for agents is tough.
Here are some of the reputable Canadian agents I know personally and can recommend:
Denise Bukowski (The Bukowski Agency); Dean Cooke, (The Cooke Agency); Jackie Kaiser, Linda McKnight, Hilary McMahon, Natasha Haines (Foreign Rights Director at Westwood Creative Artists),* John Pearce (who lives in Victoria, B.C.) and Bruce Westwood (Westwood Creative Artists.) Michael Levine handles film and TV rights at Westwood (Westwood Creative Artists) Samantha Haywood,* Meghan Macdonald,* Shaun Bradley, David and Lynn Bennett (Transatlantic Agency.) Sam Hiyate,* (The Rights Factory); Helen Heller (Helen Heller Agency); Anne McDermid (Anne McDermid and Associates Ltd.); Rick Broadhead* and Associates; Bella Pomer (The Pomer Agency); and Beverly Slopen (Beverly Slopen Agency). Daneman, Haywood, Macdonald, Hiyate, and McMahon, are all relatively young and more receptive to younger writers, but if your work is really good most agents will still want you.
Canada has more agents than those listed above. And there is more information about agents available on the Writers’ Union of Canada www.writersunion.ca Preditors & Editors (P &E Literary Agents) has information about American agents who are willing to take on Canadians if the work is good. Some of the top American agents include: Virginia Barber of Virginia Barber Associates; Kim Witherspoon and Alexis Hurley at Inkwell Associates: Amanda Urban at ICM (who is not currently accepting submissions), Ellen Levine at the Levine Agency, and Andrew Wylie at the Wylie Agency.
If you want to get your manuscript evaluated before you try to find an agent or a publisher, you can pay for a workshop like the excellent July workshop put on by Humber College. Humber also has a correspondence course where unpublished writers mail professional writers like myself installments of their manuscript and get the writer’s feedback returned to them by mail. AGAIN: DO NOT SUBMIT UNPOLISHED WORK TO AN AGENT. YOU WON’T GET A SECOND CHANCE.
The Writers’ Union of Canada also has a fee based manuscript evaluation service. And some professional writers will edit work for other writers. Lorna Owen, an American freelance editor, looks at unpublished drafts for a fee. Average fees for this kind of service are between $35 to $75 an hour.