Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Your Agent List

From now until the end of October, I’d like to to dedicate Wednesday posts to different ways of ‘Killing Time Between Revisions…Productively’.

Last week’s focus was perfecting the query letter. 

This week I’m going to tackle another daunting piece of the querying process:  Composing my agent list.

When I first started querying, I had no idea what I was doing.  I ordered ‘The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook 2009’ and figured I’d have to query in the UK because...it’s closer to France.  Unfortunately most agents in the UK don’t accept email queries and prefer posted packages that contain a query letter, synopsis, and first three chapters along with a self addressed envelope for those nifty little rejection cards they like to mail back.   Although, in many cases they EMAILED me their rejection, after all that.  Lazy bums.

Anyway, I spent about six months querying that way - waiting weeks and weeks for a response (not to mention the euros spent in postage)…before I realized that there was no reason not to query the American market.  At the time, I was using ‘Litmatch.com’ which has now become ‘AuthorAdvance.com’.  Their search engines were alright.  I made up a list of ten American agents, sent off the email on a Friday morning.  By Friday afternoon I had my first full request!  It ended in rejection, but from that moment on, I never sent out another hard copy query.

QueryTracker.net is probably the best resource I’ve ever seen for finding agents that represent the genre and age group you write in.   However, I’ve heard that the Guide to Literary Agents is a great resource and they’re editor’s blog is awesome for new agent updates and success stories.  But even with this resource, it’s best to take the time to check out the agency’s website, read the bios of all the agents on their team and really think about who sounds like the best fit for your work.  It’s time-consuming and let’s face it-  boring.  But if you can only submit to one agent at a certain agency, you better make sure it’s the right one.

With experience, I’ve learned to compile a list in fits and starts between revisions or while waiting for feedback.  

Picture this- you’re finally ready to query.  You’ve got your letter and a pretty polished manuscript.  So you pick a day, spend the morning researching agents, finally narrow it down to five or six after HOURS of scroll and click.  When it comes time to preparing the submission email- you’re tired, and cranky, and impatient and…MUCH MORE LIKELY TO MAKE A MISTAKE!!!  Trust me.

This time around, I’m playing it smart.  It took me two weeks to make up a list of ten agents- each of them from prominent agencies and agents who:

1.        1. Represent work that I enjoy and admire.  (I always flip to the acknowledgment pages to see if the author sited their agents, which in most cases, they have)

2.        2.  Represent my genre

I’m keeping the list on my computer and will probably draft all of my letters a week in advance- making sure they all respect the submission guidelines for each agency.  And while waiting for those rejections to come in, I’ll repeat the process.

What are some of your tips for composing an agent list?  Do you query hunt when the mood strikes?  Prepare in advance?  Send several out at once?  Or send one out every time a rejection rolls in?

45 comments:

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Great post with many good resources. Thanks for putting this together!

Damyanti said...

This post contains a whole lot of good advice. I am tweeting this, and saving it up for when I'll be doing the rounds!

Thank you so much.

Laura Pauling said...

I think the first time researching agents is the hardest b/c I started from scratch. But when I go through the second time, I will already have a good feel for agents and what they want. So extra time I can spend finding those great agents that don't have a web presence - b/c they don't need it!

Now I'm going to spend extra time, finding books they represent to further define what kind of writing they like.

Great post, Katie!

Jessica Bell said...

Prepare in advance after long hours of research. Send out multiple and wait ... wait ... wait ... :o)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great timing! I'm about to enter queryland (or query hell) in the next few days.

I already have my top 5 agents figured out, and will probably start drafting the query letter for two agents tomorrow. Their queries will be more personalized than the others for specific reasons.

With my first novel, I hadn't heard of QT. Now I couldn't imagine querying without it. I only queried 15 agents with the first book (Two at a time until I found two that took 6 months to respond! Then I stopped!!!!) Now I'm much smarter. :D

Good luck querying. I know you'll kick some major query butt! ;)

Justin W. Parente said...

This is a great post, as we all have our own mad methods to querying. The last time I ever sent batches out, it was more than a year ago. My story was crap on a stick then. Now I know I might stand a chance with getting requests. But always pump out submissions. Even if an agent requests exclusive reading time, or states no simultaneous submissions, they won't know until 2 offers are made. You need to be courteous and tell them if you have another offer though. That will usually speed them along. Agents love fighting over a good story and more so, a new writer fresh out of the gate. Make them want you.

For my sources, I always use the GTLA books. Each new volume has great articles. Listings might not change, but they are updated.

I have been using Query Tracker, too. Another invaluable sight is Predators and Editors.

Hope this helps some of you along. I'm just itching to finish my final (ever) draft so I can pump out batches.

Peace and Writing Love,

JWP

Saumya said...

I have the habit of sending out those letters after a cranky day of editing. It's great to write them in advance and have that agent list done. Great advice!

Shannon said...

Great post. Really good plan of attack. Query Tracker is such an amazing resource!

salarsenッ said...

I think you're very wise in taking slower this time around. Remind me of that when I start querying. lol I was clueless during my first lame querying round over a year ago. I've slowed everything else down--except life. Geezz.....

Piedmont Writer said...

Like you I did my research. I've compiled a list of 30 and will be sending them out in batches of 10. As soon as one comes back, the next one goes out.

After I run through those 30, I go back and find some more.

Suzi McGowen said...

All of the above. Prepare in advance. Send out several at once. (Some to the A list, some to the B list.)

This gives you a chance to hone your query. If you don't get any requests, there's probably a problem with the query.

Hone query (if necessary).

With every rejection, send out another request.

Now, if it seems like one of your agents is thinking about representing you, make sure to get your query out to the rest of your dream agent list.

That way, if you're offered representation, you can go back to the others and advise them that you've been offered representation and give them a chance to read your work.

Samantha Vérant said...

I cross check between Query Tracker and AgentQuery, then I Google the Agent, unearthing interviews, etc. etc.

Also, I prepare my query way ahead of time...

Dawn said...

You've cited some amazing resources! Before I got my agent, I sent out 10 queries. For each rejection, I sent out a new one, so I had 10 in cyber space. Sounds like you've got a great system.

Joanna St. James said...

hey am in France too. The RWA also is a great resource for finding agents

Stephanie said...

great tips on here - I remember it used to take me at least an hour or two to find ONE agent, research their particulars and tailor my query for them. EVERY step of getting published is long and arduous!

Melissa Gill said...

I take one agent per day off of query tracker, do all my research and make up my agent specific modifications. Then I e-mail to myself. On Sunday's I send out all five letters, following whatever guidelines are required.

I feel like this gives me a little distance from the fantasy I create when I'm doing the research.

Dominique said...

Great post. I'll have to remember your advice when I start querying again.
When I was querying my old MS, I found Query Tracker to be a remarkably useful resource.

Carolyn V. said...

My crit buddy and I were just talking about this. She came up with a good idea. Get a hold of some of the authors the agent works with and see if they are happy with that agent and why or why not. We've had a few writer friends who didn't get along as well as they wanted with their agents. I had no idea. I thought it would just be great to get and agent. =)

Tina Lynn said...

I haven't been in the query game long, but I have my list ready. And my plans are to send one out every time I get rejected. But the first batch will be nine queries. So I should always have nine out.

Colene Murphy said...

fingers crossed for you!
Love the links, thanks for passing them along!

Teenage Bride said...

Good luck with this!!! Super stressful but obviously important

Anne R. Allen said...

Great post. I keep a list, too and query five or so at a time. I think AgentQuery.com is the best place to start because they have the best search engine. You can put in your exact genre or mixture of genres and all their agents are vetted. Then I go to QueryTracker and get further info on each one. I love the comments from other queriers--really useful. Plus QueryTracker is usually more up-to-date. Then I check Casey McCormick's blog to see if she's done a spotlight on the agent. They're the most comprehensive you'll find anywhere. If he/she isn't there, I Google the agent and look for interviews. An agent that sounds perfect can reveal in an interview that she hates dog books, or unhappy endings, or something else that can signal she's not for you.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Yay, thanks for the links. I'm down with QT, but it's always good for extra resources.

Here's to joining you in the agent search pool. :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great post. I love QT. Don't know what I would do without it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Didn't make an agent list, but made a publisher list. Then I made a second one and that lead to success.

Katie Anderson said...

I agree - it is frustrating that the majority of agents here in the UK don't accept email subscriptions. Don't they care about the trees?

There is something very satisfying about having a hard copy of your query, though, and feeding it into an envelope.

I'm just about to start the whole process!

Candyland said...

I usually send out a few queries to agents I'd researched and then wait until rejections pour in before I send anymore. Sometimes I re-evaluate the query itself, and/or the pages before I re-send.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

YAY for resources! I've been thinking about where all to look, and sometimes it's so daunting I just don't try at all. *sigh*
Querying is awful sometimes, isn't it?

StaceyW said...

Great advice - thanks! I'll definitely be stalking you as you stalk agents, since you're one step ahead of me in the process. ;) I'm revising my manuscript and haven't started sending queries yet. It's awesome that you're sharing your experiences for the rest of us to learn from.

Kim Coates said...

Ugh! I'm so not looking forward to all this stress. Thanks for doing so much homework, and sharing it with the rest of us!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post - absolutely great! I just re-entered query wars. I agree that it's more difficult the first time, because it's such a learning process. I feel much better about it this time around.

DL Hammons said...

As I'm going through this righht now...I'll be bookmarking this post for constant references!! Thanks for this! :)

WhisperingWriter said...

Thank you for the tips and sites. I go to querytracker.net but I will definately check these others out.

LTM said...

Query Tracker is the BEST! Also Literary Rambles--have you seen that blog? Google it--Casey McCormick has rounded up all the info on a BUNCH of YA agents. Super helpful.

As for the process. Ugh! I try try try to just pick a handful, send queries and wait. But I'm super impatient and then I'll have a ... moment. And send out a bunch more.

sigh. But I do get requests! Not as many as I'd like. bleah. Querying sucks all the joy out of the process IMO. Hang in there--all the best of luck~ :o)

Erin Kane Spock said...

I use Query Tracker and the RWA agent list (accurate info there specific to romance). I query all at once, sort of obsessive compulsively. Then I do nothing for a bit as the rejections come or don't. Actually, my husband does this for me, but I am totally a backseat driver so he's not actually sparing me the stress.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, man--this stresses me out just thinking about it. I did my compiling in fits and starts too--picked agencies, picked the AGENT, and gave them all a rating for how desireable I found them... Compiled the required pieces, personalized the email (I've sent maybe 10 hard copy versions, because I had a little experiment going as to whether that worked better or not--I don't really think it is worth the extra effort (of having nice paper and all the supplies you need to put the package together)

I should finish my current revisions Friday... I plan to begin revising something ELSE until the feedback comes--my editing pile is too deep and I don't want to submit until I have something in better shape (other that the one I am committed on, I mean)

Slamdunk said...

I think you are offering a great resource in advice for the many others who will walk down the same path and not know what to do.

Melissa Gill said...

Hey, I gave you the One Lovely Blog award. Have a great day.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I've been working on my query and revision, which is nice because there's no rejection lurking there. Sigh. I should get back on QT to pick out another group of agents to stalk...erm, research.;) Thanks for the tips!

Jemi Fraser said...

I spend a ton of time researching agents. I use QT, Agent Query and Preditors and Editors mostly. Then I go through the agency websites and any blogs too. As you say time consuming but it's worth it :)

Raquel Byrnes said...

One of the best ways to find an agent is to go to a conference and pitch your book to them.

The conference will generally have a description of the agent taking meetings...what they publish, and what they're looking for.

Plus...no postage. =)

Edge of Your Seat Romance

Yaya' s Home said...

I'm afraid I'm still in the beginning stages. You know, the one where the only thing that MIGHT work is... PREY! (yes, I did spell that correctly. LOL)

~ Yaya

lbdiamond said...

These are GREAT tips! Thanks! :D

Good luck to you!

Jolene Perry said...

Wow - I now have a couple more bookmarks. I'm just about to start compiling agent lists. Super helpful!

Janet Johnson said...

Great suggestions! Imagine that, waiting to send it out till you're not cranky. Seems so logical, yet we don't do it. :)

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