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?