Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Research Literary Agents

So I was kinda nudged into this post. Why? Well, it’s an ongoing joke that I’m the resident stalker. Hell, I’ve even mentioned how good my stalk—erm research skills have become in a job interview or two.

Hey, I have serious skills! Hah, anyway today I’m going to teach ya’ll the method I use when researching agents. If you find yourself shooting off queries willy nilly, and getting no responses or forms, putting in a little more research beforehand could help you out.

One of the reasons we hear agents say they reject a project is because someone queries them for something they just aren’t into. Sure, an agent may say they like fantasy in their guidelines, but without further research you won’t know if they mean only urban fantasy or if that also includes high fantasy. Or maybe to them, fantasy covers the paranormal romance spectrum only. Now, if you’re shopping around a high fantasy manuscript, well, they definitely aren’t the agent for you, but you’d never know that without further research.

Here are my go-to sources when looking up agents.

1)   Personally, I prefer Query Tracker. I use this religiously to organize my queries and to find new agents. This, in my humble opinion, is loads better than Agent Query, but I recommend Agent Query’s articles on what an agent does for you and what to do and ask when you get The Call. Query Tracker allows you to do several things, but some are to track queries, see who these agents represent (not always a complete list), and best of all check out an agent’s response times. This way you know who to query if you want a quick turnaround to test out your query and you also know who will move at the pace of a molasses. 
2)   Now, there are two blogs I ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS use when I want to get a feel for the agent’s tastes, editorial-ness, and recent books sold. Literary Rambles and Mother. Write. (Repeat). The latter focuses on interviewing the agents. Why do I always use it? Because she’s managed to interview so many that you’re almost always guaranteed that she has something on the agent. Literary Rambles is a compilation of information from several different interviews, including whether an agent is an editorial agent, what they represent based on guidelines and what’s been discovered in other interviews etc. Great sources.
3)   Now, I should mention that when one is looking for an agent they should always cross reference with Preditors & Editors (P&E). Why? They’ll let you know if an agent or agency has been reported for unethical behavior.
4)   Absolute Write is a godsend. It’s an amazing forum, but when researching agents you can read comments from years ago to as recent as 5 minutes ago about the agent and agency’s practices, response times, and whatever else commenters are willing to share. It rocks.
5)   Ah, let’s not forget Twitter. The funny thing about agents is they’ll mention in passing something that they’re currently looking for. Or out of frustration say what they’re tired of seeing. Heck, some will even put out a wish list saying something like, “Guys, I’m dying to see some mermaid stories or more boy-centric middle grade”. If you have what they want, now you know, and this is the perfect thing to mention when you’re trying to explain to an agent why you’ve queried them. I know many people struggle with that personalization portion of a query. Here’s how you find stuff to put in there.

Well guys, that about wraps up my process. Let me add one more thing. ALWAYS use the guidelines on an agency’s website when querying. Why? Because guidelines found elsewhere are not always up-to-date. It’s best to play it safe. Hope this article can help those just starting the querying process or those looking for more resources when researching agents.

Good luck. Now, get those queries out the door.



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