How to Hunt for YOUR Agent

October 14, 2008 at 2:45 am 12 comments

No, you do not lay out sacrifices of virgins, or gin pails, or a bucket of twenty dollar bills.

You research.

Yeah, I know it’ll be much easier to throw names in a hat and query that way. I’d strongly suggest against this method.

Back on track–Research. Now what I do is obsessive compulsive. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my paralegal studies. (We are taught to research until we want to gouge out our eyes.) I have nothing against spending a few hours researching an agent.

For me it involves hitting the good sites:
Query Tracker
Absolute Write-Background Checks
Lit Match
Agent Query
Preditors and Editors
(If I had twenty bucks a month to spare I’d have Publisher’s Marketplace)

On these sites they list what they represent, address, phone number, who are their clients. You can even get average wait times.

Next, I hit the agent’s actual website. I read the bio. I, again, check the client list. Why, you ask? To see if my work fits with what they represent. A HUGE red flag this might not be the agent for me: they represent only YA or children’s books. Think about how well my sex scene will go at that agency…

I digress.

Then I do a name search + literary agent. This is the mother load, for me at least. I can read interviews where agents talk specifics. I once came across a really good candidate, but she didn’t represent contemporary romance AT ALL. I mean I considered for a few minutes if I should start writing paranormal, but declined. Really good articles or interviews you can get a feel for how the agent works, some of their connections (Ex: If someone worked at Bantam for 10 years, do you think they have contacts there?), and if you are really lucky, a call for certain kinds of submissions that are current.

You know for most people this would be enough. By now they’d know the agent can be a pretty good match and they’d query away.

Well, by this point, I get truly obsessive. When I hit Query Tracker, Agent Query, the agents website I’ve made note of the clients they’ve had listed. I hit all their websites and interviews. Do they sing the agent’s praises? Have they fallen off the face of the earth and become an “Where Are They Now?” author. I read excerpts (but then again I’m a book lover so this has a two-way purpose. I just might find an author I truly love.)

Also, if an agent has a blog I read almost every entry. I love agent blogs. Really, you can get a list of likes and dislikes. How they work, who they represent, what are genres they are more open to, what they are currently looking for. Just want to say thanks to all the agents who blog.

Now why do I do all this?

Well, I once received a request for a full. I was so excited, but something in my gut was telling me NO. I didn’t want to listen. The person wanted my full, but I am obsessive. So I went in search of info and did not like what I found. I hit pages and pages of stuff that made me want to run in the other direction. Yes, the agent was nice, personable, but couldn’t sell books to save an author’s career.

You are looking for someone you can grow a career with, and if the agent’s client turnover is abnormal at best then you need to run. I understand agent/client hit forks in the road and go the opposite way, but if not one client stays longer than a year and they’ve been in the business for years… BIG RED FLIPPING FLAG.

What it really all comes down to is the agent right for you. I can’t remember who said it, but they described agent hunting like blind dating. They might look great on paper, but they are not an agent right for YOU. You are planning to be with this person for the long haul, not just the one book you are trying to peddle.  Yes, this way may limit the hell out of your options, but I’d rather have an agent who can go to bat for my career and just not one book.

So, what have we learned today?

You can research until you want to gouge your eyes out or throw names in a hat. It’s really up to you.


Entry filed under: Agent Hunting, agents, anxiety, linkage, query, sharing means caring, submitting, Uncategorized, writing. Tags: , , , , , .

Drooling on Monday I needed a distraction

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dr. Tom Bibey  |  October 14, 2008 at 3:18 am

    I’ve been through three, but this one is a take. Of course, when you are a physician bluegrass fiction writer it is a narrow genre.

    Dr. Tom Bibey

  • 2. coffeegirl88  |  October 14, 2008 at 3:46 am

    We have also learned to listen to your gut.

  • 3. Melissa Blue  |  October 14, 2008 at 3:49 am

    Of course, when you are a physician bluegrass fiction writer it is a narrow genre.

    Oh, wow. That is a very narrow genre. Acquired taste, anyone? I read about your first agent. I’m very sorry. Being wet behind the ears can leave you open to a lot of scammers. You were smart to get out before things turned really ugly.

  • 4. Melissa Blue  |  October 14, 2008 at 3:52 am

    We have also learned to listen to your gut.

    Yes, The Gut, is never wrong. The only time you get in a tough spot is when you ignore it. It also takes know how to recognize fear of the unknown vs. your gut telling you to run.

  • 5. Slave Driver  |  October 14, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Being at the very bottom of this learning curve, I first need to find out what kind of fiction I wrote.

    Nice, huh?

    I’ve been told it could be a romance, but I see it as mainstream with a love story. It also could be women’s lit, but…not necessarily.

    So, first I have to figure out what I wrote before I can figure out who to send it to.

    Hell, I just recently found the magic button in my word program that shows all the non-printing icons for stuff like spaces and paragraphs.


    (Go ahead, laugh all you want. Then we’ll go out back and I’ll watch while you hitch a double team up to a wagonette…)

    But thanks to you, Mel, at least once I get the first thing figured out I can go about releasing the anal-retentive side of me that everyone adores and start researching. Because I’m never paying another agent 25 dollars for 15 minutes of their time again.

    Unless he looks like one of those guys from yesterday, and I get a lap dance out of it.

  • 6. Mya  |  October 14, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    your blog has the best info for a newbie. It’s fabulous! keep it up. In my research I have found that so many of the agents are currently seeking titles in the same genre. These must be current trends of what publishers and agents are looking for. I haven’t seen many of them begging for more womens fiction.
    It is so hard to get an agent in the first place that the thought of finding a really good one is daunting.

  • 7. Melissa Blue  |  October 15, 2008 at 1:13 am

    But thanks to you, Mel, at least once I get the first thing figured out I can go about releasing the anal-retentive side of me that everyone adores and start researching.

    Yes, let your anal retentive side out. Don’t repress it. And, I enjoy doing the research on agents. It’s very interesting to see the difference a few websites make to your outlook of a good fit for you.

  • 8. Melissa Blue  |  October 15, 2008 at 1:15 am

    These must be current trends of what publishers and agents are looking for.

    When I started my agent search a lot of mystery novels (romantic and not romantic suspense) was selling. Along with historical novels. So it is interesting to see what’s selling right now. At the same time a good book is a good book. It’s just finding the agent who agrees that your book is a good book. (And, of course an editor.)

  • 9. Suzette Saxton  |  April 12, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Oh yay! You use Query Tracker. I love that place. Did you know it is the only site that screens agents? Other sites will list shady agents.

    It was nice to “meet” you!

  • 10. Melissa Blue  |  April 12, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Nice to meet you too. And, no I didn’t know they screened agents. That puts them at the top of my list forever. At other sites I do wonder how they get the agent info and why for the love of goodness are they listed.

  • 11. Suzette Saxton  |  April 13, 2009 at 7:52 am

    What do you write, Melissa? I write books for kids and started using about a year ago, and now I am very lucky to co-author their blog. You should drop in some time. . Don’t know if you have an agent yet, but tomorrow we are hosting a hook contest that will be judged by an agent; the winner gets to submit a full to her.

    Anyhow, it’s been fun chatting with you. I like your blog and wish you all the best in your writing.

  • 12. Melissa Blue  |  April 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I’ve published contemporary romance, but my heart lies in Women’s Fiction. I’ve also written a fantasy/paranorml YA.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll check out the blog.

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