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Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Research Agents to Query

Picking which agents to query when you are all finished polishing that shiny new novel is A LOT more work than you might think. It's best to start now, so when the time comes you'll be ready.
The main idea here is to learn as much as you can about an agent before you query them. Make sure they are looking for your style of writing. Check out their blogs, their facebook page, their twitter feed to get a feel if you would like working with them. Channel the stalker. Become the stalker.

*cough* *throat clearing* What was I saying? Anyway...

Step One: Find some names. I like QueryTracker, but there are other places you can look for agents. Query Tracker has several ways to search: genre, specific agent or agency, and how they receive submissions and such. Below I typed in my genre. Since I write a science fantasy mix, I added both genres to make sure I've covered my bases.

Hit search and this is what comes up.
I now have a list of names, their agency, and I can see if they accept regular mail (envelope) or email (lightning bolt) queries. (This is page 2 of my search. The check means I've already added them to my personal list, and the frowning face means I've queried and received a pass.)

Step 2: Research one of those names. I clicked on Sara LaPolla because she has a lot of searchable material. When you click on a name you are taken to this screen where you get more information.
Now I have her email, a link to her agency web page, her blog and I can follow her on twitter. I check out all of these links, and I follow blog and twitter. This helps me get a feel for her personality.

You also see the tabs across the top. Clicking on these will give you information that Query Tracker has collected based on information submitted by users of the site. For example, reports will show you how many people on Query Tracker sent in a query, how long it took for them to get a response and what that response was.
Check out the other tabs. For now, let's go to her agency page.
Yay, more official information. While I am at an agency's page, I often browse other agents to see if there are other names that might fit with my style. If I find some, I type in their name on the query tracker search and add them to my list.

I also click on the submissions link. This tells me what they expect to see with my query and any formatting specifics if there are any.

Alright, I also check out her blog and follow on twitter.  Now, if you find a blog, search through it and find all the goodies the agent may have hidden in his/her posts. In other words, READ THE BLOG, as much of it as you can.

NOTE: Krista V over at Mother. Write. (Repeat). has interviewed several agents. Scroll down on the right hand sidebar to see who and read what they are looking for.

Another great place to browse agents is Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog. He has tons of great info here, but I'll start you on the Agent Interview page. Often the agent will tell you exactly what they hope to see in your query letter and how to set it up. Some want you to jump right in with the query, others want the personal info first, most don't have a preference. Read these to find out if they do have a preference!

Step 3: Keep track of what you find.
Twitter--I have a list for agents. This way I can have a column for agent tweets on my tweet deck (I'll save that for another post). HOVER. READ. REPLY. LEARN. STALK. Wait, don't stalk, at least not the creepy kind. Although if you think about it...
Excel--I created an excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the information I gather online about prospective agents. When I query an agent, I add the day I queried and then the dates I get replies. I also color code them by date so I can visually see who I have queried and who is still fair game.

Step 4: Write and send the Query. Don't worry, we have a post for that too.

Other helpful links on How to Find a Literary Agent:
From Nathan Bransford
Advice from Writers.net
More from About.com-- we will cover the topics mentioned here in the next few weeks.
University of Pheonix makes these suggestions.
There is also Agent Query but for some reason this one is harder for me than Query Tracker. My mind doesn't fit well here.
Casey McCormick does a lot of Agent research and posts the info on her blog, too! She always gets some good info.
Another resource to dig through is Publisher's Marketplace. You can search pages for a particular genre.


Ink in the Book said...

Thank you for the step by step look at Query Tracker. And the links look amazing. I'll be checking them out in my free time today.
This week is going to be great:)

Huntress said...

With a premium membership, Query Tracker provides all I need to keep my queries and agent list in order. The cost is twenty-five bucks a year but well worth it.

Nancy Bell said...

Great post Charity, very straightforward and helpful. A point for authros to remember, the editor or agent really wants to like your work. There is nothing more exciting than reading a brilliant new voice as it tells a wonderful story. Spelling and grammar errors can spoil a first impression really quickly, so polish, polish, polish!

Keep writing and submitting your shiny gems!


Lara Schiffbauer said...

Super practical and super helpful! So far all the queries I've sent have been lucky finds (although with sad results :)). This is a great post on how to get organized!

Charity Bradford said...

Great advice Nancy! It's so important to remember that a perfect query won't get you a contract if the novel writing isn't polished as well.

Aldrea Alien said...

Oh good. I do most of that already (just not the twitter), even my spreadsheets look eerily similar (if a little simpler on my end).
Now if only QT seperated YA only from adult, I'd have a much smaller list.

Huntress said...

You are singing my song! I've spent time researching agents only to find out they were YA and not adult. GAHH!

farawayeyes said...

Holy crap, that was a lot of helpful information. Thanks.