Thursday, March 21, 2013
Getting to know the agents you're querying
Today, I'd like to talk about getting to know the agents you plan on querying. Jo Ramsey's amazing post Do They Take This inspired me, and I thought I should share with you a few tips on where to go to find more information on the agents you're considering querying.
Jo already mentioned agents (and publishers) don't even look at your query if you're submitting to them categories they don't represent. The problem with sending out queries without doing research goes beyond the frustration of getting rejected. It also goes beyond leaving a bad impression (we don't want them to think we don't care about our books enough to look up the right people to help us get it published).
Let's say you queried a bunch of agents without taking time to read what they represent. Let's say an agent actually offers to represent your book. YAY. But... let's say you're crazy in love with YA and MG, but that agent only represents YA, and ONLY YA. What are you going to do? Go with this agent, because you're so excited you finally have an offer, and stop writing MG novels? A bit of research before querying would have spared both of you the frustration. That's one of the reasons why we should research agents before querying them. We want to know whether they are able to support our future books, too, not just the ones we've just finished.
Research also gives me the feeling (or not) that the agent I'd like to query is one I could befriend. I personally want to feel like I could become my future agent's friend, rather than just be his / her client. I want to be able to support my agent, as much as I want to be supported. Getting to truly know someone comes with time, of course, but a bit of research shows a few personality traits you might like or dislike at first glance.
That said, this is the research I do when I like an agent and want to know whether he or she is interested in the type of work I write. It doesn't go always in this exact order, but I visit every single one of these places before I query. You don't have to take a look at every single one, of course. I'm a bit addicted to researching, so I have a hard time knowing when to stop. Hope this list helps you, as much as it helps me.
1) The agency's website
This one Jo already mentioned. This is the first place I check, because agencies keep updated information on submissions guidelines and their agents' profiles. I get to know what genres the agent I'm considering represents, and a bit about the agent's personality. You'll find, usually, the agent's wishlist (premises that they'd love to see at the moment) somewhere near the bio.
2) The agent's blog
When I can't find enough information on the agency's website, I look up the agent's blog. Not all agents blog, of course, but the ones that like to blog often post a thing or two about what genres and categories they represent, what they like to read, who their favorite authors are, what they'd like to represent. That's where I find the agent's wishlist, too, if it's not available on the agency's website.
I always check Literary Rambles, because they collect the best, most detailed agent spotlights I've seen available online. They even quote agents extensively, explain what that agent's web presence is like, and provide links to interviews and ways of connecting with that agent. Take a look at the information they have on Sara Megibow, for instance. Pretty amazing, huh?
If you're querying, this website should become your best friend. It's amazing. It gives me reassurance on the genres the agents I like represent, gives me feedback from other queriers and occasional clients on what their relationship with that agent in particular is like, and helps me record my queries in case I do end up querying this agent.
If the agent is on Twitter, I do some "stalking" to get a sense of their personality, likes and dislikes, the way they interact with their clients and the rest of the publishing world. You'd be surprised to see how many agents actually are open to questions on Twitter and / or just to hang out. I know they feel like divine creatures we shouldn't dare approach, but they actually are very, very friendly (as long as we are appropriate and nice to them, of course).
Do you research agents before you query them, too? Where do you go for information? We'd be glad to hear your comments, opinions, suggestions, funny (and sad -- HOPEFULLY, though, you've experienced nothing bad) stories on doing / not doing research on agents.
Have a great Thursday,