The agent hunt

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If you’ve been reading for a while, you may have gathered that I’m querying agents. If you’re new round these parts, then, uh, I’m super successful! I’ve sold millions! Oh, you’ve never heard of me? I’m big in Japan.

Anyway, I’m querying agents, and I thought I’d talk a little about how I do my research in case it helps anyone who’s starting this for the first time. Not that I really know what I’m doing… Uh, I mean, I TOTALLY KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!

First off, for the newbies: What’s a query? A query is basically a letter to an agent describing your book in the hopes that the agent will rub their chin, nod, and maybe mutter an intrigued, “Hmm…” They’ll either request your full manuscript to read, a partial, or they’ll say “No thanks.” You don’t want the latter, but you’ll unfortunately get it a lot. We all do. Agents get stacks and stacks of queries every day, so don’t take it personally.

There are lots of websites detailing how to write queries, so I won’t get into that here, but this blog’s a good place to start.

guidesI started with these two books: Writers Digest/Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents, and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents. These books are great; they provide listings for tons of agents, what they represent, where they are, etc. This was the slapdash portion of my hunt – I skimmed through and and highlighted every agency that accepted my genre, making quick notes on location, new author percentage, and other statistics.

Then I went through the painstaking online research of each agency. I read their websites, Publishers Marketplace pages, and ratings on Preditors & Editors (a directory of agents and their credibility or if they’re a scam). If they passed those tests, I looked them up on Absolute Write Water Cooler to comb the personal testimonies from other authors. This has been a great resource – simply google “[agent’s name] water cooler” and the top hit should take you to the forum thread for that agent. There are scores of tips, info, and red flag alerts from other authors.

After that I made a loosely prioritized list of who to query first, then got to work writing my letters.

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As I prep a query letter, I google interviews to get a feel for what the agent’s like, what they’re wishing would land in their inbox, and anything else that could give my letter an advantage. If I’m really motivated I try to find successful letters to that agent that writers have posted online, and mimic them.

Lastly, I take a gander at Query Tracker. This site’s awesome – you can log who you’ve queried, track how long your query’s been out, check average response times and other stats, and read writer comments.

And then I query!

……. And then I get rejected! Woo!

Right now I’ve actually got a really good agent reading my full manuscript. After many, many… manymanymany rejections of my query alone, getting that request made my jaw hit the floor. Even if she declines, I still consider this a win, because just to get a request feels like an achievement in and of itself. Crossing my fingers!

Tell me, how’s your agent hunt going? Or if you’ve got one, have any extra advice you learned along the way?

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21 thoughts on “The agent hunt

  1. Oh lord! I am going through this right now. I knew I would get rejected, but I just got 3 in one week. Ughh, no matter how much you mentally prepare yourself the “no thanks” still sucks. Congrats on getting a request on your manuscript. Definitely a win!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean! You’re right, it’s still a bummer no matter what. Especially getting a lot at once, like your 3 in a week. 😦 My saddest one was an agent I had really high hopes about, whose rejection I got a mere 2 hours after querying! Thank you for the congrats 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really useful advice – thanks Shannon 🙂 Hopefully I will be in a position one day to have something that people can reject! Good luck – hope this is the start of great success for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I went to a writer’s conference and met Chuck Sambuchino. He’s really nice. And a word of advice to those querying, if you can make it to a writer’s conference, you have a much better chance of at least getting a request for pages. I went with not even a finished manuscript and I got one request and most of the people around me got at least two or three. And you can pitch to agents/publisher all day if you want. I highly encourage people to do that if they possibly can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed! I went to a conference in January and signed up for a “first 10 pages” critique from 2 agents. One passed on it but the other requested a full read. She ultimately declined, but still! I agree that conferences are a great opportunity for writers. Shame they’re so expensive though.

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      • I haven’t been published yet, but I have been working on a novel since 2009. I’m taking my sweet time, because I don’t want to get famous too fast. But seriously, my novel is teen fantasy…I think. The MC is 17 in the summer between graduation and college.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Crossing my fingers for you that the agent will accept, but that is terrific that they asked for the full manuscript! It doesn’t happen very often, or at least in my experience >_<. So far, I've only queried for my fantasy novel … numerous cover letters rejected. Then I moved and by that time the SF novel was showing more marketability so I shelved the fantasy book. Soon the SF novel should be ready, but I'm trying a few publishers directly … we'll see how that goes.

    Thanks for all the great resources, very nicely written!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow that sounds impossibly hard and demoralizing! I just can’t deal with that kind of rejection, my ego is far too inflated- I’m afraid it would burst open and there would be blood and glitter confetti everywhere (I’m pretty sure my insides are filled with the stuff)… But that’s seriously awesome that you’re doing it- AND that you got a request- congrats!! I hope she loves it, good luck!! My advice to you is: ignore any advice that I have because it’s generally terrible!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well now I’m in a paradox! If I take your advice to ignore your advice, then I haven’t ignored your advice! Dang it, now I’m in a quandary, and I left my quandary pants at home.

      The rejection’s not too bad because I know that these agents get heeeaaaps of queries every day, so it’s not that I’m a bad writer, it’s that there are just so many of us. One agent can only take on so many clients. Also reading about all the famous authors that got piles of rejections before their big break helps too. But there are bad days of course, days when it gets me down. But I try to not think about it, just send out my queries and then get back to writing.

      (And I would TOTALLY believe that your insides were full of glitter. That sounds accurate. 🙂 )

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