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.
I 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.
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?