Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

On Finding an Agent

Christina over at MiG Writers posted an excellent article yesterday about searching for an Agent. She calls it searching for your “Agent Mate.”

Nifty.

In a nutshell, Christine advises creating a chart of prospective agents, researching all about them by reading blogs, twittering, and attending conferences to meet and learn about them.

Her chart looks like this:

Agent Agency Books Repped Tidbits Date Subbed What was sent Response Comments

The chart process immediately appealed to my inner geek, especially because it’s dual purpose: it lines up the research and then acts as a contact record. (It also aligns nicely with the submission tracking chart I keep for all the stories and articles I send out. I can see myself adding this gem to my own Excel spreadsheet…)

I think Christina is right on the money when it comes to doing your research. But how do you find out the names of prospective agents?

Google is your friend…and there are tons of conferences you could go to find names, as suggested in Chritina’s article. But there are a number of Web resources containing most (if not all) the basic information you need. They provide the detailed information in a very short time–much faster, I think- than other sources.

I’d start with:

www.agentquery.com

Agentquery.com allows you to search by genre or keyword, and provides detailed information about agents which match your query, including:

– what the agent is looking for
– often, what the agent is *not* looking for
– authors and books the agent represents
– upcoming sales of the agent
– much more

Agentquery.com also links to hundreds of agent’s and publisher’s blogs, as well as the blogs of a veritable who’s who in the publishing industry. You can’t go wrong by checking it out.

WritersNet.com is another place to search for agents. I don’t think the search or the results are as good as AgentQuery, but it has the added value of “how to find agent” articles in your face as you search.

The Association of Author’s Representatives. This is the definitive location for agent information. In order to join, agents must meet specific criteria. The advanced search is cumbersome, but once set up, can be saved for future use. Also contains information about what agents do.

Once you find the names of prospective agents, set up your spreadsheet and begin your research: read his or her blog, follow the agent (or the agency) on twitter.

I think Christina’s chart is excellent, but I’d modify it a bit…because, well, once I start a chart, I can’t help but collect as much information as I’m able. Here’s what mine would look like…

Agent Agency Books Repped Author Repped Rights Sold? Notes What Appeals to Me About This Agent?

A, B or C List? The D List Date Info Was Collected Date Subbed What was sent Response Comments

What I’ve changed:

Added: Author Repped. This is important to me as I get to know authors in the field. The author becomes an additional source of information about the agent’s style and method.

Added: Rights Sold? Has the agent sold foreign rights? Movie rights? Each of these kind of deals requires a level of knowledge or expertise. Obtaining an agent with this kind of track record could be good for your own career.

Changed: Tidbits to Notes.
Just a personal preference. Serves the same purpose.

Added: What Appeals to Me About This Agent? After you follow an agent’s blog or twitter post’s for a while, you’ll begin to know them a little better: their style, their proclivities, etc. Once armed with what you know about him or her…why do you desire their representation? What makes this agent stand out? Write it down here.

Added: A, B or C List? This is a means to categorize where this agent might fall into the hierarchy of your desired representation. It’s likely there are a lot of agents who meet the criteria you need. Based on what you know from your research, choose a first, second and third tier of agents to attempt representation with. This makes your search more focused, and possibly, more successful in getting the exact agent you want.

Added: The D List. A list of agents you’re never going to contact. Make a note in this column if you’ve learned something about an agent that turns you off: perhaps your styles don’t jive (you like email, he likes snail mail). You’ve done the research, you don’t want to delete the info.

Added: Date Information Collected. Information ages. What you’ve learned today may not be the case tomorrow. Add some date information so you know how timely your data is.

What’s Next?
Create your query package and send it to the “A” list. Find an agent? Great! If not, move on to your B list, then C, if necessary. You could also try D…but I’m willing to bet that between searching through A, B, and C, there may be some new agents representing authors. Do another search and start again.

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