Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How To Find an Agent

As with most subjects, there is more than one way to accomplish this. People could (and have) written entire books on how to find an agent...but I'll just give you a couple tips for how I'm going about this daunting task.

Let me just warn you now, if you don't like research...then finding an agent is going to be tedious for you. Because it requires a LOT of research. So! Here we go....

I use four main sources in my agent searches.

1. Querytracker.net

This site not only allows you to search for an agent by genre, but on it you can create a query list and keep track of all your querying activities. I cannot stress how important it is to keep track of the queries you send and the responses you get. When I started I did this by hand or spreadsheet. That can work...but seriously, if you are going to query, set up an account on this site. It takes all the hassle out of it for you. And it's FREE! You can upgrade to the premium membership if you'd like (something I'd highly recommend you doing - it's not expensive at all and is well worth the money).

This site also provides specifics on agent genres, links to other sites the agent is listed on, and, my all time favorite feature of this site, it has data lists of agent response times and allows comments from members so aspiring authors can share their experiences with agents. This site is seriously incredible, an absolute MUST VISIT if you are in the market for an agent.

There is also a QT forum that has the nicest, most helpful bunch of members I have ever come across...and I've been on a LOT of forums. You can get help on crafting your query or synopsis, member reviews of the first few pages of your manuscript, find information on just about everything query related, and just hang out and chat with other writers. I met all of my critique buddies and closest writer friends on this forum. You do not want to miss out on this treasure.

2. Agentquery.com

This is another excellent source for finding agents. You can search by genre and it will pull up hundreds of agents for you. Each profile lists what the agent is interested in seeing and gives specifics on how that agent prefers to be queried. This is definitely a source you want to check out.

3. Preditors and Editors

With so many scam artists out there ready to take advantage of your quest for publication, you need to be careful who you deal with. This site lists agents, editors and publishers and lets you know who is legit, who has made sales, and who you should steer clear from. I know Patrick, the owner of Querytracker.net, is very diligent in making sure only legitimate agents are listed on his site. Any agent you find on his site, you can query without hesitation. I believe Agentquery is the same way. But it never hurts to be too careful, and if you find an agent from another source, I'd highly recommend you check out P&E just to be on the safe side.

4. Publishers Marketplace

This is another great source for finding agents. You can search for specific agents and see whatever sales they have listed (if you have a membership. And keep in mind that not all agents list their sales, so don't discount an agent just because no sales are listed for them).

So, now that you have a few sources to check out, what do you do next? Well, everyone is different, but here is how I go about it.

1. Get on Querytracker and do a genre search
this will pull up a LOT of agents. You can narrow the search by subgenre if you wish

2. Narrow down the list of agents
this will take a lot of time, so be prepared. This is where it can become a bit tedious if you aren't in to the research thing ;-)

To narrow down my list, I go into each agent's profile and check out the specific genres they represent. You want to find the agent that will best fit your book. So, say I have a YA historical romance that I want to query. When I am looking at the genres the agents represent, I will put the agents that are interested in YA, historical fiction, and romantic fiction on the top of my list. Those that rep just YA and either (but not both) historical or romantic fiction go next. And those that rep just YA, but neither of the other genres, go last.

This is just how I do things, but I figure if I have a book with all those elements, I might have a better shot with an agent that is interested in all the elements.

This is where Querytracker.net comes in handy...again. You can add agents to your query list...and you can give them a priority number. So I automatically know, just by opening my query list, which agents I want to query first, second and third, without having to go back into each profile and searching again.

3. Double, triple, and quadruple check information

Once I have my query list, I am ready to query. But BEFORE I send out anything, I check all the information on my agents. Agents have different preferences when it comes to how they want you to query. Some prefer only emails or only snail mails, some just want a query and others want sample pages. And while all the websites on my list update their information frequently, sometimes one will be updated faster than another. It never, ever hurts to double check some information.

So, once my query list is in place, I go to the agents on that list and use the handy links Querytracker.net provides. Most of the time, I check only two other sites. I check Agentquery.com and I always, ALWAYS check the agent's personal website.

4. Send the query.

Once I have my agent list and all the specifics on how they would like to be queried (mail method and pages they want to see), I am ready to send my query (which has been checked and double checked by my critique partners to make sure it is as polished as I can get it).

I lick that stamp or hit send on my email, and off it goes! I then enter my information on my Querytracker query list and sit and wait for the responses to roll in.

So, while this isn't as hard as one might think, it will take some time, so be prepared to do your homework!


Elana Johnson said...

Great info girl!

Karen Harrington said...

Terrific post. I'll have to try Query Tracker. I recently came across LitMatch, too, and it is similar to AgentQuery. It also has user comments on response time, etc. Good luck!

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

You'd better just put this in your "best of" cache to use on the QTB right now. ;-) Great post!

And Karen -- I'm a little biased as one of the QueryTracker bloggers, but one of the things I adore about QT over other sites is that Pat, the guy who runs it, quadrupal-checks the backgrounds of people he adds to the database.

Brigid Gorry-Hines said...

Great post! I use all of these websites and they are all very useful! :)