I have finally reached that special place in my current work-in-progress that every author just dreams about: it’s time to look for an agent.
Allow me to emphasize the word “look”? I’ve finished my second draft and plan to dig into the thing with my jackhammer and scalpel when all the feedback has come in. If I am relatively pleased with the finished result it will be time to query agents. But that’s still a few months away.
So why am I looking at agents now?
Why not wait until I have completed and polished manuscript (Those are the kind of manuscripts that agents like to see)?
The answer to that question can be summed up with one word: research.
I need to know who I’m querying. Sure, I could just start with the first agent listed on Writer’s Market. But it’s so much more efficient to target queries.
Otherwise, I could send my manuscript to someone who doesn’t even represent young adult fiction. Or worse, someone who doesn’t rep fiction period. I want to respect both my time and any potential agents.
So I need to know all I can about said potential agents. The most consistent complaint I’ve seen agents make is that people submit inappropriate manuscripts—meaning manuscripts that for one reason or another don’t meet submission guidelines (these are important, pay attention to them).
So how do I go from the 85 agents that represent young adult to the six or so (the final number is still under advisement) I plan on including in my first round of queries?
Easy, I put them through something I refer to as “The Agent Games”.
So far, I’ve only completed Round 1 of this endeavor. But that still cut down the number of agents that were up for consideration.
There are many ways that someone else could go about weeding out the unpromising recruits in Round 1, but here are some of the things I considered when I was going through the six pages of results that Writer’s Market generated.
- I kept a big eye on all of the genres they represented. Now, not representing science fiction or fantasy didn’t get them thrown off of the list. But if they stated that they did not represent those two genres, it was an automatic “no”. Also, I kept in mind future projects I’ve been contemplating. Granted, an agent doesn’t have to be forever, but I’d hate to find “the one” only to have to find different representation because my next book is out of their field of experience. If you’re looking at making the art of Typing in a Tiny Room for Hours your career, you want an agent who can go the distance with you.
- Availability of info was also a big factor. Almost every agent or agency on my list had a website. That’s something to keep in mind. If an agent didn’t have a website, they had to really catch my eye to stay out of the “no” pile. I want to be able to get as much information about a potential agent as I can before I submit. What do they like to read? How long have they been agenting? Did they do anything before they became an agent? Knowing these things about them is going to make it so much easier for me when it comes time for Rounds 2 & (if necessary) 3.
- Also, having a website with a profile or a short bio helped picture myself working with them. Not only does the bio tell me what they represent, but if it was good, it gave me an idea of who they were. I won’t lie, there were a couple that I read their bio and was like, “You sound wonderful, but I just don’t think we’d do well together.” Obviously, an agent and a writer will clash at some point. But if I can pinpoint any insurmountable differences in personality or ideology, I won’t want to submit to that agent. On the other hand, there were a few that I really liked and I put in one of my files because something about their personality or something they said just clicked with me.
- When they provided the titles of books or authors they represented, I always gave that a look. Did I see a lot of big names that I recognized? Those either went into the “no” or the “maybe” pile. I’m not saying that my book isn’t good enough to be in the same agency as say, Suzanne Collins (actually, it’s not, but that’s why it needs editing). It’s just that if I don’t see some unknowns, I feel that’s a pretty good sign that they prefer to work with established authors (some just outright tell you). On the other hand, WM does list the percentage of debut authors an agent normally takes. If the percentage was high they went into the “definitely check out” or the “maybe” file.
So that was my process for Round 1. I shall commence Round 2 shortly. It will involve a lot of reading, thorough perusal of websites & guidelines, and possible stalkerlike behavior on Twitter.
Anyone out there want to chime in on how they narrowed things down during their hunt for an agent?