Monday, March 15, 2010
Agent Research--Who to Query?
One path to publication is through the forest to the cottage of the agent, who will lead you to the sunshine of the publisher. How do you get there? This is a long, twisty road, and can take years to travel. But there are things you can do.
A friend recently attended a conference and met up with someone who paid an outfit to put together a query, and to do the querying. My friend was horrified that someone would actually fall for this. I'm horrified, too.
And I had a friend who hired someone to submit a screenplay a few years ago. She was paying this guy $400 a year! She said, "It's OK. He sends me a list of all the places he's submitted." I asked to see it. When I pointed out all the duplicates from month to month, she decided to fire him.
If you're researching agent querying, or if you're listening to what the agents talk and blog and twitter about, you'll eventually hear of queries addressed to Dear Agent. Those are from the paid packagers, and the queries are immediately rejected. As they should be.
A writer needs to do her own querying and research agents for herself. OK, how does she do this? The tools are there. One of the best is QueryTracer.net. Patrick, who puts this together, must never sleep! Each member can suggest an agent for him to add, but he researches each one before he or she goes onto his site. Here's how it works. You sign into QT and start your project. You can have multiples going at once. Then you can ask his search tool which agents represent the type of writing you're trying to get published. It's an extremely handy way to keep track of who you've queried, how long the response time was, how many partials and full requests are out, even if you've queried another agent at the same agency.
There is a premium version of QT available for a small annual payment. I subscribe, partly because I want to see this site stay around for a long time, but partly because I like the services.
In addition, a writer should research each agent at his own site, providing he has one. If not, searches may yield some info, such as online interviews, chatter about the agent, or notes on conference appearances.
Other places to find agents online are AgentQuery.com (http://agentquery.com/), which is free, and Publisher's Marketplace, (http://publishersmarketplace.com/), which is not. You should always check to see if the agent belongs to AAR, the Association of Authors' Representatives, at http://aaronline.org/, although a new agent will not have made the sales to qualify yet, even if that agent adheres to all the ethical standards required for membership. Preditors and Editors (http://pred-ed.com/) and Absolute Writer Water Cooler (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/) are other places to check before you query an agent.
There is also the tried and true Jeff Herman's Guide, a physical book that lists any agent you think of, and then some. This book is updated every year. It's a little pricey to buy, but your library may carry it.
Above all, NEVER PAY AN AGENT. Or even worse, never pay anyone to find you an agent.
Next week, how to handle the query process.
photo by Andrew Tatlow from Creative Commons