Monday, September 28, 2009

Researching The Agent Of Your Dreams

Okay, so, you’ve written your novel. You’ve revised it until it’s so strong that you can drop a two ton piano on it and not even make a dent. And you’ve polished until it’s so shiny that it’s almost blinding, and no agent or editor will be able to ignore it. What’s next?

Research.

Whether you are looking for an agent or a publishing house, you need to research all of them so you know where to submit your work. And there are lots of places where you can do this.

Agent Query – This is a compilation of agents, outlining what each agent represents, what he/she is looking for, professional history, and where to send a query letter.

Query Tracker – This is similar to Agent Query, except it also has a tool to track your submissions. And, it has average response times for each agent. If you take out a subscription ($20 per year), then you get to see raw data, which shows you the exact response times for each query rather than averaging them all together. I found this information invaluable when I was managing my queries and submissions.

Guide to Literary Agents – This blog has fantastic announcements about new agents, promotions, moves, interviews, and the like.

Publisher's Marketplace – This site has information on both publishers and agents, though it’s sometimes hard to navigate. But if you’re looking for information on a specific editor/agent, or publishing house/agency, the search functionality will almost always find it for you. There is an added feature on this website that will show you who represented a particular book. It requires a subscription, though, which is $20 per month, and you can subscribe on a month-to-month basis. I made a list of books I loved, got a one-month subscription, and did massive searches on those books for that month. It helped me to create a great list of agents to query. It also showed me what else those agents had sold, how recent the last sale was, and what kinds of books they were.

JacketFlap – This site is a great resource for publishing houses. It contains contact info, website info, and submission guidelines. It’s also a community, and a way to keep in touch with other writers.

Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market – This is a book that contains info on both agents and publishing houses. You will be able to find contact information, submission guidelines, websites, and more. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter from the website, and get updates that happen throughout the year.

The Children’s Book Council – This is the nonprofit trade association for children’s book publishers. Its members are publishing houses, and the list contains information on what each of them publish, how many titles they publish a year, and whether they accept unsolicited manuscripts. The list also contains contact information, and links to websites.

Literary Rambles – This blog is run by one person, Casey, who has done her own research, and shared it with the world. She has many excellent articles on agents, interviews, links to various industry websites, and a list of what’s coming up next on her blog. This is an excellent starting place for your research.

Cynsations – This blog is run by Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, and other great books. She has amazing interviews with authors, editors, and agents, and lots of other great stuff. I have spent countless hours perusing the archives, and always walk away feeling smarter than I was before. This blog is a definite must-read.

What Casey or Cynthia don’t have, you can find on your own by doing a quick search of the internet. For example, entering the key words “Andrea Cascardi agent interview” will get you a list of interviews that Andrea Cascardi has given recently. You should also keep a list of books you’ve read and loved, then look up who published or represented them.

Since I write fiction for kids and teenagers, all of my research has been focused on places with that kind of information. But many of these resources include adult fiction and non-fiction.

Research is incredibly time consuming, and sometimes mind-boggling. But it’s a necessary evil. It will give you an edge when you are able to tell that agent/editor why you are sending her a letter and not someone else. Which brings us to the next step: the query letter.

But that’s for my next post. :)

11 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Great! Thanks for the info.

beth said...

Great stuff!

I just joined the premium membership at Query Tracker. They have such a great layout, and I used the free version so much, that $25/year didn't sound unreasonable to me for the perks.

WindyA said...

I'm already using/following most of this stuff, but there were a couple sites I didn't know about, so thanks! Very helpful.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

In case it helps, I offer a hefty number of agent-related links at: http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/lit_resources/for_writers/writers_reading_list/writers_links.html

Jenn Johansson said...

Research is SO important. Great links! :)

Tabitha said...

Bish - hope it's helpful!!

Beth - I love Query Tracker. There's so much great info there, and the people who run it are just wonderful. :)

WindyA - glad there was some helpful stuff in there! :)

Cynthia - OMG I cannot believe I forgot to list your site!! Remedying that now...your site is full of gems, and too good not to list.

Jenn - SO true. :)

Kelly said...

Thanks for the tips, Tabitha! I'll be querying agents for the first time in a few months. I'll need all the help I can get!

PJ Hoover said...

I also found the blueboards at Verla Kay to be a great place to hang.

Tabitha said...

I totally agree. There are agents and editors who hand out there, too, though most lurk until they have an announcement to make. But the "Response Times" threads are incredibly useful when you're waiting to hear back from queries and submissions.

Ron Smith said...

Great post. There is certainly an art to it and, like you said, it is time-consuming.

Then again, it's a huge task we writers are undertaking so research is key.

Casey McCormick said...

Just saw this, Tabitha. I'm still playing catch up. Great post and list! I agree, Publisher's Marketplace is a bit hard to navigate but I love being able to access sales, deals info, and author-agent info whenever I want. I wish all agents were on there with up-to-date info though!