Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tip City: Agent Hunting

Maven Darcy BurkeHappy Wednesday Mavenfaves! (Had to try it out. Does it work? Does it?) Once again, I have to give a big shout-out to B.E. Sanderson and the Roar for Powerful Words Award. I'm getting more specific with tips today and want to talk about The Great Agent Hunt.

Tip #1: Research!
There are many ways to conduct research about agents. Do all of the following. Do part of the following. Just, whatever you do, don't do none of the following.

1) Go to agentquery.com. Look up agents by genre and make a list. Some you will probably have heard of, others not. Do not just query the ones you've heard of. If the agent or agency has a website, visit it and read everything you can. If the agent or agency has a blog, visit it and read everything you can (I'm not saying you have to read years worth of posts, but at least go back a couple months and skim if you can).

2) Subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace. I can't recommend this highly enough if you're looking for an agent or are agented (or are a pubbed author for that matter). There is no better place to get industry information and find out what's selling right now and who's selling/buying it.

3) Ask other writers. I sent a note out to my RWA chapter when I began querying and asked who people recommend querying with historical romance. I got a tidy list, some of whom were already on my list and others who were not.

4) Compile your research. I built a spreadsheet with each agent, how they accept queries, and their contact information. This spreadsheet has been invaluable as I track responses. And most agents really do respond in their projected timeframe!

Basically, the more information you have about an agent or agency the better you will be able to query them. And I think the time you take to research and educate yourself will absolutely show.

Tip #2: Collect Your Rejections with Pride
I was very excited to get to the querying stage with my writing. It's like getting a promotion. You're ready for the next level! Once I started querying, I was thrilled to get my first, believe it or not, rejection. Every writer has them. Every writer has lots of them. I'm a writer and so I wanted a rejection! Well, I've accumulated a few (and some of them are very, very nice, I'd like to add). If you don't get an offer of representation, a lovely rejection is the next best thing.

Be sure to keep all of them, from the fabulously personal to the form. (You gotta love preprinted cards that apologize for their "formness." Sort of like saying, "Sorry, but I have to punch you in the gut." And then punching you in the gut.)

Tip #3: Know What You Want and Be Persistent
Okay, this is kind of two tips, but I'm going to say they go together. I'm sure you have a dream agent or two, but the likelihood of matching with them isn't all that high. Just remember that it's all about mutual selection. You have to know what you want in an agent. That knowledge will help you in your search, especially when you get an offer of representation. If your dream agent doesn't offer representation, don't despair! You want an agent who wants you and your book as much as you want them. And since we usually don't already know the agents we query, it's the beginning of a sometimes slow but always important dance. From query to request to discussion to representation, it's a time and energy consuming activity, but also quite necessary if you want an agent.

Just remember to keep your chin up. No. Matter. What. It just takes one person to fall in love with your book. It may sound like a needle in a haystack - and it kind of is - but it'll happen. It'll happen.

Bonus Tip: Attend a Regional Conference
My first writing conference was RWA National. I was fortunate to have an agent pitch and then picked up an editor and a second agent pitch while there. Excellent, excellent experience. I like pitching and not just because of the opportunity to meet an agent or editor face to face. It's a great way to gain confidence about your book and get personal contact regarding one of the most consuming things of your life: the book you've agonized writing for however long.

Since the National conference, I've attended two regional conferences and the experience was even more valuable. It's so much easier at a smaller venue to walk up to an agent or editor and talk to them about your book, about the industry, about football if you prefer. That raised my confidence even more and I think made the excercise of querying easier. Sort of like putting a face on the process, which can seem so one-sided. So, if you have an opportunity to go to a regional conference - go, go, go!

Other Writing Blogs
This might be cheating, but I have to recommend the individual Maven blogs (can't call this shameless promotion because I don't have one!). I have collected many nuggets of wisdom and lots of laughs from all of them. If you haven't visited them there, what are you waiting for? The links are on the right side bar.

Now I have to shamefully admit that I don't visit as many blogs as I like and comment even less (lurkerdom suits me, what can I say?). I do love my friend India Carolina's blog, so go read it!

YOUR TURN: Have any agent tips to share? Did you vote for us over at the Preditors & Editors' Readers Choice poll? (See, I can be as shameless as the rest!)

P.S. to Mom and "Dad": Happy 20th Anniversary!

9 comments:

Bill Clark said...

Just remember to keep your chin up. No. Matter. What. It just takes one person to fall in love with your book. It may sound like a needle in a haystack - and it kind of is - but it'll happen. It'll happen.

Yes! I think every writer should write this out by hand and hang it above his/her desk.

I like Mavenfaves; I also like MaveFaves. Maybe we can put all the suggestions to a vote?

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks, Darcy, I needed that. I'm just getting ready to leap back into querying again with this latest finished book, and your words are so valuable. Especially the part Bill quoted. It's easy to forget when the rejections start pouring in that we're all in same boat, and persistence is the key to staying afloat. I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I can collect rejections with pride, but at least I can open them without dying every time now.

Darcy Burke said...

Okay, just fixed the end of that post which was not what I'd written! Stupid blogger had a hard time posting this late last night.

Yes Bill, perhaps we ought to have a vote. Maybe next week's project.

B.E. good luck with the querying! Keep us posted!

Jennifer Linforth said...

This is a pet peeve of mine. I have seen writers use 'shorthand' on agent's blogs:

you = u
because = cos
sucks = sux

You get the picture. If you are representing yourself as a writer to an agent and put yourself out there on the blogs--be professional.

I just sent out a round of queries for my 4th historical. I am hoping that little line at the end about my publishing credits will help me land an agent!

Jennifer

Darcy Burke said...

Spelling errors are a pet peeve of mine along with the shorthand you cite, Jennifer. I was reading an agent blog the other day and she was responding to pitches posted in comments. One of the pitches misspelled a very common place name. Twice. And the agent didn't mention it (there were other problems). Drove me crazy to see it in print spelled wrong. I'm so anal!

Good luck Jennifer! I hope you'll keep us posted!

lacey kaye said...

Happy Anniversary, "Mom & Dad!"

Great tips, Darc. As I, too, am in this stage, I printed out your post & hung it next to my desk.

By the way, MaveFaves, I have my own super spiffy Maven Gear coffee mug filled to the brim with piping hot hot chocolate. You, too, can get your own Maven Gear, including shirts (I'm wearing mine Friday), Bitch buttons and mugs! As us how!

Kelly Jack said...

Mmmm!!! some great ideas here!!! Will have to bookmark the site!

Jackie Barbosa said...

When it comes to agent/publisher hunting, tip #3 is by far the most important. I haven't really been searching for an agent actively, but I may do when the current WIP is done. (I just haven't completely decided what to do with it yet, lol.)

I'm still just waiting for that personalized rejection. All I've got is either contract offers or form letters, lol. Maybe someday...

Erica Ridley said...

Good luck to everyone in the midst of an agent search! So far, the agented Mavens got that way via the tried-and-true "slush --> query --> partial --> full" method, so keep sending out those submissions!!!

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