Thursday, February 07, 2008

Secret Agent 000

I know I'm late posting today's blog, but I didn't forgot. I woke up late at 8:30 this morning and have been deluged with work stuff! All week it's been two steps forward, three steps back. (Gak! Someone just this second called to add another item to today's to-do list) Plus I'm frantically keeping up with my agent submissions, which is a good topic for today's post.

Well, not the submission process, but just how a writer goes about choosing "who" to submit to. There are a lot of agents out there, some legit, some not so much, and some that are just a waste of paper and postage. So how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?

It's a combination of things, but with such easy access to resources on the Internet, I'd like to start there. Most of you know about these already, but for those who don't, here's an important list:

Agent Query – Fabulous tool for a quick search of agents in your genre with links to their websites and their pages at Publisher's Marketplace.

Publisher's Marketplace – A great way to keep up on all the industry news, who is selling what to whom, and even a few publishing deals are posted. Be aware that not all deals appear here, but it's still a great way to keep up with what's happening in the market and what's selling today as opposed to what sold a couple of years ago that now appear on book store shelves. I find the $20/month subscription fee well worth it. – Excellent tool for not only researching agents, but for keeping track of your submissions. And there's a nice archive of articles about agents, writing and publishing. It can even generate reports based on an agent's response rate, or genres represented, etc. Good stuff.

Absolute Write – Very helpful discussions go on in the forums at AW's Water Cooler. You can learn a lot about various agents first hand here, but like most gossip, you have to take it with a grain of salt. It's up to you to verify if stories are true or not.

Agent blogs – The best ones are Bookends, Nathan Bransford, and Kristin Nelson, though there are dozens of others as well. What's really helpful is that these agents post links to other agent blogs so you don't have to make endless searches.

Agent websites – These are invaluable resources for checking out the agents you think may be a good fit for your project. Here's where you can find the submission guidelines and lists of their clients, whose websites you might also want to check out. It can be a good gauge as to how their agent helped shape their careers.

Preditors and Editors – This is where you go to see if an agent is legit or not, or if any major complaints have been filed against them. Again, like with the Absolute Write Water Cooler, a lot of this information is based on word of mouth. Most is true, but I imagine some of it is bogus. A few writers make whine out of their sour grapes.

Now, away from the Internet resources, there's no replacement for networking. That means writer friends and conferences, where you meet and greet, and soak up lots of industry information. I'm not a conference whore, but I'd like to be. 8^) Maybe if I win the lottery. But seriously, nothing beats face to face meetings with agents, or even just listening to them speak on a panel. You can get a taste of their personalities and working style. Just because an agent makes great deals and accepts the genre you write doesn't necessarily make them a good match for you. I've scratched a few agents off my list after a glimpse of their personality or attitude. There are even a couple of agent blogs out there that made me change my mind about an agent or two, and not in a good way.

So what methods do you use for researching agents? Did you start your agent list before or after you finished your book?


Karen Duvall said...

I'm answering my own question here, mostly so that I can check the little follow-up box.

I started researching agents way before I even started writing the book I'm subbing to them now.

Paty Jager said...

This is a prefect topic for me at the moment. I've been chewing over whether I want a editor interview or an agent interview when I go to Nationals. And who do I want to target when I make that decision.

I have two ideas I plan to have in the works to pitch. One a historical western series should probably be pitched to Dorchester or Kensington because they are the two big publishers who like historical westerns.

Then I have a two book proposal of contemporary westerns I want to pitch. These- I think I need an agent because looking at RT and pubisher sites- I don't think I can sell them as contemporary westerns. The only place they look to fit are Harlequin and I don't fit their mold. So if I can pitch them as single title contemporaries to an agent maybe they can figure out who would like cowboy stories.

But then- I know TWRP will take all of them and I wouldn't have to mess with agents and a big pubisher- but I would like a litte more national exposure for my books. And an agent told me to go e-book start a fan base and then move to the bigger houses. But is this too soon to try and move?

So I'm at a Catch 22 and would love anyone's input on this.

Paty Jager said...

I guess I didn't answer your question. ~sorry~

I generally write something then look to see who may be intersted in it. But this time I'm trying to get their attention with proposals and if their intersted write the rest.

Alice Sharpe said...

Karen -- I don't think I would ever sign with an agent who didn't come recommended by people I knew and trusted and with whom I hadn't spoken personally, either on the phone as Eli did, or at a conference. I've listened to a fair number of them and have liked many, but first impressions are not always valuable in a business arrangement.

I imagine you are going to find the perfect agent for you. You've obviously given it a lot of thought and are approaching it logically, armed with information, career goals, and a finished manuscript.

And Paty, why can't you sign up for an agent appt. and an editor appt.? Does it have to be one or the other?

Karen Duvall said...

Wow, Paty, that's a tough one. I see the catch 22 you're talking about. I think it kind of depends on where you want your career to go. Ebooks are great as a launching pad, but ebook publishers are still at the stage of proving themselves. It's the distribution and exposure thing that is at issue, which is why I've decided no more epubs for me. That's not to say I won't change my mind in the future, though.

Getting published is a lot of work, no doubt about it. I guess you just need to decide if you want your books published for the sake of having published books, or do you want to make a living wage off your writing? At this point, ebooks aren't quite there yet, but could be someday. My crystal ball is a bit murky in that department. 8^)

If I were you, I'd pitch to an agent at nationals, if given the choice of one or the other.

Karen Duvall said...

Alice, I agree with you about not signing with an agent until you've talked with them first. Do authors really do that? Sign a contract with an agent before meeting them on the phone at least? That's crazy. I've never heard of such a thing, but I suppose there must be folks out there who work that way. I'd be highly suspicious of any agent who wanted to blindly sign someone up without a civilized conversation first. That spells scam in big red letters.

You're right that I've given it a lot of thought. After having two agents in the past, one that worked out and one that didn't, I know better than to enter an agent relationship without all the facts.

Paty Jager said...

I don't know if I can get both apts. at Nationals. I'm thinking I need to try an agent, but the one I really want probably won't have anything to do with me. Seems I faux pased several years ago when I submitted to her and resubbed when I didn't think she'd recieved my stuff. Happens she was busy and just hadn't had time to get to it and considered me pushy.


Guess I better start checking out those sites you recommended, Karen!

Karen Duvall said...

Paty, maybe that agent will have forgotten you by now. 8^) Don't give up on her. What's the worst that can happen; her saying no again?

Do check out those sites, especially It's an amazing resource. I use it all the time.

Danita Cahill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen Duvall said...

I'm sorry you had a bad experience with your agent search, Danita. I've had bad experiences, too, with a few of my books in the past so I can relate to how you feel. Like I said to Paty, I think it depends on your career goals. Where do you want to go with your writing?

Epubs are great, really wonderful, for an author just starting out. But after that, I think the best way to establish a solid career that will make you an income from your books is to be published with a major publishing house that has decent distribution. Sometimes you can accomplish this without an agent, but most of the time you need that middle man to get you in a door that's blocked to the unagented.

Alice Sharpe said...

I have to agree with Karen on this. If you are fulfilled writing for epub, then no, you don't need an agent. If you are fulfilled writing category and have established yourself where you want to be (read me) no, you don't need an agent (although almost everyone I know like me also has an agent because almost everyone has bigger dreams, including me. If I ever write something that doesn't fit my current market, I'll go agent hunting in a NY minute.)

If, however, you are at the beginning, sold or unsold, and know what you want, then it makes sense to engage someone who can help you reach your goals. An agent does far more than sell your book. A good one helps you build a career, helps you open doors, helps you communicate with editors and publishing houses.

That's my take on it.