I thought Stephen King's book "On writing" detailed the method really well. Basically, it's this:
Buy a 'writer's market'. Look through it for a list of agents that work with the type of stories you like to write. Pick a few of them and send each a query letter. In it explain what you've written and published and what you hope to write that you will need represenation for. Offer to send copies of your best work upon request.
Of those who respond, ask some additional questions. Which publications have they sold work to, how long have they been established, etc.
The only caveat I would add is if someone offers to represent you for an up front fee-- run away.
Make sure any agent you send to is a member in good standing of AAR (Association of Author Representatives). They won't try to nail you for upfront costs, under the guise of "reading fees" or other guises. Good luck!
Posts: 338 | Registered: Aug 2002
I wouldn't trust the everyonewhoisanyone site. He doesn't give very accurate information, in my experience. And he's got a very, very bad reputation with agents and publishers, so don't mention where you found 'em in the query letter for sure. *grin*
Here's how I search for agents: I go through every book I can find, particularly The Jeff Herman Guide. I also use this site:
And I search every agent I come across. Many of them have websites. Look for the ones that specifically cite your genre in their "wants" list or have recognizable authors from your genre on their clients list. Do not submit to agents who don't ask for your genre! There's a lot of agents out there who don't even accept fiction submissions. Do your homework.
Once I've done that and have a preliminary list, I check every name on the list against this site:
I can't emphasize this step enough. At least half the agents I've stumbled across in the last two years have been scammers, by which I mean they charge fees and/or don't have real clients. Some of them are clueless, some outright dishonest, but either way, they will do you more harm than good.
A bad agent is worse than no agent at all.
P&E isn't infalliable either; check your prospective agents over thoroughly. Look at their backlist. Look for real sales. And don't give them any money. Real agents make money from sales. I've heard of stuff like charging $10 copying fees and that's probably fine, but if you are asked to pay more than $50 up front, run away. Don't look back.
This is the list of agents I've put together for myself:
On that anyonewhoisanyone site--take with grain of salt, the guy has some good info, but he also made up an awful ms then posted the different agent's rejection letters to him. He then belittled them for their comments and posted private communications.
I thought I'd already posted a thanks...oops.
Yes, I know about "Money flows towards the writer." It is, however, the most important of points. There are some on the rumor mill who will even fault a $10 charge for filing your own copyright. (We were discussing a market who asked you to do that.) Basically, I resolve that like this: "Money flows from the readers through the bookstores, through the publishers and associates, and to the writer." This is an extention of a general rule I have with dealing with people in life: "Don't trust people if you don't know how they're making their money." Basically that means if you don't know, they're probably getting it from you and that's not ok.
I'm floating this back up to the top because I have a follow-up question that might seem silly or paranoid but I don't care, I'm asking anyway.
I have a list of agents that I am interested in querying in regards to my first finished novel: a suspense/fantasy. I like the book, but I realized that it is not entirely representative of what I normally write, despite being the first novel I've finished. It was more of a challenge to myself: time to finish something.
Sooooo....I'm wondering if I sent this an agent and they hate it, will this hurt my chances with that agency in the future? I suppose this could apply more generally. I expect that most people get better as they write subsequent novels rather than worse, and I hope to be one of those people.
Ok, ok...they probably get thousands of submissions and won't even remember my name, but still....
Oh yeah, and along those same lines....do writers typically find one agent to represent all their works or do they choose a different agent with each book? This has to do with the fact that this novel is somewhat different from what I usually write....if I pick an agent that likes mystery and fantasy but no scifi, then what do I do when I write a scifi novel?
Posts: 3567 | Registered: May 2003
I would not hesitate to query the agent again on another project in the future, because of the thousands of subs thing. Unless they REALLY REALLY hated it, enough to remember your name out of all their subs - but if the agent hates your stuff that much, odds are your 2nd book won't appeal to them any more than your 1st.
But it's my understanding that agents usually specialize - an agent that might be right for a suspense/fantasy novel may not be right for the kind of work you usually do.
I bet the issue will never even come up, and you'll probably end up using your agent for your first book for your subsequent books, or at least be looking for agents with one published novel under your belt, which is a whole different ball game.
Christine if you have a contract offer in hand agents WILL TALK TO YOU.
Researching agents is just like researching markets do your homework.
Avoid newbies and guys about to retire. Both can leave you in a lurch. Depending on the publishing house your going for some have lists of agents they prefer to deal with. AND nothing comes out of your pocket all their expenses comes out of their commision rate. Period. If they can't sell enough to pay their expenses they are not quality agents.
But like I said if you have a contract in hand the agents will WANT to talk to you. If a reputable agent rejects you becuase they are not accepting new clients ask for a referal.
Agents are more likely to refer you to other agents than reputable publishers are likely to refer you to agents. Part of the reason publishers don't tend to refer authors to agents is because there have been cases of "kick-back" arrangements that have gone to court, and no reputable publisher wants to take a chance on looking like they have that kind of arrangement.
Also, if a publisher will consider an unagented manuscript, why would the publisher want to refer you to an agent? An agented manuscript can end up costing the publisher more than an unagented one.
So I wouldn't recommend asking publishers for agent referrals. Go ahead and ask agents, but not publishers.
As for specializing agents, most agents don't want to take on a client for a one-shot deal. Agents (as well as publishers) are interested in careers not books, and I think you will have trouble finding an agent who is willing to represent one book, even if the agent doesn't usually deal in the kinds of books you usually write.
Your best bet is to find an agency with agents who do more than one kind of book, and talk to them--they'd be more likely to be willing to take you on because they could always move you to a different agent in the agency.
Of course, as JB says, if you've got an offer, most agents who have the time will be happy to negotiate for you--you've done half of their work. I think in that case, though, I'd try to find an agent who usually deals in the kind of stuff you usually write. Such an agent would be more likely to negotiate something different and then work with you on your usual stuff, than the other way around.
Of course, there's always the possibility that whomever you go with, your book will do so well that the agent (and publisher) will want you to do more of the unusual stuff and forget about your usual stuff. And that is another way to establish yourself, so you might want to keep that possibility in mind.
Personally if I have any choice in the matter I will not look for an agent until I have several short story publication credits and hopefully a bite from a publisher on a novel length work. I may change that in the future but I hope to not have to. I want to be able to send letters to agents that say, "Here's my contract. Whataya say?"
Posts: 818 | Registered: Aug 2004
It would be nice to go to an agent with a contract already in hand, but I keep understanding that it doesn't work that way anymore. Most publishers won't take unsolicited subs, not even queries.
Posts: 3567 | Registered: May 2003
Are you only trying to be published by the big houses?
There are hundreds publishers with strong market presence that will accept pub's.
I don't know Christine it sounds like your becoming frustrated. Solicitation of publishers and agents frustrate me, mainly because of the time frames involved. It's the only industry left where you still have to wait months for any answers. And in the meantime your languishing. The solicitation and marketing side of a writing career can be hell and it is the #1 factor for driving writer's out of the market. It can be a fulltime job all on it's own.
This might be expensive- but have you considered visiting some expos or conventions and getting some editor's cards? Making a few connections? I have a friend who picked up a nice $50k contract for writing a role playing book by going to a publisher's convention and just talking with people.
This is just my opinion but I think too many authors spend too much time in contests, critiques, and for fun projects versus writing, rewriting, and submitting to publishing houses. Shear volume of submissions goes a long way to getting you published.
As far as writing what you like:
Dean Koontz wanted to be a literary romance writer (not harlequins but serious portrayals of family and marriage) instead he became famous for something called Demon Seed and he said he hates it because he became labeled as a Horror Writer when in reality he does not like horror. Though he said he's happy to make the money- just wishes he could have did it with love stories.
I would love to go to some conventions, but I can't seem to figure out which ones to go to. I've found some that even take place in the midwest (local for me) but they seem to have more to do with gaming and faniac stuff and little to do with writing and publishing. I suppose I'd be willing to fly someplace to a convention if I felt it would really do me some good, but I'd have to know that a convention was worth it and so far I'm just not sure.
Posts: 3567 | Registered: May 2003
My contract calls for representation of "all longer works." Most writers have one agent to rep them, not the book they wrote.
It can take some time to find the right agent, and then even more time to find a publisher. And then even more time to get a contract in order that both you and your agent agree on.
A friend who is widely published is fond of saying, a bad agent is worse than no agent at all.
Be choosy and keep at it. Look into the works that each agent reps already. Find one who reps someone who writes the same sort of material you do--and go for it.
Shawn (Andy Zack has an area on a different writers forum called ask the agent---he offers lots of good tips there and answers questions when he can. You might want to visit it as well.) (if you have a question, be sure to post it under the ask the agent thread and not start a new one--Andy tends to ignore those not right int he thread.)
I'm bringing this back up again (for purely selfish reasons, of course).
When writing a basic one page query letter, what should it cover?
I've found the agent I want to "court" as MaryRobinette beautifully put it, but I can't get my head around what to say - I'm tongue tied! He's only looking for a one page query letter, no sample chapters or synopses unless requested later.
Along the same lines, preparing for an agent/publisher, does anyone here know of a reputable, professional editorial service (preferable affordable, as well) with verifiable experience on mythical/metaphysical novels?
Posts: 17 | Registered: Dec 2004