Just like deer, agents are skittish. They can get spooked by any number of things: a bad smell (ignoring their submission guidelines), noise (a poorly written query screams ‘Don’t sign me’) or even a shift in the wind (changes in the market).
But before you can even line up your shot, there are some important things you have to know:
- What ‘breed’ you’re after
- Where they’re at
- What will attract them
This is not an advertisement for QueryTracker, but the site provided a ton of of really helpful information, names, websites, email addresses. But just like my dad’s trail map, it’s just a rough outline. You have to do your own (blog) stalking to get exactly what you want.
Knowing What You’re Looking For
Before my manuscript was even complete, I looked at the acknowledgement section of my favorite books from my genre. Smart authors always thank their agents. Then I went to each agent’s website or blog, read about their interests, and keep notes on their posts. Over the past six months, I’ve been able to learn personalities and get a feel for what kind of person I want to work with. This became my Dream Agent List, which later got deleted when my computer got a virus (SNAP!).
If I was starting now, I’d use QueryTracker to generate a list of agents for my genre and then put the names of specific agents I’ve be following (and like) into a folder. There are comment boxes for each agent, so you can record what you learn as you track them.
Finding Their Stomping Grounds
As I mentioned above, QueryTracker will provide most of the agents’ websites. I visited 400 and some were duplicates of the same agency because QueryTracker lists the agents by their last name, not by the agency.
Quick tip: Read all the agent bios the first time you go to the website. Jot down which agent from the bunch is most interested in your specific genre (and there is a big difference between YA contemporary and YA urban fantasy). Then click the “discard” button to remove the others from your search…sort of like picking the buck out of the herd. BTW, querying two agents from the same agency is like shooting yourself in the foot. Not good.
Did I mention that this is A LOT of work? It is. Like entire days of your life will be devoted to this one project.
Drawing Positive Attention
Every single agent has different submission guidelines that may include any combination of the following: a query, bio, synopsis, five-to-fifty page submission, email with text in the body, email with attachments, specific subject lines, snail mail requirements. Some agencies have online submission forms, others want all queries sent to one address, while still others want them sent to individual agents. (Are you tearing out your hair yet?)
The best advice I can give (remember, I’m not a pro) is to follow the instructions. If they request a query and a bio, then give them that. If they say they’re flooded with paranormal, don’t send them another.
Agents are people, and like a little ego-stroke. If they just posted a sale to a major publication house, congratulate them. If you love an author they rep, mention how much you’re looking forward to an upcoming sequel. (At this point I’m really struggling not mention that hunters pour deer urine all over themselves to draw in their game…but I think that’s pushing the metaphor a little too far. Don’t you?).
Other tips I learned while messing around with QueryTracker
- The site has a lot of different functionalities (sorry, my hubby is an IT guy and that’s the word he uses). If you use the free version, you get two folders to separate your agents. But you can also prioritize your top ten. I used all three to create my “Top 30” lists
- Read the comments other queriers have left behind
- Double-check the info listed against the agent’s website
- Read the client lists
- Since I can’t (or won’t) spend the money to print and mail my ms to an agent, I immediately discarded all the agents that only accept submissions via snail mail. UNLESS they were on my favorites list
I’ll do another post in the future about Taking the Shot and prepping your query. Until then, good hunting, ya’ll!!
(FYI: I am getting closer to querying, but I’m going to wait until I’m positive SAW IT COMING can’t get any better. Which will be really soon. I hope.)