Friday, 14 August 2009

Looking for a literary agent

I've been answering a lot of the same questions lately from aspiring writers wanting to know how to find an agent. Finding I'm not much of an expert on, but I can help with the looking part.

To start building a list of agents, two really great resources are AgentQuery and QueryTracker. Both are searchable databases, enabling you to find out quickly who represents what.

QueryTracker, as you might guess from the name, also allows you to make up a personalized list and keep track of the status of your query. The data from all users are compiled to provide statistics on how quickly agents reply, how often they request material, and so on.

After making a tentative list, you should research each agent individually. Check their agency websites and make sure they represent the kind of book you've written, who their clients are, what they've sold. This information is usually, although not always, more up-to-date than other sources.

Check to see if they're a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives. This isn't essential, but members adhere to a set of ethical guidelines and have a record of sales, so it is generally a good sign.

And scurry over to Preditors and Editors (yes, the misspelling is intentional - think about it) to find out if the agent you covet is known as a scam artist. They're classified alphabetically by first names, in case you're having trouble finding your way around.

If you're looking to get a Christian book published, Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson has posted a very useful list of agents they have dealt with.

Last but not least, head over to the Absolute Write forums and check out the Bewares and Background Check section to get additional information on specific agents and agencies. You'll get lots of useful information, including comments from writers who have dealt with them.

You can also find out some pretty incredible information by Googling. Like which agent is a belly dancer, who writes about jazz as a hobby, and who they hang out with on MySpace.

Have fun looking, and feel free to add your favourite resources or ask questions in the comment section.


Melanie Avila said...

Great post. I'm doing all this so I suppose it's just a matter of time... :)

Good luck Janet.

Janet Ursel said...

And good luck to you too, Melanie! But you would be savvy about the agent-finding process, you hang out on AW. ;o)

Gary said...

Yes, this is a great post. One I might add would be the industry Bible on things: Literary Marketplace, I guess it is. The two volume set is too expensive to actually purchase, but any reputable library of decent size should have them. If not, your local colleges or universities would.

Janet Ursel said...

I'm not so familiar with the paper resources, so I'm glad you chimed in with that. I also should have mentioned which is similar to Querytracker. I use it less myself because it has no category for religious or Christian fiction, thereby ignoring a very important market reality, and making it much less valuable for Christian writers. The agents are in there nonetheless, but there's no handy way of searching for them. They will be doing a serious makeover in the near future, so perhaps this particular failing will be fixed. We'll see.


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