Today, I wanted to do a quick post about researching agents. There are many great resources already out there, so I'll focus on what I did when I was querying.
You may have seen a recent Twitter uproar over some questionable querying advice. It all started when somebody professing to be a expert claimed that you should jump on the first agent offer you receive. This person suggested that if you dare ask for time to think or to consider others, the agent will get mad and withdraw his/her interest.
There was a huge call to arms, and experienced queriers hopped into #MSWL and #PitMad --- where the individual had been offering these gems --- to reassure newer folks that yes, in fact, you should ask for time. It is not only a professional courtesy to other agents who have been reading your book, but it is beneficial to you.
I understand that if you've been treading the Querying Waters for a long time, an offer (ANY offer) can seem like the life raft you've waited for. But when you make the decision to sign with somebody, you are effectively placing yourself, your work, and your entire writing career in their hands. Are those capable hands? Does this person know what they're doing? Should you trust your career to somebody without knowing as much as you can about them? (Especially if they give sketchy advice like that person above?)
Agents and editors research writers, so it makes sense that you, the writer, should research them, too. It's a partnership for everyone involved, and you should find out what you can before you sign a legal contract.
When I put that on Twitter shortly after the uproar, I was surprised to get tweets and DMs from folks who had never heard of these resources or had never used them. I assumed it was a matter of course for every writer, because they were the resources my CPs and I all used when querying.
So here's a quick rundown that I hope will help you if you are querying or weighing offers!
When I did agent research, I did it with three questions in mind:
- Are they legit?
- Do they represent/look for what I write?
- Will their personality and work style likely mesh with mine?
And here are the resources I used to try to answer those questions:
- Google. This was my first stop. I typed in the agent's name and quickly scanned what came up. Good signs of them being legit include: an official, well-designed agency website; maybe a nice personal website or blog; a listing on QueryTracker; and a bunch of interviews. But not having all of these things doesn't necessarily mean they're not legit; they might just be a newer agent.
- Official agency website. You can find out a lot of things here, including how long the agent's been agenting, what their background is, what clients/books they represent, etc. Also a perk --- if you are interested in a newer, less experienced agent, you can find out who they work with. I knew I only wanted a brand-new agent if he or she came from a reputable agency, with experienced senior agents who had taken them under their wing.
- Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL). This terrific resource started on Twitter (check out the hashtag!) and is now consolidated into one handy website. This helped me a ton when I was querying ELEGY, because I got to see who was looking for something just like it. It's a good way to double-check the agent's interests and make sure you're not querying something that they no longer want.
- QueryTracker. Do yourself a favor and open a free account here, because I relied heavily on this website when querying. Type in an agent's name, and you'll be able to see info on their agency and submission guidelines. (But always double-check on the official website, of course.) Best of all, you'll see a Comments thread where writers often post the type of interaction they had with this agent and how long it took to hear a response.
- Absolute Write. This is an amazing forum with threads for pretty much every agent and/or agency. People post a lot of dirt here, which is awesome. Personally, I want to know if someone had a bad experience with a particular agent. Maybe they were rude, or maybe they were unresponsive, or maybe they didn't take good care of their clients and the client ended the relationship. I want to know these things up front. And people on the forum don't mess around --- they'll tell you exactly like it is, which is what you want!
- Writer Beware. This is an excellent place to go to double-check whether an agent, agency, or publisher is legit. Even if you know they are legit, it doesn't hurt and only takes a few minutes to check this website.
- Publishers Marketplace. If you have the funds (it's about $20/month, I believe), this can be another great aid when you receive an offer. You can also share the account with another writer buddy. Not all deals are listed here, but it's a good way to see if an agent has made any, what kind of books they've sold, and to which houses. *Edited for clarification: You can open an account for just one month, or two, and cancel it whenever you want. I've opened and canceled my account a couple times, whenever I needed/didn't need it anymore!
- Writer buddies. If you're unsure about someone, ask friends! (Privately, of course.) They may have had personal contact with the agent you're interested in, or they may have heard useful things through the grapevine. I got a lot of info this way that wouldn't have been available on those websites. My Pitch Wars mentors were invaluable here, because they'd already been there and blazed the trail for me!
I hope that helps those of you who were curious about the websites I mentioned.
And speaking of Pitch Wars, the mentor blog hop begins Monday, August 3, so keep an eye out for my post!
Fellow queriers, if you have any agent research tips or resources to add, please feel free to do so in the comments!