Some people will say not to worry about the query process until you’re actually ready to query. I can see their point. You main job is to write a great book. Until that is done, you should not query agents.
But trying to find agents can be tedious, and the query process is, quite honestly, a torture chamber. It’s almost as much work as writing the book, (if you want to get it right, at least) so I say it’s never too early to start doing research on agents and the query process. I started a couple years before I really needed an agent and I do think it helped me.
So whether you’re still in the writing process or you’re ready to query agents now, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Start a list/use Querytracker.net: Start making a list of prospective agents. Querytracker.net is an invaluable website/database where you can not only search for agents according to age range and genre, but you can compile your own list of agents and enter in data when you submit, when agents respond, when you sent material, etc.
Querytracker is great about updating their database and they’re strict about the quality of agents they have on their site. You can use the basic Querytracker for free, which is what I did and worked fine for me, but you can also pay $25 a year for more features.
Another helpful agent database site is Agentquery.com
2. Interviews: There are several blogs which do awesome interviews with literary agents. This is a great way to get a feel for an agent’s personality, their reading tastes, their pet peeves, what they’re looking for, and any tips that might help your submission get noticed with them. You can often google and agent and find interviews with them, but here are a few blogs that do some great agent interviews and spotlights. You can add agents to your lists as you find ones that interest you:
3. Do your homework. Always research the agent before querying them. Google them. Read their blog. Follow them on Twitter. (I don’t actually tweet, but I hear it’s helpful.) Read their clients’ blogs. (Yes, you are basically stalking. It is necessary.) Look on their website for current submission guidelines and ALWAYS FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. Don’t go off another websites info. They’re not always current.
4. Beware. Not all agents are created equal and some “agents” do little more than take your money. A sure red flag is an agent who asks for a reading fee. NEVER, NEVER PAY AN AGENT TO READ OR EDIT YOUR BOOK! All legitimate agents work strictly on commission. They work for you because they believe it will pay them in the future.
Check the agent’s track record. Do they have recent sales? Who are their clients? What’s their work experience/education prior to becoming an agent?
New agents may not have a track record that gives you a sense for how great of an agent they will be, but you can still get a sense for how savvy they are in the business. Have they worked in the publishing industry before? Are they with a reputable agency that has a history of making good sales?
A couple websites that help you distinguish good agency practices from scams:
Absolute Write-Writer Beware
SFWA Writer Beware
5. And finally, learn how to craft an effective query letter. And for this bit of advice, I will expand and dedicate my next post. Until Tuesday!