Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Agent Research Sites: An Agent's Perspective

Let’s face it, there are a ton of Web sites, books, and magazines devoted to finding an agent. Just type into Google “finding a literary agent” and you’re sure to come up with hundreds of hits. So where should authors begin their search? That I can’t tell you for sure. Not having been in your shoes, I can’t verify which sites have the most up-to-date and accurate information and which ones should be ignored altogether. What I can tell you is this . . . other than Publishers Marketplace, I do not think it’s necessary in this day and age to pay anyone for information on agents. Publishers Marketplace is the recognized industry site for finding contact information and deals. Now of course not every deal is listed, but a great number are and these deals can give you great insight into what agents are currently selling.

What many of you don’t realize about those sites is that they can be a bit of a popularity contest and/or require some work from an agent that she might not feel she needs to do any longer. When BookEnds opened our doors in 1999, one of the first things we did was apply to every possible listing known to man. We submitted interview forms, collected referrals, and contacted Web sites. It was imperative that we let the world know we existed. Now we’ve let a lot of that fall by the wayside. You would probably know better than me, but I don’t think we’re listed in Writer’s Market anymore and I’m pretty sure we’ve been removed from the most recent or the next Jeff Herman guide. I also know that a number of paid agent research sites have removed us because we were “uncooperative.” In one case we refused to have our phone number listed and were therefore told we couldn’t be on the site. The truth is that we don’t need to be. We are recognized by both RWA and MWA, we attend roughly 10 to 15 conferences each year, we are in the LMP, and we regularly post deals on Publishers Marketplace. In other words, the listings aren’t as important to us as they used to be.

Why would agents let these things slide? Because what most of us have found is that requiring authors to do a little bit of work and digging to find us usually means higher quality submissions. If an author finds us through RWA or MWA, we know she is serious enough about her writing to join an organization. If a writer finds us by searching the Internet, reading the Web site, and the Blog, she has some idea of exactly who we are (not just a name and address). There was a day when we could tell by submissions exactly when Writer’s Market was released. The quality of submissions took a serious dip and we would get everything from poetry to children’s books to handwritten manuscripts.

What’s the point of me telling you this? I’m not really sure anymore. I guess it’s to say that the Internet is your best source for agent research, and to find the best agents it’s not going to be easy. You can’t just buy one book or pay someone $50 for a list of agents you could probably get yourself on another site for free. That being said, you should all be familiar with Writer Beware and of course Preditors and Editors. Both Web sites will give you the tools you need to properly research agents and make sure you aren’t going to be ripped off.

So that’s how agents view these many sites, but what about you? What have you found helpful or a waste of time and money? If you have an agent, how did you ultimately come across that person’s name?



Anonymous said...

1. I believe you are in the 2008 Writer's Market; if not, the 2007.
2. I find that cross-referencing several sources is the best way to come up with a relatively reliable list of agents to apply to. I used LMP, Writer's Market as a supplement, some Internet checks, occasionally Preditors and Editors (which later, N.B., has errors--needs updating in places!!).
3. I find that to say the Internet is your first and main source is misleading. In your agency's case, it (your website) happened to give most updated info on your submissions requirements. But the Internet doesn't help much with many other agencies.
4. I try to locate agencies by what categories they claim to handle--e.g., self-help, narrative nonfiction, etc. There is a whiff in your blog posts and in other places like Writer Beware of the notion that a book and "the right agent" go together like the exact right key to the exact right lock, and that it behooves a writer to make this match, a notion that not only is not inspired up by the type of info the writer finds in a variety of listings, but prima facie is rather absurd.

--Gregory Ludwig

Mark Terry said...

Just one comment about Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware. They're valuable databases, but they're not necessarily 100% accurate. In fact, any source that bases their response to an agent by writer complaints needs to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

That isn't to say that those complaints might not be accurate, but how are you to judge? Well, judge by the tone of the complaint, whether there's more than one writer making the complaint, and the nature of the complaint. And remember, a disappointed writer or a writer who had an argument with their agent and who has an internet connection can be a dangerous thing.

My own agent has an inaccurate notice on Preditors and Editors. Now, I think, objectively speaking, there are probably quite a number of legitimate things to complain about my agent (and perhaps vice versa, but that's a different post for a different time), but the complaint on P&E isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...


I am proud and happy to be a BookEnds client, but I wanted to pass on something from a newbie writer. I belong to a Harvard writers loop, and someone proudly announced that s/he had finished a book and asked, "can anyone recommend a literary agent?" I think the person was serious. Having spent much time and effort in acquiring an agent, I wrote immediately and said, do your homework. Check out web resources. Learn how to query. There are no shortcuts, right?

Sheila Connolly

Kalynne Pudner said...

As a neophyte in the commercial (vs. academic) publishing world, I appreciate QueryTracker.net, especially in its new and improved 2008 format. Its search engine seems reasonably comprehensive and user-friendly, and its organizational tools I've found to be indispensable. It links to each agent's info on PM, Preditors and Editors, AAR and anything else I've seen mentioned here. It also specifies what method of query the agent prefers, and -- perhaps most valuable of all -- allows other users to post comments about the individual agents. Nothing nasty (as far as I've encountered); but rather, very helpful remarks like, "Wants to be your first query," or "Don't mention your novel is one in a series."

Kate Douglas said...

I think "word of mouth" is still an important link to finding a new agent. I haven't looked for many years and certainly hope not to have to, but on the front page of my website is a link to BookEnds (both the website and this blog) and a note that I am represented by Jessica Faust. Obviously, if I were having problems with my agent I wouldn't be advertising her site, but the links bring me a lot of private requests for information about my agent and her agency that I'm more than willing to share. Offering a shortcut? In a way, yes, but I also am quick to say that the agent who works for me might not work for someone else. On an "authors only" list I belong to, there are always requests for information about particular agents--it's only good business to tell what you know, and what better source than those who have dealt with agents in the course of their careers.

Maria Zannini said...

Networking and staying tuned in to various loops has netted me a lot of good information on agents, including the agent's tastes, recent acquisitions and internal agency news, such as new agents and departing ones.

I interview published authors regularly for the two newsletters I edit as well as my own website, and they too have been a wealth of insider information and advice.

The bottom line is that it takes work and a certain amount of commitment to get the information you need rather than relying on intel that could be a year old.

Cast the net widely, but filter that information before querying needlessly. It'll saves time for you and the agent.

Anonymous said...

What I think it comes down to is that people seem to believe in a punchlist kind of life. They make lists, check them twice, and then run down them in order to be "productive".

I can't imagine any of them make decent writers.

I hang out here and a few other blogs because I want to know who these agent people are. I don't want a bunch of "pointers", and I don't want a list of addresses that I'll spam at great length. I know that's what most people think they have to do. I want to know how agents think.

I am learning about the industry and building my platform. I have a list of no less than seven works, three of which are partially done, that I have outlines and gone as far as written my pitch for. The pitches will be revised as the works are fleshed out. By that time, I hope to understand who to send them off to.

I don't blame agents for ignoring most of the submissions that they receive, but I do often wonder if a better system can't be devised for helping the screening process along.

Lynnette Labelle said...

I've used agentquery.com to research agents. I haven't submitted anything yet, so I can't say how acurate the site is, but others have told me it's great.

Anonymous said...

To Sheila Connolly:

I think to not recommend your agent when someone specifically asks for a recommendation is a little rude. What would it hurt? I've met writers at conferences before who are more than willing to offer the name of their agent. It's not necessarily a shortcut or a way of not doing one's homework. Even after I learn a name, I still do the research to determine if my work is a good fit. But it never hurts to hear a recommendation from a published author.

Anonymous said...

I like this blog. You're absolutely right. I have the 2007 Guide to Literary Agents sitting right here in front of me and you're one of the first agents that caught my eye. However, I could have gleaned all necessary information by using the web instead of buying a $30 book. Still, having some of the information all in one place does cut down on some of the research time. :)

Aprilynne Pike said...

To Anonymous Re: Sheila,

As an author with a big-time agent I can tell you I would never recommend my agent out of hand. Not because she isn't fabulous (she is!) but because I don't want them using my name and treating it like I recommended them. (And if they don't know a lot about the agent industry, they will!) I think sending a friend some good websites and telling them how to get started doing their own research is a good thing.

Karen Duvall said...

I think it takes a combination of methods to come up with your "top agent" picks. Networking is vital, combined with googling the agents you've heard discussed here and there and want more info on, and of course Publisher's Marketplace.

I joined PM for $20 a month because I wanted more detailed industry news. Just knowing an agent represents my genre doesn't tell me much. I like to know names of the editors they're dealing with, what publishing houses they've made sales to, who their authors are, etc. and PM is a priceless resource for this.

On my list of top picks, every single agent represents someone I know personally who I have already talked to about them. I'm just starting the submission process, and I've been working for months on my query list. One of the agents I want to approach doesn't even report her deals to PM, but I know who she represents and that's what's important to me.

Teaser Tuesday

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

One of the first/best nuggets of advice wannabe writers get is "Look for brand new agents just starting out."

Hey. GREAT! Great idea! How do I do that?

"Uh... I dunno. But you should do it."

I don't have the $ for a Publisher's Weekly subscription. The best I could do is keep my eye on the two little update boxes at the bottom of the AqentQuery.com splash screen, waiting for a newbie agent.

Now I use QueryTracker.net. I can sort by all of the agents rep'ing my genre and see who is actively asking for pages.

So far, so good. The latest batch of queries have generated more request for partials and fulls than my previous three novels combined.

(Of course, I'd like to think that it's a better novel this time too, but... You can't get signed if nobody is reading your pages.)

Merry Monteleone said...

I think a cross reference system works the best. Not too long ago, the most accurate resources were writer's market and Jeff Herman's Guide were considered the most accurate and best screened... now there are alot of venues to find information for free, but you have to be very careful about the information you find online.

Preditors and Editors is great, but as Mark Terry commented, some of the information can be skewed against and agent or publisher by a writer with an axe to grind... by the same token, I've seen listings there that I'm not sure are legitimate (by the looks of their sites and information) - but one of their writers or the publisher/agent had themselves listed...

Agent blogs are fantastic, but not every agent blogs. Websites can be invaluable (but first you have to find the agent to see their website...)

I've been compiling my list a bit at a time - I've run across agent names on blogs and in acknowledgments from authors and then checked them out online and in resources to see if they might make a good fit... I've also gone through agentquery and writer's market, and I read agent and author blogs regularly. For every agent name I've kept on my query list, I've checked them in multiple sources and looked at at least a few of their client books...

There's a lot more to this than writing a book - as if that's not hard enough... the research for the business/publishing aspect is at least as time consuming as writing, and a lot less fun.

Michele Dunaway said...

Anonymous, I'm going to defend Sheila on this one--and I don't know her. (Hi Sheila.)

She's right to be cautious. Even if she says, I'm with BookEnds, that person has to get out there and do his research. She's right to recommend that person get out there and target more narrowly. Then he or she could always email
Sheila personally. Authors don't have time to answer mass emails. It was nice of her to even give him an answer.

Also, as authors we have to protect ourselves. I know many a sad story of someone who asked "who's your agent" and then then wrote said agent and said, "so and so recommended I query you", which is not the case at all. It makes for egg on everyone's face--the person who used the author's name without her permission, the agent who says why did you send me this person and the author who has to go "But I didn't!"

Jessica, maybe you could do a post on how to use an author's name properly in a query letter.

Anonymous said...

Finding all the info you can is always best. Sometimes you fall in love with an agent even more, and other times, not so much.

Certain industry blogs -- I can name two agent blogs off the top of my head -- hurt the agents' reputation more than help it. I stopped visiting these two blogs long ago, but can't help but to wonder why anyone would want them to represent them. IMO the way in which they've referred to their own clients is appalling.

Anonymous said...

I'll second the reccommendation for Agent Query as a starting point - I've found it accurate. (I cross-check with PM, written sources, agency websites etc.)

Publisher's Marketplace has failed me a couple of times in that I searched for 'Fantasy' (which is what I happen to write) only to find on close examination that I was dealing with agencies who specifically do _not_ want fantasy.

Compare General fiction, Mystery, Romance, Reference, Business/investing/finance, Mind/body/spirit, Health, Lifestyle, African-American, Science, Erotica, True crime, Parenting to

romance (and all its sub-genres), erotica, mystery, suspense, women's fiction, and literary fiction. We also do a great deal of nonfiction in the areas of spirituality, new age, self-help, business, finance, health, pop science, psychology, relationships, parenting, pop culture, true crime, and general nonfiction.

(The first is PM, the second the agency website. For BookEnds LLC, of course.)

Anon @ 11.20:
Writers are not gatekeepers for agents: it is not their job to match up their friends with their agent. If a writer likes your writing, they *will* reccommend their agent, as long as they think it would be a good match, but you don't have a right to a personal introduction. That's a priviledge, not a right. (And no guarantee that the agent in question will love it enough to take you on...)

Anonymous said...

On BookEnds info in print sources:

I checked it out: BookEnds is listed in the 2007 LMP (where it says the writer should submit a good query letter plus synopsis and first three chapters, no more than 50 pages) and the 2008 Writer's Market (where it says, concerning contact, see website for info; it also has an icon identifying BookEnds as a new listing in WM!).

Jeanne Ryan (Serenissima) said...

For the YA market, I've found the Verla Kay site to be a great resource for getting info on agents, and all sorts of other useful writing/publishing topics.

bob said...

I to would recommend Agent Query. I use it along with google and do pay for Publishers Marketplace.

Those 3 things are the biggest help for me. I google when I read an author thank their agent or have a specific agent/agency in mind and want to see if they have a website.

Or I check at publishers marketplace to see who represents someone when I find a book that is similar in style or genre

And then I check to see what Agent Query shows, which usually takes me to an agents website as well.

I'd be lost without those 3 things.

Anonymous said...

The idea that it seems rude to not reccomend your agent when asked utterly baffles me.

An agent is not a commodity. Their time is limited, their specialties are personal. There is no "best" any more than there is a "best" in an art such as writing.

The passive "help" of a casual reccomendation is not even remotely what the situation calls for, even in a passive society such as ours. If the request was for a half an hour over coffee for advice, that would be different. That was not the request.

The request appeared to be more along the lines of a stranger asking for a buck on the street rather than a meal or a ride. I always give the latter, the former depends on my mood.

I think that all of us need to understand this if we are going to hit up published authors for their advice to get us started. That will come for me one day, after I'm done sitting back and watching. I don't want a passive name or two, and I will assume that help given that cheaply would be rather dear to come by.

Linnea said...

For me the most valuable source for a good fit between author and agent is found following agent blogs. They keep you up to date on what's happening in their agency and you gain insight into their preferences. I worked with an agent for about a year before we parted company. He was reputable, his firm had been around for a long time, I found nothing negative whatsoever online or anywhere else and he was excited about my novel. However, he gave me copies of all the correspondence between himself and publishers and it soon became apparent that he was not targeting the appropriate publishers. Once we dissolved our relationship I was leery of the agency route and sold my novel direct to a publisher. Agencies generally claim to represent a wide range of genres and subgenres but if you look at their client list or if they are kind enough to give details on the genres they've sold, a pattern generally emerges as to preference. Couple that with what you learn from blogging agents about their own likes and dislikes, personality and character and you'll come up with a list of possibles. I enjoy reading quite a number of blogs and have already learned about where I would and would not submit my next novel. For me, the personal touch of a blog is of far greater benefit than anything else.

Laura K. Curtis said...

I don't remember how I first came across BookEnds. It was in Writers Market or something similar, though, a hard copy reference work. That would have been 2005 or 2006. At the time, I started with the books, then used the 'Net to narrow my choices.

I do know that the more I researched various agencies, the more scams I uncovered. (We have a list of the most helpful sites we've found for unpublished/unagented writers on our blog.) BookEnds was actually the first place I submitted to after whittling down the list of possibles to a list of probables.

That first blind submission didn't work out, though I got a lovely rejection letter. In the following year or two I went to conferences, wrote another book, met various agents, submitted to them, got more lovely rejections, and finally came up with a manuscript Jessica liked.

Through all of that, I kept researching. But I find the research of aggregating sites like P&E more valuable in letting me know who I *don't* want to submit to. But I find that's the case with most reviews--books, movies, agents, editors...

For finding agents I *did* want, I was more interested in:
- going through the books to find out who sold what in my field
- talking to agents at conferences
- reading agency websites (who are their clients? what have they sold?)
- talking to clients of various agencies

One thing I learned at conferences: just because a book like Writers Market says an agency isn't currently taking new clients, doesn't mean you shouldn't take an opportunity to meet with someone from that agency at a conference. Because what it really means is "not taking blind queries at this time."

Sheila said something that seems to have generated some controversy about recommending or not recommending an agent. I'd be very hesitant to recommend Jessica to anyone whose work I hadn't read. And even if I *had* read the work, and I *liked* the work, that doesn't mean BookEnds would be the right home for it. Or that Jessica would be the right agent for that author, no matter how much I like both Jessica and the other person.

I know a couple of people who have gotten their agents by recommendation and been unhappy with them. I don't know the agents, so I don't know if they're unhappy, too, but the authors are. (In both cases I am thinking of, the MS was a contest winner, so it had a publishing contract that needed review, and the authors just asked people who liked their agents for recommendations. Time was tight, but these people didn't have agents in mind themselves yet--they went with recommendations, instead.)

I don't think blindly asking for recommendations is useful. If someone sent an email to a list the way they did to the list Sheila is on, I'd have to look at it and go "you're serious?" Research first. Saying, "is anyone a client of XXXXX Agency, and would you consider reading my MS with an eye to recommending it to your agent?" is worlds away from saying "so, can someone recommend an agent?"

OK, I've blathered long enough. Time to go work on the MS!

Anonymous said...

I'm just starting this process, but I'd like to know what those of you with more experience think about limiting your queries to agents who are members of AAR.

Thanks, Jessica, what a helpful post!

Diana said...

I finished my first manuscript this summer and have been searching for representation. I do have the 2007 Guide to Literary Agents (which does include Bookends) and the 2007 Writer's Market (which does not, unless I totally missed you in there).

The most useful things so far have been hearing a couple of seasoned agents (Kim from Bookends being one of them!) talk about the mechanics of working a manuscript through the pipeline until it turns into an honest-to-gosh book. Just having an understanding of what an agent is supposed to do has helped me filter people out. (And Kim, thanks for that presentation at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in 2006!)

I started with the Writer's Market and Guide to Literary Agents, but when I visited the web sites, I found many of the listed agents weren't accepting new authors. I started following this blog and learned about Publishers Marketplace and subscribed to the free version of Publishers Lunch. I also sorted out the list of agents in PM and have been systematically working my way through their web sites.

After doing PR work for 10 years, I feel really strongly about what web sites can tell you. I know that's not always fair, since I would imagine most agents aren't web designers. But for me, if an agent doesn't have a web site, or the web site hasn't been updated in two years, or the links don't work, or it's so convoluted that I can't figure out how to maneuver around it, or it's missing any and all contact information - it makes me wonder about the agent's attention to detail and whether or not they're comfortable and familiar with technology (including e-books and audiobooks).

I've really appreciated web sites that told me enough about the agents and the books they represent to know that we wouldn't be a good match. It keeps me from wasting my time and theirs.

If the web site shows the agent might be a good match (after looking at their client list and blogs and such), I look up the agent or agency in P&E and Writer Beware before sending out a query.

We'll see if it pays off!

Maya Reynolds said...

I started researching agents nearly a year before I was ready to query. I invested in Publishers Marketplace ($20/month), intending to only subscribe for three months while I mined the database.

Here it is three years later (and I've been represented by BookEnds for two of those years), and I'm still a subscriber. I find the daily information on the industry well worth the $240/year.

Every time PM mentioned a deal in my genre, I would create an index card for that agent. Additional deals in my genre were listed on the back of that card. By the time I was ready to query, I knew exactly who I wanted to target and exactly who they represented.

Stacia said...

She's right to be cautious. Even if she says, I'm with BookEnds, that person has to get out there and do his research. She's right to recommend that person get out there and target more narrowly. Then he or she could always email
Sheila personally. Authors don't have time to answer mass emails. It was nice of her to even give him an answer.

Also, as authors we have to protect ourselves. I know many a sad story of someone who asked "who's your agent" and then then wrote said agent and said, "so and so recommended I query you", which is not the case at all. It makes for egg on everyone's face--the person who used the author's name without her permission, the agent who says why did you send me this person and the author who has to go "But I didn't!"

Not to mention, for all Sheila knew, the person on the list had written hard sci-fi or something else that wouldn't have been appropriate for BookEnds anyway.

It's a big deal to recommend your agent to someone. It's not something you do lightly, and it's not rude not to do it.

Angie Fox said...

One simple way to find agents is to look in the acknowledgements of your favorite books. Over the years, I saw some of the same names over and over again. So when it came time to research, I had an idea of who represented what I wrote and what I like to read.

Anonymous said...

You're that St. Paul Zen Guy, right?

Dear Erik,

You previously had a post mentioning Dao, the Way, and I'd wanted to post something about it but was too tired. So, I'm still "too tired" – but I got a chuckle out of your daoist anti-punchlist, anti-productivity comments. Although "I can't imagine any of them make decent writers" is a bit inflammatory, a little prejudicial (not that anyone's taken the bait).

When I applied to graduate school for my MFA (poetry), I applied to one school, where I had taken a couple of undergraduate writing courses. Yep, that was it. Yep, I got in. So I go back and forth on the agent sweepstakes...I at least have a folder in which I have bookmarked potential agents...

I write literary fiction. I read all kinds of things, but I write literary fiction. I get kind of scared when people list, numerically, how far along they are on their multiple projects – when they use "WIP" for work in progress (scary), MC for main character (are you kidding?) – cross-referencing, index cards, outlines – ai yi yi – I felt like throwing up yesterday, Martin Luther King Day, and this teenaged girl in Detroit was shot dead at 5 a.m. in an SUV – what the hell – and then her best friend on TV, interviewed, having a hard time keeping the smile off her face – nerves? excitement about being on TV? Shock? And today, facing the revision, way at the end of my novel, a black man talking about the '67 riot – "any damn fool can throw a chair through a window" – I think of my own wild (and white) mother in the 60s, ripping a cupboard door off its hinges with her bare hands, then breaking all the dishes...agents, publishers, accountants, booksellers, I know you're out there, I know, I know...but writing (right now) (for me) is like those lines from "Stairway to Heaven": "T’was in the darkest depth of Mordor/I met a girl so fair." Except it's not a girl, it's a novel...or maybe a city...or a 270-year-old Russian woman..."in the darkest depth of Mordor/there are no index cards."

Dao-edly (and unpublished-ly) yours,
Wanda B.

Stacia said...

Wanda, those lyrics are from "Ramble On", not "Stairway". :-)

Anonymous said...

For all the comments concerning whether it is appropriate to ask a published writer for his/her agent's name and/or recommendation.

No. It isn't. Not even remotely. At all. Ever. Please don't do this.

I find that people that want this are often frustrated by the business itself (aren't we all) and are grasping at straws. Writers in this stage of the process don't want advice -- like research your own agent, maybe attend a conference, maybe pay for a critique of some kind -- they just wanna NAME, any name.

There is no magic name or bullet in publishing. There is perserverance. And if you are lucky, grace.

Anonymous said...


(everyone else, just ignore us for a bit - we're having a chat. thanks!)

Yes, I'm a radical Taoist. Sorry about being inflamatory, but I get that way. I just don't understand my own native culture at times, and it gets tiring.

I get especially frustrated when it comes to the publishing world. It seems to me that what people want more than anything are cultural reference points that allow them to see the world a bit differently - ideally in a way that makes more sense. I don't see that come across very often.

Call that "Literary Fiction" if you like, but I do think that it's what people like to read. Times are changing and we often don't have the cultural reference points and linguistic frames to make any sense of things. Literature that provides this informs us, allbeit intuitively, about our world; I think people very much read to be informed as much as entertained.

Part of why I find out culture drifting in a sea of mundanity is that we lack any way of making sense of the big picture. Fiction is how we do that. I think there's a real hunger for that kind of fiction right now, a void I call "Waiting for Steinbeck".

If your bent is similar, perhaps we should talk sometime. I'm pretty easy to find by e-mail. I appreciate people who are into that "Literary Fiction" stuff a lot.

So that's my pontification for the day. I think we have a greater calling, and more importantly I think that calling can generate a living for us all because there is a market for it.

Last of all, I'm not a Zen kind of person, just a vanilla Taoist. I don't do that Buddhist thang. For some reason, Taoism has become closely associated with Zen in the West, which is another thing I'll never understand. At this rate, I'll soon not understand a thing and be a perfect Taoist sage, never falling into inflammatory comments again. Here's hoping. :-)

(sorry for that diversion, folks, we can go back to the regular programming now.)

Diana Peterfreund said...

No, I don't recommend my agent on some listserv the way I'd recommend a local butcher. How do I know that my agent would be good for someone else? "Can anyone recommend a good agent?" is a question that smacks of ignorance of the process.

However, if someone came onto a listserv and said, hey, what do you think of Agent So-and-so, I could tell them.

By the time I was ready to query agents, I had a list of over 20 that I was interested in. I knew about them from their listings, of course, but also because I met them, I'd heard about their reputation (i.e., sales), I'd heard them speak, I'd seen articles or interviews about them, and I knew or knew of their clients.

Starting from something as broad as Writer's Market or AgentQuery.com and just typing in your genre is pretty much useless. And when I recommend using Publisher's Marketplace (which is the way I recommend finding an agent), it's not because I expect people to do searches on the agent's pages and just type in genre, it's because I expect them to read and do searches on all the DEAL LUNCHES, so they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, not what some listing SAYS the agent represents, but exactly what kind of book the agent is SELLING, by whom, to whom, and for how much.

Anonymous said...

I think what you are really saying is that you found out which strategies are worthwhile and which ones are not. Dumping the ones that are not worthwhile then becomes a rational business strategy. Since most businesses nowadays are run on aggressively irrational lines, and rationality is disdained, I have to say, you folks are unusually sharp. Would that everyone displayed your good sense.

Notes from a Virtual Easel said...

Thanks for being so frank. I have long suspected that about Writer's Market. I get much better information from SCBWI. In fact, I'm going to the New York conference in a few weeks.

Becca Jones said...

There is no one resource that I am comfortable relying on 100%. When looking for agents to query, I use: querytracker. net, agentquery.com, the Absolute Write Bewares and Background checks forum, Google, agent blogs, the AAR site, p&e, and the agent's own websites. They each have their purposes and flaws. I figure the more info you have before you start, the better. I liked jeff Herman's guide, but don't want to buy it every year or use it at the library. Writer's Market agents list hasn't been useful to me at all, and I've never been successful at finding someone to query by looking in a book I like for an acknowledgement.

ORION said...

I did Publishers Marketplace cross referenced with agentquery.com to find my agent.

Notes from a Virtual Easel said...

Orion, sounds as though you were successful in your quest. I do subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace. Actually I have not needed an agent for my freelance work, but I am working on a novel and another project for which I will need representation. I will take SCBWI's information (from the conference) under consideration as I follow your lead.

Kate Douglas said...

I was in this business a lot longer than I should have been w/o an agent, but I had heard so many horror stories of unscrupulous agents who did things they should have been arrested for, that I was really leery of essentially turning the business part of my career over to a complete stranger...so when I found my agent and realized I had someone handling my work that I felt comfortable with, trusting in her innate honesty and strong code of ethics, that was reason enough for me to recommend her. Whether an author I've sent her way actually clicks with my agent or not is up to the author AND the agent, but I don't feel as if I'm recommending my agent as one would recommend "the local butcher." I'm recommending a person I know I can trust to be honest--someone who will work hard for the authors she represents, including me. No more, no less, but believe me, in this business, being able to say with confidence that I trust my agent with my career AND my income is a pretty big deal. I stand by my comment that word of mouth is a powerful search tool.

Notes from a Virtual Easel said...

Having an agent is great. I had one for a while when I was writing fiction and it is really necessary. The ed writing biz is a special animal. The publishers usually work with writers directly, since most projects are assigned and are work for hire. Word of mouth is great, too, but most writers hesitate to recommend their agent to other writers, not because they don't like their agent, but because their agent is busy and they don't know the other writer that well. I know that, when I had an agent, (she went back to being one of the world's best editors) I hesitated, too.
Hmm...I can ask her for a recommendation. Duh! Thanks!

Julie Weathers said...

"What I think it comes down to is that people seem to believe in a punchlist kind of life. They make lists, check them twice, and then run down them in order to be "productive".

I can't imagine any of them make decent writers."

I am actually a big fan of making lists and checking them twice. I like doing my research and I think it pays off.

There is no reason for me to submit to agents who are not very good fits for my work. Once I get my dream list of agents compiled, I go through the process of submitting down my list.

And yes, I think I'm a decent writer.

Heather Moore said...

I think agentquery.com is a good source--at least you'll get the names of the agents and their websites. I also check predators and editors on everything.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Kate, when I say I don't recommend my agent like I'd recommend a butcher, it's because if someone comes to me looking for a good piece of meat, I couldn't care less whether or not they would make a good customer for the butcher. Their cash is as green as mine. Also, the butcher is a good butcher for lamb chops, steaks, pork loins.... doesn't matter either.

Such is not the case for an agent. I don't recommend writers to my agent unless I think the writer would be a good fit for my agent, and I don't recommend my agent to a writer unless I think my agent (who sells only particular types of work) would be a good fit for the writer. In which case, I'm happy to recommend, and have, on probably more than half a dozen occasions (some which have resulted in a happy marriage between the two).

Victoria Strauss said...

Mark Terry said,

Just one comment about Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware. They're valuable databases, but they're not necessarily 100% accurate. In fact, any source that bases their response to an agent by writer complaints needs to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

It's a common misconception that sites like Writer Beware and P&E accept complaints indiscriminately, without making any effort to distinguish between hearsay, writers' sour grapes, and genuine problems.

Readers of this blog might be interested to know that in order to establish a file on an agent or publisher, Writer Beware requires either two substantially similar complaints or a single complaint with documentation (such as an agency contract documenting fees). We don't accept anonymous complaints.

Nor do we consider every report or advisory we receive something that ought to go into our files. We often hear from writers who are unhappy that an agent took a long time to respond, or sent a brusque rejection letter, or didn't contact them often enough with updates. In our opinion, this goes with the territory--it's regrettable, but it happens, and writers have to be prepared to deal with it. Rarely, this kind of thing will add up to a pattern, but generally it's not enough to put an agent on our watchlist.

There's more about our criteria at the About Us page of Writer Beware.