Pub Rants

Not A Good Resource

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STATUS: Had a slightly annoying afternoon when I couldn’t send out emails. Receiving them just fine. I know my website hoster is probably the culprit. The server must have gone down briefly.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL BY MYSELF by Eric Carmen
(Come on. Admit it. You totally belted out this song in front of a mirror when you were a tween. Wait. That dates me doesn’t it?)

Something must be in the air (or on the blog circuit) because I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately where writers ask me what I think about so-and-so agent.

I know I blog and seem approachable and all, but I’m really not a good resource concerning whether an agent might be a good fit for you or not. And generally, I find it sort of unfathomable why somebody would want to ask me. I know some agents personally but I certainly don’t know more than 25 or so. Hardly a dent really in the number of agents out there.

However, I can point you in the right direction for how you can find out.

First off, check the agent’s recent sales. You can do a Google search. You can go to Publishers Marketplace and sign up to receive deal lunch (and do a deal search via their search engine). Agent Query doesn’t have a bad database (and it’s somewhat up-to-date).

I do think that checking an agent’s recent sales history is a big deal and to note types of sales as well because not all agents are equal. And they certainly aren’t considered equal in editors’ eyes. It’s the truth that proposals/submissions from certain agents are going to be read and considered more seriously than others. There is a hierarchy but if you’ve done your sales research homework, I think you’ll get a very good sense of an agent’s standing.

You can check out Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors. Those folks are tops and keep track of the really nasty folks and scammers.

If you want to know how the agent will match with you personally, I have to say that information will probably only be revealed once you have a conversation with the agent and also interview some of that agent’s clients. (And trust me, you don’t need to worry about this aspect unless you have an offer of representation on the table.)

Even then you may not end up with your permanent agent. I’ve heard lots of author stories about how the agent gave up after one book or wasn’t in love with the second book and the author had to move on.

When you sign with an agent, you hope it’s love forever but if it’s not, you’ll need courage and support to move on to find that perfect match.

13 Responses

  1. Linda said:

    Research is essential and easy to do. One of the things I’ve noticed is how much the information conflicts between what the Writer’s Market says and what the agent’s Web site says. I’ll see an agent represent thriller in the WM, look on their site, and discover they haven’t sold any at all. It really does pay to take the time to check each one out.

  2. Warrior Knitter said:

    A TWEEN!! I was in my early twenties when I was beltin’ out that song, toolin’ around in my oh-so-cool 1973 Pinto with an eight-track!!

    Those were NOT the days.

    Love the blog.

  3. Shanna Swendson said:

    Hey, “All By Myself” is very cool because it’s based on the second movement of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of music, ever.

    You just have to love pop music set to a Rachmaninoff score.

  4. Anonymous said:

    I want to add the Absolute Write forums, specifically the Bewares & Background Checks sub-forum as another excellent resource. For example, here’s the thread for Nelson Literary:

    It should be noted that the thread itself is about another (bad) agency, but with quite a bit of mention about this one.

  5. Patrick McNamara said:

    I’ve used AgentQuery myself, but I find it’s not always the best way to tell. For instance, an agent might be listed as accepting fantasy but only accept fantasy romances. I now try to locate the agent’s webpage to get more details, though there are still many agents without properly developed webpages. I almost feel tempted to write to them and offer to set up a page.

  6. Anonymous said:

    You do your research, and don’t forget to include looking in the acknowledgments.
    A lot of agents don’t list on PM, and agentquery is good but not complete.
    I also look in Publishers Weekly. It is so important to understand what was said here about level of agent. You can have an agent who sells a bunch of “minimal” books (advances that are between $1000-$2000), and an agent who sells three books a year in the six and seven figure range. The agent with the “big gorilla” clients has more juice. The latter agent is hugely busy with the work of the three huge clients.
    Sometimes it’s quality vs. quantity.
    You’ll see if you do the research. You have to understand where your work fits.

  7. Judy Schneider said:

    I agree with Linda. Writer’s Market it a good jumping-off point, but further checking the information is essential.

    In my experience, I’ve found that some Writer’s Market entries use codes (indicating to them that you got their name from that directory). It’s just a guess, but I think using that code sometimes lands you a spot at the bottom of the slush pile.

    I’ve also seen entries that alter the spelling of their names, again letting them know where you got your submission info. Beware when they tell you to write ATTN: WM on the envelope!

  8. Anonymous said:

    Dig! All I can say is dig! Finding a list and starting your query letter writing campaign can be an enormous waste of time, since you might be plastering the world with letters that will get to the wrong people for your book. Research each agent, on their website, on biz websites… read the credits of your favorite authors’ books, and find out their agents names.

    Know the person before you write her/him your letter, and personalize the letter to that agent. Make sure the agency reps your genre, and make sure they are selling to big publishers, not just tiny companies located in the backwoods of the world.

    One good letter to the right agent is worth twenty to the wrong ones, to the ones who are masters of grabbing that $2000 advance.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Only slightly tangential to the post… Kristin, what’s the proper etiquette for approaching an agented author to find out about their experiences with their agent? And how does one go about obtaining their contact information? Surely it couldn’t be appropriate to ask the agent for that information once an offer of representation has been made?

  10. Anonymous said:

    “Surely it couldn’t be appropriate to ask the agent for that information once an offer of representation has been made?”

    Sure it’s appropriate. The agent should be okay giving you clients to contact once they’ve made an offer. See Kristin’s Feb. 19 post. I think she’s mentioned this further back in the archives, too.