Querying Agents: Do Your Homework


2013 c&iMNo flowery romance/Valentine’s day post for me this year. Instead I want to have a little chat with you all about querying agents.  As more rounds of edits are being done on Heavyweight,  I’ve been looking through my 2013 copy of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book. In the back  is a section of agents and art reps.  They list the agency’s information, what they do and don’t represent, recent sales, terms and how to contact them.

Being that it’s the 2013 edition, you’d think it would be totally up to date, right? Guess again.  I’m in the process of making a spreadsheet so I know who I send queries to, when I send them, when I get a response, etc. While setting all of this up, I’m taking the time to go to each agency’s site to find the correct agent to query, how they prefer their submissions and what they are currently looking for. I’ve already come to several agents in the book who are no longer representing Young Adult works.  Also, several have changed from snail mail requests to email only. Others have changed specific kinds of YA they are looking for (no more paranormal, strong female characters only, etc.)

If you just pick people out of the book and don’t follow up, you’re going to end up with a lot of unanswered queries which will leave you scratching your head, trying to figure out if they never received your request or wondering what you did wrong. Save yourself the time and worry by doing the homework up front.

In a field where things are constantly changing, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t research ahead of time. In a field where there are thousands of people competing for attention, you best get the submission guidelines right otherwise your work will never been seen, no matter how good it is.

Although you still need to do your own following up, the purchase of the Market book is a good one. It’s got a lot of great info, insight from other authors, resources, etc.  It’s a good starting point and personally I like that I can circle and mark off things as I go.

Any other suggestions on how to research the right agent for your work?


2 responses »

  1. It’s also important to recognize that literary agents are often flooded with in appropriate submissions (inappropriate for that particular agent). I had a very strange and educational experience when my agent hired me to spend a few days going through her “slush pile” of unsolicited manuscripts. It was like mining for a gem in a very large mountain. She didn’t want to reject anything without a fair chance, but…

    She gave me her criteria and I plowed through the mountain of manuscripts. It was alarming how many of them could have saved the postage had they simply read their literary guidebooks with care.

    • I can only imagine how much stuff they need to sort through, especially since it probably keeps coming in everyday. I see some agents close submissions for a while so they can catch up!

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