Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone’s spring (or autumn, depending on your hemisphere) going so far? I’ve been wrapping up my winter by searching for agents and researching how to write queries and synopses. In graduate school, they told us things like “make sure you have a finished, polished product (for fiction at least) before you query agents” and a few signs of questionable agents (ones who charge reading fees or want more than 15ish%, 20% at the most, etc.). But nobody really explains how to find reputable agents or how to go about querying them.
Google searches proved to be overwhelming at first. They provided a plethora of information and no indication of where to begin, so I admit I panicked and sent a few emails out pleading for help. That would be my first bit of advice: don’t be afraid to ask more experienced people for help. Even if they can’t help you personally, chances are they know people who can. While I waited for responses, I read through SFWA’s literary agents advice page, which is wonderful at telling you how to recognize questionable agents (it’s far more detailed than anything I learned in school). I realize it’s a science fiction and fantasy group, but a lot of the advice here probably applies across the literary agent spectrum. They also have pages about editors and publishers and other things that are super useful.
There are a number of publications (Writer’s Market comes to mind most readily) you can buy (some even come as Kindle books) or check out at the library that offer lists of current agents and agencies if you prefer more traditional research methods. I didn’t want to spend money or visit the library this early in my searches, so I started at the Association of Authors’ Representatives website. My only problem with this website is that it doesn’t group agents by agency, so it’s difficult to keep track of who works where which is really important since most agencies don’t want you to query more than one of their agents at a time (some agencies even say that a no from one of their agents is a no from all of them). Then, someone sent me this post which groups science fiction and fantasy agents by agencies, and it gave me a solid starting point for my search (it was a life saver). It’s a little old, though, so be sure to check out the agency websites and do your research as to who’s accepting what.
That’s my second bit of advice: do your due diligence. This is my baby that I’m about to shop around. I’m going to make sure, to the best of my ability, that I’m not getting mixed up with someone who’s trying to take advantage of me and my work. If you’re not sure how legit someone is, ask around. Also, I’m making sure the agents are a good fit for me. Don’t just randomly submit to people and hope it works out. Go through their bios and websites to make sure they represent what you write and if they’re actually open to new clients. And always check out the submission guidelines. I look at it this way, if I’m wasting their time by submitting something they don’t represent or not following their guidelines, I’m wasting my time.
Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of agents (I still have many more to look into). I didn’t stop looking just because I found one who sounds like a perfect fit (she might not be interested in my story after all). I will keep looking at different agents until I get ready to send out the first batch of queries (simultaneous submissions to different agencies are expected), then I’ll look for a new batch in case no one bites. That’s all we can do.