The Agent Search

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.

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When I first opened my browser to begin the research.

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.

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There’s no magical way around the research.

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.

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Be wary!  We all have gut feelings.  Trust them if they say something is off.

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.

Productivity Is Overrated

Hello, hello!  I know I’ve probably posted about feeling unproductive and all of that before, but I can’t find a specific post, so that’s what you’re getting today.  I asked for some blog topic suggestions for today’s post and my friends did not disappoint.  One of them asked “What do you do when you feel unproductive?”  Honestly, it depends on whether or not I’m actually being unproductive.  Just because I feel that way, doesn’t mean that I’m not just being too hard on myself.  So, the first step is to evaluate what I’ve done that day (or week or month or whatever) to decide if I’m being my own worst critic.  Then, I go from there.

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I am quite good at procrastination.

 If it turns out I really am being unproductive for the week (I go by the week because we’re all allowed a day for goofing off here and there), I suck it up and write or edit something or do whatever it is that I need to do.  Sometimes, I have to accept that I’m going to be unproductive in my writing if I have to do extra adulting (doctor’s appointments, the dentist, meetings, etc.) or if I want to go out and have a life or something, but that’s just being productive in different ways.  I have to remember that productivity comes in many different forms.

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That’s how it usually goes.

If I have been productive, I allow myself the chance to take a day off (unless deadlines are involved, then I kill myself with work until I’m done).  If you’ve been working steadily and have kept up with your work, one day of doing nothing isn’t going to hurt you.  It might actually help.  It gives you a chance to breathe and come back to the project rested and ready to look at it in a new light.  Self-care is a very specific type of productivity that seems unproductive to everyone else, but we all do it and we all need it.  If you’re ashamed of taking a day off, call it a “self-care day” and that helps make it feel more like you’re doing something.

 Then again, if I’ve been doing my writing and editing and all of that, but slacking in other areas, I re-prioritize my time for the day.  I read (which I always put on the back burner, sometimes for months) or I adult or I devote time to checking in on friends (not as often as I should) or whatever I’ve been ignoring.  There’s always going to be something I fall behind on.  I have to accept that.

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And that’s when it’s time to start writing again.

 It’s really hard to find a balance where I almost always feel productive.  I’m always slacking on one front or another.  But since I’ve convinced myself that productivity comes in many forms, it’s a little easier (and a lot more complicated, if that makes sense) to know when I’m truly being unproductive.  I think productivity is more about learning to prioritize your time around the things that need to be done.  Sometimes, that will mean cutting back on writing in order to take care of yourself.  And that’s okay.  It’s always going to be a juggling act, and there will be times when you drop a ball or two.  Pick them back up and start again.  Eventually, you’ll learn which ones you can leave off to the side until you’re ready to swap something out with them.  The point is, you keep trying and learning and growing.  That’s the most important thing: keep going.