Saturday, December 26, 2009

Agents, agents everywhere...so how do I get one?

Last Monday, Dave blogged about an e-mail he'd received from someone asking if he knew who besides Baen accepted unagented submissions. One of the reasons for asking was because the unpublished writer didn't want to have to pay an agent. Reading Dave's blog, and the comments that followed, I thought it might be time to do a post about what an agent should do for you, as a writer, and what you should expect to do for yourself. Of course, as soon as I started researching today's blog, I realized this isn't something that can be covered in just one post. So, for the next several Sundays, I'll be discussing agents, publishers and what a writer's relationship with them should be.

It's hard to find an agent these days. I've heard said that it is often more difficult to find an agent than it is a publisher. To be honest, I've had my fair share of rejections from agents. Some have happened so quickly -- my record is less than half an hour after submitting via e-mail to an agent that had just blogged that their response time was slower than usual due to backlog -- that I've known they didn't look at the query. Some have never been answered -- a growing trend with some agents who accept e-mail queries. You need to check their guidelines to see if they respond only when interested. But many more have been at least positive if apologetic rejections. Like Dave, I respect the agent I was referred to even more because she turned me down and didn't just take me because a client asked her to look at my work. Still, I continue the quest for an agent even as I look for publishers not only for my novels but for my short-stories as well. The lesson is to do your homework and to be persistent. I can help with the former, the latter is up to you.

When looking for an agent, the first place to check is Preditors and Editors. Not only does the site list agents and rate them, but it also has a number of pages that contain information about agents, editors, and other information you need to know as a writer. But the most important page for those looking for an agent is here. From it, you can check to see if an agent or agency is NOT recommended. If there is red ink following the agency's name, I highly recommend you not submit to them. Especially stay away from Writer Beware Top 20 Worst Agents. Along that line, don't forget to keep a regular watch on the Writer Beware website and the Writer Beware blog. Not only will it give you information about agents, but publishers and anything, really, in the publishing industry that we, as writers, need to be aware of. One final place to check when considering whether to send to an agent or not is the Absolute Write Water Cooler. It may take time going through the posts, but there is a wealth of information there as well.

I've just told you how to find agents you don't want to deal with. So how do you find an agent you do want to deal with? Victoria Strauss wrote The Safest Way to Search for an Agent. It contains some excellent advice and links. To what she said, I'd add to do an internet search for the agent as well. Check their blogs and websites. See if their clients blog about them, etc.

What should agents do? Also, what should you ask an agent before signing with them? Listed below are some good links that answer these questions.
This is a good place to leave off. Next week, I'll pick up the thread, adding in some of the agent blogs I follow. In the coming weeks, I'll post about some of the publishers, traditional and electronic, who take unagented submissions and what their guidelines might be. In the meantime, are there any questions or comments you have? Are there any good links you've found that have helped you in your search for an agent? Do you think writers need agents, why or why not? Finally, what do you see the role of agents being in the growing e-book age?

6 comments:

matapam said...

How do I get one?

I figured live trapping would work best, but what to use for bait? They tend to be very cautious about manuscripts.

Just kidding, O'Mike _liked_ the first thing I sent him. But then he's a beginning agent, too.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, I've tried the live trapping using a manuscript as bait. I'm moving on to single malt and chocolate. If that doesn't work, well, I'll think of something ;-p

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Excellent post, Amanda. Full of really useful, practical tips. I sent the link through to the VISION list.

Amanda Green said...

Thanks, Rowena. Dave's post, as I said, was the inspiration.

Kate said...

Well, you can't kill them when you catch them, which is something of an issue. Chocolate doesn't work as bait, either. They're quick and sneaky, those agents. Slip through everything I've tried.

Amanda Green said...

Chocolate laced with sedatives might work, Kate. Slow them down long enough to snare them and then sweep them off their literary feet with the wonder of our prose ;-)