So, you’ve got your pitch down, your synopses written, and the samples all arranged. Your manuscript is in Standard Manuscript Format. No? Well, go look at the first post in this series, and make it so, Numbah Won!
I guess this means you are ready to get your work published. If you are going Traditional, this means going through an agent. So, where do you go find an agent? You’ve read the free advice from Writer’s Digest, you’ve checked out free sites like QueryTracker.net and AgentQuery.com, and you’ve even gone as far as looked up agent names in the Acknowledgements of your favorite author’s books sitting in your bookshelf. But, but, there’s so much data it’s ridiculous! How can you tell the good from the bad?
FULL DISCLOSURE: I do NOT have an agent. I have submitted a full novel to agents and publishers, so at least I have that experience. The steps I recommend below are the ones I am actually using going forward. If it makes sense for you, feel free to use it!
The traditional publishing world is in tremendous flux, and will be for some time. Agents to whom I have submitted my work, or have had some great discussions, are no longer working as agents. You will have to do some homework, as do I. Let’s see if we can reduce the amount you have to do.
Generating an agent list. There are a lot of free resources out there to assist you in this. One of the best, in my opinion, is QueryTracker.net. You can generate lists of agents from a variety of metrics. Free users have only a few, Premium users have a lot more. I’ll just give you the Free user perspective. My book, Demons on Vacation, falls under Adult Urban Fantasy, which isn’t actually a genre. Fantasy is, though. But don’t limit yourself. The book is funny (I think so, at least), so I’m going after Humor/Satire. There’s another category called “Quirky/Offbeat”, so sure, I’ll check that one out, too. On QT, you can only select one genre at a time. So, here’s how to get your agent list pronto:
- Select a genre. Use that checkbox that hides agents closed to queries.
- You will get pages of agents. Highlight the page, then cut and paste the page to Notepad. [Premium members can export to CSV, I’m doing the cheap method]
- Delete all lines that aren’t agents. Use semicolons to separate the agent and the agency, then delete the rest of the line. Save as a text file.
- Repeat 2-3 for every page in the genre search. Repeat 1-3 for every genre you intend to search on. At the end, combine all these text files into a single one and save it as a .csv file.
- Open the csv file in Excel, chose delimited, and you should get two columns, agent in one, agency in the second.
- Add a column, start at 1, and consecutively number each agent record. I always do this in case I have to sort things in their original order. Save file in native Excel format.
- Copy the worksheet to a second worksheet, delete the number and agent column. Under the Data tab, select ‘Remove duplicates’ and select the agency column. You now have your list of unique agencies. Save the file.
For my book, I collected 192 agents, from 132 unique agencies.
This task should take between 1-2 hours, depending on your computer skillz. This is your most important file—it is the list of agents and agencies to which you will be submitting your work. But which one gets to see your work first? Read on.
Rating Agencies. How to rate agents and agency? The answer to that is “it depends on what you think is important”. Here are my factors:
- How does Preditors and Editors view them?
- Does Writer Beware have an alert out on them?
- Have they made recent sales?
- Are they members of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives)?
There are a lot more: Do they have success stories on QT? Who do they represent? Is the Absolute Write community giving them thumbs up? However, every new grading criterion means researching that question for every agency on your list. I stopped at four, because I didn’t want to get paralyzed looking just at data.
The actual data lookup was about three hours. Preditors and Editors also rates agencies: Highly Recommended, Recommended, or Warning. I added two other ratings: listed and not listed. PredEd also uses a $ for ‘recent sales’ and AAR for membership in the AAR. So, yeah, it went quick. I used Google to query the name of the agency (in quotes) and employed the site limiter, so a typical search string would be
“The Patterson Agency” site:sfwa.org
Now I have all these columns filled out with data, what do I do about them? They give us clues about the agency—clues we can use to determine just how desirable it is to query a particular agency. Here’s my priority data-to-score table:
|PredEd Highly Recommended:||0|
|PredEd not listed:||50|
|Recent Sales AND AAR:||1|
|Neither recent nor AAR:||4|
|Agency Principal deceased:||9|
Least number of points = most desirable. It’s easy, if you use the Filter option in Excel to display records based on cell values.
Now that the agencies are scored, I can easily choose which ones I want to approach. Next up, how to choose the agent within the agency for querying.