On Researching an Agent

Alternative Title: Why Aren’t You Reading Query Shark?

Query writing is hard – that’s why our SYW forum for queries is lovingly titled “Query Letter Hell.” But I think writers (myself included) get so wrapped up in writing 1 to 3 perfect paragraphs that capture our novels in the prettiest nutshell possible that we lose sight of how important it is get the right query (and the right flavor of query) onto the right desk.

Some agencies, like the Waxman Agency, make it easier on us by posting brief agent biographies, and listing the books they’ve represented right on the front page. One agent there, Holly Root, is described as actively seeking Urban Fantasy. That’s amazingly interesting to me, since it’s my genre, but my next step is not to roll my query off the press and fire it into her inbox. I might as well flip a coin if I do that.

Agents Tweet. They’re on Facebook. They blog. More importantly, they go to conferences and sit on panels, which are often recorded in some fashion, and they freely express opinions all over the internet. When an agent says something that rings true in your heart, that’s someone you want behind your novel. That’s who you query.

But you can’t use that in your query if you don’t look for it.

Search terms to increase your Google-Fu:

Agent’s Name + panel + 2011 (or 2010, 2009, etc.)

Agent’s Name + spotlight

Agent’s Name + interview

Agent’s Name + Name of novel they represented (See what, if anything, they’ve said about what they represent)

A few August 31 Fiction Deadlines

Hadley Rille Books: A Quiet Shelter There is an upcoming anthology of speculative fiction about service or companion animals. The deadline is August 31, and the pay is $10 for a story or $5 for a poem, all USD. The minimum word count for fiction is 1000 words; the maximum is 4000. That makes the payrate for fiction between 1 cent per word and .0025 cents per word (or 1/4 of a penny per word). Submission guidelines!
Editor Gerri Leen has some “Quirks” and suggests that writers check out her blog.

I Like a Little Science in My Fiction” is also slated to close on August 31. First place gets 5 cents per word, second place gets 3 cents per word, and third place gets 1 cent per word. Stories must be based on a recent scientific innovation or discovery (which must be cited!) and be set off of earth. Check out the guidelines.

RymFire eBooks wants 2,500-7,500 word stories (these sound like firm limits from what I’ve read) for their State of Horror: California anthology. As you can imagine, they want horror stories set in California. The editors were interviewed at duotrope if you want more insight into what they publish. They’re only paying $3 per story, but there’s an interesting twist. Every time they sell 150 eBooks, the authors get an additional $3. They’re publishing a print version as well, and they count print sales as three eBook sales for the purposes of reaching the $3 goal. Submission Guidelines. Their website is under construction.

Oncoming Contest Deadlines, Fee-Free Edition

Redstone Science Fiction’s “Identity Crisis” contest is accepting submissions until August 15. There’s no entry fee, and winners get 5 cents per word (4,000 word maximum). The contest’s prompt is an essay titled “Identity Crisis: Who Are We, If We Can Choose Who We Are?” which, along with the publication’s submission guidelines, can be found on the contest page at http://redstonesciencefiction.com/identity-crisis-contest/.

Filament Magazine’s erotic fiction contest closes to submissions on July 31. Filament Magazine is an adult publication, so consider this before following any of the links in this paragraph at work. The theme is “Music,” first prize is £100, there’s no entry fee, and they accept electronic entries. The editors have a few requests of entrants, so make sure read the guidelines (PDF file: http://www.filamentmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/fictionguidelines.pdf) and the contest page (http://www.filamentmagazine.com/2011/05/fiction-contest-for-issue-9-theme-music/) closely.

PoeticPower has an essay and poetry contest winding to a close on August 16. The contest is open to students between grades 3-12. There’s no entry fee, and winners get a $50 savings bond. Both contests’ guidelines are highlighted on the PoeticPower index page. Full disclosure: I thought that their website looked skeevy, but Winning Writers says “We are satisfied that this contest is not a scam.” PoeticPower has something close to a 45% acceptance rate, which is strange for normal contests, but since PoeticPower’s goal has more to do with building self-esteem in children than creating literary masterworks, I think that the contest has quite a bit of value.

If you just need more time, SPS Studios‘ 19th Bi-Annual Poetry Card Contest closes December 31st. No entry fee; first prize is $300. The editors say they’ll accept rhyming poetry, but that they think non-rhyming sounds better. Their submission guidelines and entry form can be found at http://www.sps.com/poetry/index.html.

Independent Anthologies that Want YOUR Writing!

I’ve noticed a lot of indie anthologies popping up lately, and since three of them ended up in the Water Cooler‘s Paying Markets forum, I thought I’d share a few leads here that never found their way into our forum’s warm, loving arms.

But first, one of the three that posted on the forums still has plenty of time before its deadline. For the dark fantasy and horror writers out there, consider putting something together for Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, edited by Eric J. Guignard. Writing guidelines, what he wants and doesn’t, contact information, and updates can be found at http://ericjguignard.blogspot.com/
1 cent per word payment.

The anthology titled Cat’s New Eye Bella is looking for, wait for it, Spec Fic stories about cats. Their guidelines mention that they want humor twice, so consider sticking some lol on any cats you might lob in their direction. More information here: http://darkwineandstars.blogspot.com/search/label/Anthologies%20Paid%20Info
1 cent per word payment.

My personal favorite (because I’m studying Chinese, I suspect) is a yet-untitled Wuxia anthology, which is a labor of love-type project meant to generate familiarity with Chinese Wuxia, a word that roughly means “hero” or “knight.” As a genre, Wuxia refers to stories that are a bit like crossing the much-romanticized U.S. Old West with Chinese sword fighting and martial arts. The editor, John Dishon, has a much better explanation of the genre here: http://wuxia.genreverse.com/what-is-wuxia/.

From his submission guidelines:

If your story is a borderline case, or you’re not quite sure if it’s wuxia, then send it in anyway. The worst that can happen is it gets rejected.

The guidelines exist over at http://wuxia.genreverse.com/submissions/ and payment is set to range between 1 cent per word and 5 cents per word. If you’ve never even heard of Wuxia, this is a fantastic opportunity (and dare I say motivation?) to learn about a new genre.

Absolutely write hard, write true, and write on!

-BK