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Thread: The million $ question: how to find an agent?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    The million $ question: how to find an agent?

    I know this question has been asked a million times already but here's my problem.

    One of the best ways to find a suitable agent is (and in spite of it all I agree with this method) to look at the books we like or the books of authors who are writing stuff similar to ours and find out who their agents are. That makes sense to me but my problem is that I don't find contemporary literature appealing to me. I often go back to the classics, to the authors I love: Poe, Twain, Faulkner, Joyce, Dos Passos, Greene, etc. All of them are dead. How do I circumvent this bump in my agent search. I've sent a few queries already but, looking at the authors lists for those agents (the ones I have), I can't find someone whose writing I like. One of these agents I queried because she sold books with similar subject matters as mine. Another because of her author list, which impressed me. How does a person who's stuck in the classics find an agent? Thanks.

  2. #2
    What? I have a title? Julie Worth's Avatar
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    Don't look for a writer who likes what you read; look for one who likes what you write. And surely you're not writing classics?

    You can start with any method at all, but in the end it will be a numbers game.
    Last edited by Julie Worth; 09-23-2005 at 06:50 AM.

  3. #3
    professional multitasker scfirenice's Avatar
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    Two words: Duct Tape.
    Coffee? Do I smell Coffee???

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    or believe you can't-you are right.
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    If I had paid my bill you could see my site at www.sherylmccarty.com

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW
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    Two words: Duct Tape.
    Okay.

  5. #5
    I Heart Mac Absolute Sage Lauri B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by macandal
    I know this question has been asked a million times already but here's my problem.

    One of the best ways to find a suitable agent is (and in spite of it all I agree with this method) to look at the books we like or the books of authors who are writing stuff similar to ours and find out who their agents are. That makes sense to me but my problem is that I don't find contemporary literature appealing to me. I often go back to the classics, to the authors I love: Poe, Twain, Faulkner, Joyce, Dos Passos, Greene, etc. All of them are dead. How do I circumvent this bump in my agent search. I've sent a few queries already but, looking at the authors lists for those agents (the ones I have), I can't find someone whose writing I like. One of these agents I queried because she sold books with similar subject matters as mine. Another because of her author list, which impressed me. How does a person who's stuck in the classics find an agent? Thanks.
    It sounds from your post that you should be looking for agents who focus on literature as opposed to popular fiction. Who represents Toni Morrison or Mark Helprin or Louise Erdrich? These writers' work will likely be considered classic in the future (in the case of Toni Morrison, today). And really, it sounds like you enjoy a pretty eclectic group of writers: Twain's writing is nothing like Graham Greene's, for example. Surely there are some contemporary writers whose work you like, even a little?

  6. #6
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Seriously, just pick the agent you'd most like to be represented by (highest number of award winning clients, best-known clients, highest paid clients, whatever), and start querying. Start at the top and work down.

    What's the worst thing that can happen?

  7. #7
    Preditors & Editors Requiescat In Pace DaveKuzminski's Avatar
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    Um, that would be that the only "agent" left is Bouncin' Bobby and has he ever got a deal for you with a "traditional" publisher.
    When it comes to PA, the royalty check and the reality check arrive in the same envelope.

    Remember to be kind to writers who step in PA. They really don't know how bad it smells.

    The difference between PA and WLA? None. Both have the stench of dead and dying books emanating from their doorways.


  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveKuzminski
    Um, that would be that the only "agent" left is Bouncin' Bobby and has he ever got a deal for you with a "traditional" publisher.
    Good gods, if that ever happens, just start the car and hand me a garden hose.

  9. #9
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    Surely there are some contemporary writers whose work you like, even a little?
    Well, if I'm pressed for an answer I must say I liked The Hours by Michael Cunnigham and Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

    What do you guys think of http://www.agentresearch.com ?

    Thanks.

  10. #10
    Gone
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    Quote Originally Posted by macandal
    What do you guys think of http://www.agentresearch.com ?
    The sainted CaoPaux created the Index sticky'd to the top of this page. It lists two threads on agentresearch:

    Agent Research & Evaluation (agentresearch.com)
    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=534
    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14833

    You may find more on other boards using the Search function, too.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW
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    Thanks Aconite.

  12. #12
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    AgentResearch.com? Can't hurt, might help.

    Paying money is against my religion, but if you can't or don't know how to do the reasearch any other way, that's one way through the mire.

    Don't rely on any one source.

    See also:

    Everything You Wanted To Know About Literary Agents

  13. #13
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by macandal
    Well, if I'm pressed for an answer I must say I liked The Hours by Michael Cunnigham and Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.
    You shouldn't be looking at books you like, but at books that are in some way like yours--subject, genre, focus, style. You don't necessarily have to have read these books; reading professional reviews should be enough to give you a general sense. You might go back through the reviews in a few issues of Publishers Weekly and see what you find (Pub. Weekly often lists the book's agent).

    Even if you yourself prefer the classics, your book has to fit somewhere into the contemporary scheme of things.

    - Victoria

  14. #14
    Unspeakable Euan H.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by macandal
    How does a person who's stuck in the classics find an agent? Thanks.
    Where would your book be shelved in the store? Once you know that, then you can start digging around for the agents of other authors who fit into the same category. Then, like UJ says, make a list, start at the top and work your way down. The worst Donald Maass can say is "no."
    euanharvey.com

    Avatar awesomeness courtesy of Dave "Awesome" Leri.

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