Does anyone know what Elaine Koster is looking for in queries or ms? I tried contacting her and of course, no response.
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Does anyone know what Elaine Koster is looking for in queries or ms? I tried contacting her and of course, no response.
Have you tried looking here? http://www.agentquery.com
If you query an agent via e-mail and do not hear back, that usually means it's a no. If you query via post, it can take up to three month (and beyond) to hear back.
Her Agentquery entry is most specific about not responding to e-mail queries so it is no surprise if she did not reply to you.
Once you've assembled a list of agents to query (which, at least initially, you should do offline--unless you're already fairly knowledgeable about publishing, the Internet is not the best place to start your research), the first thing to do is to Google the agent to see if s/he has a website (which is usually the most up-to-date place to find out about interests, sales, submission guidelines, etc) or a Publishers Marketplace page, which can also provide good info. An Internet search can also turn up articles about the agent and his/her sales, conference biographies that list clients and sales, and other relevant information.
Elaine Koster has a Publishers Marketplace page.
Agent-matching websites like AgentQuery are good resources, but don't rely on them solely--the information they provide can be incomplete, and no website is going to include every agent who might be appropriate for you.
Victoria - I'm curious, where would you start offline? Everything I've heard is that information changes so fast that books are out of date by the time their published - so I thought we should be looking online instead.
I defer to your wisdom! But I would love to know where you'd advise starting.
For what it's worth, I never did a lick of research offline. Every agent I looked for was through online sources, and that's dating back close to ten years. I'm curious what information I could've looked for offline that I wouldn't have come across in my Internet search.
It's not that you can find more or different information offline. It's that the information you find online is more likely to be bad than good, and if you don't already know something about agents and publishing--including the best places to look for useful information--you won't know how to filter it. I hear from so many writers who've gotten involved with bad agencies by clicking on Google ads, or using one of the online literary agent listings that have been put together by people who don't know how to vet the agents they list (here's an example), or by subscribing to a newsletter like the one sent out by Firstwriter.com, which doesn't vet the agents it includes at all and often highlights marginal or incompetent agents.
Here's an example. I Googled literary agents for fantasy novels. First result: a message board posting with a list of UK agents--good info for UK writers. Second listing: WritersNet, an agent database that includes as many, if not more, marginal and amateur agents as reputable ones--not good. Third listing: something called AuthorNetwork.com, an agent listing that includes numerous fee-charging agents plus out-of-date info--also not good. Fourth listing: a blog called Literary Agent News, which Writer Beware recently exposed as a scam--very bad. Fifth listing: the blog of the editor of Guide to Literary Agents--good info here. Sixth listing: Writer Beware's Literary Agents page--that's good too. Seventh listing: Miss Snark--also good, but only if the writer takes the time to read more than the one entry. And on the right-hand side of the page: ads for Dorrance Publishing (a vanity publisher) and Writer's Literary Agency (a notorious scam)--very, very bad. Suppose you're an aspiring fantasy author who doesn't know a great deal about agents or publishing, and is trying to learn as you go. What are the odds you could get into serious trouble as a result of this search?
As for being out of date--an online listing is far more likely to be out of date, incomplete, or just plain incorrect than the most recent version of a print literary agency guide. For instance, this one, which an inexperienced author might assume was an authoritative list of AAR agents, but which appears to have been cribbed from the AAR list some time ago, and no longer matches the actual AAR list.
In my opinion, a new author just starting out is best advised to start (and I do mean start; I'm not suggesting that writers not use the Internet at all--quite the contrary) with the most recent version of a print market guide. It's a good idea to use more than one, as the listings will differ. Starting with a print book rather than the Internet is especially important if, as is often the case, the writer has decided to skip the step where s/he reads up on the publishing industry, in an effort to become knowledgeable about what s/he is getting into before s/he actually tries to get into it. The print guides don't just provide lists of agents; they also have articles to help writers learn a bit about agents and publishing.
So do the better online agent resources, of course, such as AgentQuery. But when you go into a bookstore to look for agent guides, what you'll find is a selection of up-to-date, editor-vetted books that have been written by people with expertise in the subject. When you go online to look for agent guides, the bad will pop up with the good, and an inexperienced writer may not be able to tell the difference. Mind you, I'm not saying that print guides are perfect. Nearly all of them contain some bad apples. But as a group, they are reasonably authoritative and up to date, which can't be said of many, many of the agent resources online.
Other useful steps that can be done offline: identify books similar to yours in subject, theme, and/or genre so you can try and find out who agents them. Check out industry publications such as PW in your local library, or subscribe to a publication that covers your field, such as Locus.
Once you've assembled a list of agent prospects from offline sources, you can then go online to research them further, and also to try and find out who agents the books you've identified. This will inevitably lead you to other agents and alternative resources, which, since your offline activities will have given you a grounding of knowledge, you'll be better equipped to evaluate.
I don't have much hope, by the way, that anyone will actually follow this advice, which many people will no doubt perceive as tedious and old-school (I get similar reactions when I suggest that people wanting to do in-depth research should go to--gasp--the library rather than doing Internet searches). Many people, probably, will also figure that the advice doesn't apply to them, because they already know enough to be able to filter the information they find on the Internet. Sadly, a lot of them are wrong.
I am still of the opinion that the best place to locate your literary agent is already on your bookshelf.
Find new books you liked that appeal to the same demographic as your manuscript. Then, find out who their agents are.
Then, research those agents either on-line or in print, and see if they are accepting new clients. Find out what their preferred method of contact is.
But, first, go to your own bookshelf and look for books like yours.
Shotgun google approaches like what Victoria has just warned us about are very ineffective.
Thanks, Victoria - I really appreciate that. It's actually easier for me to do research offline, rather than online (due to my 2 year old) - I was just under the impression that it was completely useless. I'd much rather pour over a book, then double check online.
I'm going to head to the library as soon as the flooding stops here in Seattle!
The way I see it, there are two real problems. The first, which Victoria dealt with, is that fact that the internet gives you 99 units of crap for every unit of good info. It is therefore a good place to go, but not a good place to start.
The other problems is that many of the really good agencies and agents are off the internet radar screen. They don't have websites. They don't need them. They don't want them. Because they don't want to buried under unsolicited queries.
But you can find these agents. They are thanked in the backs of books; they are listed somewhere in LMP. And once you know who is really of interest, the internet can be a powerful tool...
From Macmillan New Writing, September 7, 2007. (Pan mass-market paperback in September, 2008). In the UK at Goldsboro Books, Borders, Waterstones, and other fine bookstores. Overseas, Amazon.co.uk and most other online retailers.
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Thanks. I do a lot of research on my agents, and Ms. Koster does not accept emails so I snail mailed her, but I just wanted to know if anyone had any dealings with her. I ususally try to contact author's that the agent reps, but some are unwilling to share info.
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I am so appreciative of this info. I've written my first book and am literally just starting the process of searching for an agent. I purchased a book guide, and am using that as my starting place. When I find an agency that looks good, I then check the Internet. The book has been a great help with publishing info as well as the listings of agents.
Holy moly. I just looked at Elaine Koster's Publisher's Marketplace entry. When she worked in publishing, she published Stephen King, Ken Follett, Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison! As an agent, she represents Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner). That's crazy!
Not much on Elaine Koster here...does anyone have experiences to share about a query to her? Just wondering if she is really in the market for new authors. Also about how long I should expect to wait for a response, as I haven't been able to find estimates on PM or AQ. Thanks in advance for any info.
Well, FWIW, my experience: sent snail query on 6/6/09, received said query back in my SASE today, 7/31/09. No notes of any kind enclosed. I am assuming this is a reject but sent a quick email asking them to let me know if not. Doubt I'll hear back. Really feels kind of mean - could scribbling "Sorry, not for us" really take more than a few seconds? I followed their submission reqs to the letter. A new low in my querying experience.
Know what I told myself every time I got something like that? That without US, the writers, they wouldn't have their careers. They need us, just like we need them. So why not show some basic good manners?
I don't get it.
Elaine rejected me in April by writing on my query letter, "sorry, it's not for me," initialing & dating it. Dear Author, I wonder if yours slipped out by mistake without a message.
EgyptianGoddess - I really appreciate the morale boost. You're absolutely right; it's important to remind ourselves that publishing won't survive without a steady influx of fresh voices & ideas. There should be respectful correspondence going both ways. I hope I can find an agent truly enthusiastic about discovering new authors.
All it takes is one. I finally have an agent whom I consider to be absolutely great, and he really likes my book, which is important...and even more importantly, he understands the series I'm writing and where I want to go with it (and with him).
One day I may count up all the rejections I've gotten (probably after the first book is sold), so I can have that "neener neener" feeling....although it would be very tacky to actually say that to each and every agent that rejected me.....lol! But I'll be thinking it!!
I just double-checked with them today by e-mail and they confirm that now for fiction queries they want a query letter and the first three chapters, despite what it says on their Publishers Marketplace and AgentQuery pages.
I didn't ask about their current method of rejecting. I assume I'll find that out 2-3 weeks from now.
After sending only the query, snail mail, I got my SASE back 9 days later. Inside, along with my query, was a personal note, in my name, and hand-signed (yes, with pen), notifying me that they now accept the first three chapters along with query and SASE.
There was no comment otherwise.
I can only assume that this approach indicates she'd like to see the sample material, otherwise I would've only received the query back with a scribble. Confusing, but I'm pleased to have received the personal note and am choosing to see it as a 'good sign.'
Time will tell...
they are great about fairly quick, personal responses...I got a reply back from my query and sample chapters in three weeks. I think that if they reject you they just write a note and send back with SASE, but the requests for fulls come as email...
FYI: They like to see your bio too
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. --Mark Twain
Why yes, I do blog
Publishers Markeplace reported yesterday that Elaine passed away on Tuesday at age 69.
My condolences to her family.