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Bourgeois Nerd
05-08-2008, 09:54 PM
I started out looking for books I liked that had similar themes to the one I wrote. Then I looked for the author's agent.

The second step was looking for agents who accepted queries from newcomers and considered literary fiction (my genre). Then I would check out, if available, their list of books to see if any of them resembled mine in theme, tone, etc. I would skim the book or read reviews of it and try to tie that book in with mine as having a similar target audience.

I don't know if I'm going about this the right way or not. I would like to hear what others do in their agent research query process. How well-targeted their search is so that they can get that partial request.

Maybe it matters what genre you're in? Some genres, romance maybe, are perhaps an easier sell to those agents that prefer them. Literary is much more difficult maybe?

I'm stymied and not getting much done today. Too confused and wondering how crazy I am to even be doing any of this.

xiaotien
05-08-2008, 10:20 PM
i started with fantasy agents then spread
to YA agents. i queried over 100 agents.

i used this forum (beware and background checks)

agentquery

querytracker

publishersmarketing

google

as well as agent turn around times
at the children's board (since i'm YA).

i rarely personalized queries (with over 100,
it's impossible) but i'd tailor to interest if
i could (if they liked multi-cultural or historical
fic, etc).

i spent three months researching and querying
widely. my novel is a YA asian historical fantasy.

good luck!

Irysangel
05-08-2008, 11:53 PM
Publishers Marketplace is definitely the place to go. Look at who's selling what in your genre, and query them.

MelancholyMan
05-09-2008, 04:47 AM
What she said.


i started with fantasy agents then spread
to YA agents. i queried over 100 agents.

i used this forum (beware and background checks)

agentquery

querytracker

publishersmarketing

google

as well as agent turn around times
at the children's board (since i'm YA).

i rarely personalized queries (with over 100,
it's impossible) but i'd tailor to interest if
i could (if they liked multi-cultural or historical
fic, etc).

i spent three months researching and querying
widely. my novel is a YA asian historical fantasy.

good luck!

GJB
05-09-2008, 06:46 AM
After years of pitching at conferences and snail mail query letters, my most effective research by far was the combination of the particular agent's current web site coupled with deal history in publishersmarketplace, backed up by Googling before I pressed the send button.

By the time books come out, the agent may have moved, quit, changed genres, decided to take on no newbies, not sold enough of that book to want any more like it, had a falling out with the author and not wanting to be reminded.

Happy Hunting--it is possible, really. g.

Bourgeois Nerd
05-09-2008, 08:59 PM
By the time books come out, the agent may have moved, quit, changed genres, decided to take on no newbies, not sold enough of that book to want any more like it, had a falling out with the author and not wanting to be reminded.

This is a good list to consider. Whew, this agenting business reminds me of the mortgage industry, with all of the capriciousness and turnover.

KikiteNeko
05-09-2008, 10:22 PM
querytracker.net. Free and invaluable.

Bourgeois Nerd
05-09-2008, 10:39 PM
Publishers Marketplace is definitely the place to go. Look at who's selling what in your genre, and query them.

Did you pay the $20 registration fee to do this?

CaroGirl
05-09-2008, 10:43 PM
Personally, I think you're going about it in exactly the right way. I think people who use mass lists of agent names and blanket query all of them are just wasting their time, the agents' time, and a whole lot of paper. The kind of research you're doing ensures you're targeting the right agent for your work. By all means, look at the lists as a secondary resource, or cross-reference among them, but I'd advise to continue what you're doing.

Good luck!!

Will Lavender
05-09-2008, 10:52 PM
I used P&E.

Started at A and moved through.

Clicked on only the agencies that had websites.

Skimmed those sites.

If they took thrillers, I queried.

It is admittedly a little more difficult when you're pitching a literary novel, but it really shouldn't be that tough. Really. I don't mean to sound flip, but I think the word "research" is a little much.

Will Lavender
05-09-2008, 10:54 PM
Another thing.

I think searching for books with similar "themes" is the wrong way to go. You'll pigeonhole yourself like that. If they're a reputable agent, and if they take on literary novels, query them.

There are different takes on this, but I wouldn't query in huge batches. I queried maybe 10 agents and then waited. This will probably not be an issue with lit fic, but some writers get themselves into hot water by querying every reputable agent known to man.

(Of course, there are other writers who eventually strike gold by doing it that way, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.)

CaroGirl
05-09-2008, 11:07 PM
My opinion is salty also. I write literary fiction but I'm not American and there are limited agents in my country, so my advice might or might not be useful. I've done what you're doing (granted it was for an unpublishable early novel) and I plan to do it for my latest novel. I hope we both get agents, whatever way we go about it.

Bourgeois Nerd
05-09-2008, 11:13 PM
It is admittedly a little more difficult when you're pitching a literary novel, but it really shouldn't be that tough.

You'd be surprised how tough it is because literary is a broad category to some people, even agents.;)


Really. I don't mean to sound flip, but I think the word "research" is a little much.

Oh Will, I think you did mean to sound flip, why else would you put the word research in quotes? :tongue

It's not "a little much" when you consider what my dictionary defined as research:

--Methodical investigation into a subject (agents) in order to discover facts (what genres they prefer, whether they accept queries, what their recent salses are and what they've represented) or to develop a plan of action based on the facts discovered (how to best target your query letters so that they waste not your time nor the agents hopefully).

To me, it's all about calculated risk. You are trying to get biggest return for as little investment of time and effort and money as possible, otherwise known as ROI in business terms. Yep, research is the least I can do, considering that. And Katharine Sands recommended it in her Pitch book along with lots of other agents she interviewed. :D

I'm taking your advice with some salt and some peppa. :)

Will Lavender
05-09-2008, 11:30 PM
You're overthinking this, BN. Really you are. (And, in all fairness, I have seen the word "research" a million times on AW. I've even used it; I just don't know if it's quite apt in this context. I put it in quotes simply to highlight it.)

I still think finding agents who take on similar themes is the wrong way to go. You may disagree, which is fine. It's your query, your novel. I just think you run the risk of really damaging your chances if you shrink the pool that much. (Many agents I know would not even use the word "theme"; it is, by nature, an academic term. These people are making business decisions.)

I specifically remember many agents who took literary when I was querying*. I wasn't sure what my novel was, so I pitched it as literary to those agents. So they are out there, they're not that tough to find. It doesn't have to be methodical or calculated because these people are looking for talent. They aren't hiding in caves or shutting themselves down in basements and only allowing exactly the right queries to get in.

There is a boatload of pressure in this. We all know that. To heap pressure on yourself at the easiest stage of the game is counterproductive. You should be having fun at this stage of the game. : )

* Let me say here that I fully understand how difficult it is to sell literary fiction. Everybody talks about it. It's no secret. Having said that, though, it's out there. It sells, especially if they can bend it toward "commercial" -- which they often do. So while you are in a small and cramped boat, the boat does exist.

Bourgeois Nerd
05-10-2008, 12:07 AM
They aren't hiding in caves or shutting themselves down in basements and only allowing exactly the right queries to get in.

In case I screwed up my reputation comment (positive BTW), I meant to say that it sure seems like they're the ultimate hard to get people ever and who knows how to even get that perfect query written. ;)

Will Lavender
05-10-2008, 12:14 AM
In case I screwed up my reputation comment (positive BTW), I meant to say that it sure seems like they're the ultimate hard to get people ever and who knows how to even get that perfect query written. ;)

Nah! They want a good book.

And let me backpedal a bit.

I don't think there's anything wrong with finding the right agent. God knows it's better than the alternative. Folks get scammed every day.

But I associate research with database passwords and the gnawed-down erasers of No. 2's.

I think what you want to do at this stage is search. You mentioned "risk" above; the only risk here is rejection. That's not a risk; it's a fact of a writer's life. Narrowing the agents who you query will not decrease that risk, in fact it might increase it.

So I wouldn't even be so picky where I cut out someone who had never repped a book like yours. I think if they're in literary, they're likely looking for manuscripts. I think there's a way to "fit" your query onto an agent. For instance, if your novel is Sebold-dark and you find an agent who has done something dark in the past, put in a sentence or two that suggests that. If you're just looking for agents who rep similar themes and tones, you're thinning out an already thin pool.

Good luck whatever you choose to do.

windyrdg
05-10-2008, 12:29 AM
The internet and agent's blogs are the best source of info. I bought a Guide to Literary Agents, but still checked for websites before querying.