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johanniter
01-25-2012, 05:22 PM
In my agent hunt, I followed all the advice I'd heard/read/seen ... find out who represents the authors of books on your "shelf"; use Publishers Marketplace and Query Tracker; etc., check out the agents' web sites... I've found some agents this way who I got really excited about, because they seemed such a good fit... then I find they're closed to unsolicited material.

So, other than feeling sorry for myself, is there any legitimate way to connect with these agents - or, as an as yet unpublished nobody, am I just SOL where those agents are concerned?

Pyekett
01-25-2012, 05:42 PM
If you do some research and find out that they will be attending certain conferences or workshops, or if they will be giving a talk or working at another other public event, you can try to connect via that route. Polish your shoes, be on your best behavior, be ready to talk about your work (or not), and take "no" for a complete answer.

Given some of what's been reported, also make sure you do not pitch your work to someone in the bathroom. Just don't. It never ends well.

The basic rule is that if someone is engaged publicly in a professional capacity and in a context where a you have access to them without shenanigans, then it's okay to ask unless someone has made it clear not to do so in advance. However, you ask--you do not insist.

Amarie
01-25-2012, 06:01 PM
When an agent is closed to queries, it usually means they have a very full client roster and don't think they have the time to take on anyone new. You can try to meet them at conferences, as Pyekett suggests, but they will be very selective, so don't pin your hopes on that route.

Pyekett
01-25-2012, 06:06 PM
Yep. Plus, there may be one (or even two) other authors with the same plan.

Or so I hear.

johanniter
01-25-2012, 06:28 PM
All helpful - thanks! Mostly I was just whining. :) And I can't imagine anyone having the nerve to corner an agent in the bathroom (although I've heard it happens). I'm not that forward, I guess.

Karen

Maryn
01-25-2012, 07:29 PM
Wait a second. Does "closed to unsolicited material" mean "closed to queries"? I've heard of agents using that phrase, or one very like it, to mean authors are not to send mss. unless invited to do so as a response to a query.

Maryn, confuzzled

ChaosTitan
01-25-2012, 07:33 PM
Wait a second. Does "closed to unsolicited material" mean "closed to queries"? I've heard of agents using that phrase, or one very like it, to mean authors are not to send mss. unless invited to do so as a response to a query.

Maryn, confuzzled

Usually those phrases are used independently.

"Closed to unsolicited material" means don't send partials or full manuscripts without first querying us, because we don't want it, and it will get recycled upon arrival.

"Closed to queries" means they don't want to be queried at all, often because they have a full list of authors with active projects, and they aren't looking to add anyone new at this time.

Filigree
01-25-2012, 07:39 PM
When I hear an agency is only taking pitches at conference, I don't even bother with them. For the most part, conferences are way out of my league, and I loathe pitching in person anyway. I'd much prefer to lay the groundwork through a query letter.

Anne Lyle
01-25-2012, 07:46 PM
Yeah, basically you're out of luck. My agent is closed to queries most of the time - but you can sign up to their blog RSS feed to get notified when they're open again, which they do for the occasional one-month window now and then. I did that, and got my query in on the first day :)

AVS
01-25-2012, 08:22 PM
Don't approach agents in the bathroom!? Dang! I knew I shouldn't have pushed my manuscript under that cubicle door.

hester
01-25-2012, 08:28 PM
Agree with all that's been said-I'd also add that you might want to post a query or excerpt in "Share Your Work" once you reach 50 posts. Sometimes agents will request material based on something they see and like :).

Pyekett
01-25-2012, 08:28 PM
(Good point, Maryn.)


Don't approach agents in the bathroom!? Dang! I knew I shouldn't have pushed my manuscript under that cubicle door.

You would not believe.

johanniter
01-25-2012, 10:22 PM
Thanks again, everyone. I like the "sharing your work" idea after 50 posts, too. I'm mostly a lurker, but lurking doesn't get me closer to 50 posts, lol.

Siri Kirpal
01-25-2012, 10:58 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Bit of personal experience: I once found an agent who looked like a good match. The agency website said that it was closed to submissions. But on agentquery, the entry for that agent said she was open to submissions...and required the proposal (this was for nonfiction) with the query. I sent her the proposal/query anyway, expecting nothing. Got back the most beautiful, full page rejection letter, indicating she'd have taken it on if she could see how to sell it.

FWIW.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Old Hack
01-25-2012, 11:42 PM
Agree with all that's been said-I'd also add that you might want to post a query or excerpt in "Share Your Work" once you reach 50 posts. Sometimes agents will request material based on something they see and like :).

This almost never happens. In fact, I can't think of a single instance of an agent finding themselves a new client by checking out AbsoluteWrite's various rooms.

I'm sorry to put a damper on anyone's hopes and dreams here, but QLH is for improving our queries--not for catching browsing agents.

hester
01-26-2012, 01:26 AM
Hi Old Hack! Sorry for the misleading post-I thought I'd once read about an agent who made off-board contact with a writer based on an excerpt or letter they'd seen in SYW...

KalenO
01-26-2012, 03:06 AM
This almost never happens. In fact, I can't think of a single instance of an agent finding themselves a new client by checking out AbsoluteWrite's various rooms.

I'm sorry to put a damper on anyone's hopes and dreams here, but QLH is for improving our queries--not for catching browsing agents.

To be fair, I know a couple of people who received invitations to query agents after said agents spotted their work in the Share Your Work forums or QueryTracker forums. I wouldn't COUNT on it by any means, and it isn't common, but it does and has happened.

That said, another, more viable possibility is to maintain an active presence in the writing 'blogosphere.' There are frequent writing contests on various blogs that are judged by agents with the prize of sending in your manuscript, that sort of thing, and I can think of a few agents who are otherwise closed to queries that frequently partake in those. Miss Snark's First Victim (http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/) is fairly well known for her Secret Agent contests and has a fairly high success rate of people who have found representation either directly or indirectly through her contests.

Filigree
01-26-2012, 03:19 AM
Miss Snark's First Victim is a great resource if you write YA. For adult stuff, not so much. I did a breakdown of their 2010 and 2011 Baker's Dozen contest. The initial entries were heavily weighted to YA, and the winning mms even more so.

Not a bad thing, but be prepared to follow the Secret Agent guidelines when they list approved genres for that month.

KalenO
01-26-2012, 03:25 AM
Miss Snark's First Victim is a great resource if you write YA. For adult stuff, not so much. I did a breakdown of their 2010 and 2011 Baker's Dozen contest. The initial entries were heavily weighted to YA, and the winning mms even more so.

Not a bad thing, but be prepared to follow the Secret Agent guidelines when they list approved genres for that month.

Oh yeah, there's a definite slant towards YA material, but adult MSs are frequently accepted as well. Like you said, just read the guidelines. And hers aren't the only such contests out there, so look around. But your priority really should always be traditionally querying agents who are open to general queries. You can find exceptions to almost every rule, but the vast majority of people find their agents through traditional querying for a reason.

Deb Kinnard
01-26-2012, 03:30 AM
I do sometimes wonder why an agent with a full list attends conference, takes appointments, when s/he knows it's unlikely any author will be taken on as a new client. I suppose they go in order to network, and on the slim possibility they'll see a project/writer that really engages their interest. Otherwise? It seems sort of counterproductive.

Old Hack
01-26-2012, 10:41 AM
Deb, I'm friends with one agent who has only taken on one new client in the last three years. Despite having a really heavy workload, she attends all the conferences she can, and often speaks at events which are intended for writers.

She doesn't do it to network, or to find new clients. Like every agent, she gets a heap of queries from writers who don't have a clue about how to approach agents, and whose writing just isn't good enough yet. She hopes that if she can help spread the word about how things should be done, and how important it is to have written a good book, then both writers and agents will ultimately benefit.

She also likes to encourage writers, and she genuinely likes most of us too. Writing is such a solitary, difficult thing and it's usually done with no guarantee of success. My agent friend thinks that it's amazing so many writers just keep going despite the odds: if she can help, inspire, or even just have a laugh with a few of us, then she's pleased.

Old Hack
01-26-2012, 10:48 AM
This almost never happens. In fact, I can't think of a single instance of an agent finding themselves a new client by checking out AbsoluteWrite's various rooms.

I'm sorry to put a damper on anyone's hopes and dreams here, but QLH is for improving our queries--not for catching browsing agents.

To be fair, I know a couple of people who received invitations to query agents after said agents spotted their work in the Share Your Work forums or QueryTracker forums. I wouldn't COUNT on it by any means, and it isn't common, but it does and has happened.

I'm not sure that my "this almost never happens" is any different to your "I know a couple of people who received invitations to query agents after said agents spotted their work in the Share Your Work forums": aren't we both saying that it's incredibly rare, and not to be counted on?

I still maintain that QLH and SYW is for improving our work. There might be one or two people who have found agents who spotted them there: but when counted against the thousands of people who have put their work up in those parts of AW, the odds aren't good. Querying is still the most common and reliable way to find an agent.

Swinging back on topic, if an agent is closed to queries then it's probably not a good idea to do what you can to get noticed by them. They close to queries because they already have all the clients they can handle: why would anyone want an agent who is going to be too busy to represent them properly? Yes, I realise that a good agent is a wonderful thing to have: but a good agent who doesn't have quite enough time to look after your work as well as they might? You might be better off looking for an agent with room for another client or two, who would have more time to spend working in your interests.

johanniter
01-26-2012, 02:22 PM
Yeah, I understand WHY agents close to queries (which was what I meant, not submissions). But it still feels like such a let down... almost like online dating, when you do all the research, read the guy's profile, and you already have the two of you halfway down the ailse when you find out he married someone else. <sob> If only he hadn't tantilized so, promised happily-ever-after on his profile - then forgot to update it when he tied the knot. <sob, sniffle... hey, sounds like there could be a straight-to-cable-TV-stalker-story there>

Flip side, I see some agents who seem to have dozens of authors going at once, and it makes me wonder how any of those authors can reap the full attention or benefit of the agent.

jaksen
01-26-2012, 05:12 PM
Re. those agents who are closed to queries - keep checking their website, agency site, and query tracker. Often they will open for a limited time.

And sometimes they close on the holidays, or when they are swamped with queries they want to get through, or they need a break from the 100+ queries they get per week (or day). Also, if an agent is permanently closed and takes queries only by referral, check to see if other agents in the agency are open. Sometimes a new or junior agent is open - and in some agencies queries are passed around. I got a request for a full from a 'closed' agent because I queried a junior agent in said agency. (Apparently the junior agent passed my query on to her.)

There are many agents out there eager to read your query. Don't give up because your 'dream agent' won't take your query.

Corinne Duyvis
01-27-2012, 02:15 AM
FWIW, two agents asked to read my novel based on a query I posted in Share your Work. One of them offered, the other came very close.

So it can't hurt to put yourself out there. However, don't count on it. If an agent is closed to queries and you're not in a position to meet them at a con, there's not much you can do. Focus on other agents.

Ken
01-27-2012, 03:39 AM
All helpful - thanks! Mostly I was just whining. :) And I can't imagine anyone having the nerve to corner an agent in the bathroom (although I've heard it happens). I'm not that forward, I guess.

Karen

... I encountered a major editor in a bathroom one time.
Nope, I did not have the nerve to talk to them :-)

I can relate to your position. I've researched agents who seemed really cool, only to find out that they were closed to queries. Pretty frustrating.

KingM
01-27-2012, 04:07 AM
Sometimes it's not a permanent thing. It's possible to be so busy that you need to turn off (or turn down) the query fire hose. My advice is to check back a few months later.

schamber
01-28-2012, 01:01 AM
A lot of agents seem to stop accepting queries at particularly busy times of the year, so that they can get caught up. I think Kitlit.com had a post on this at one point, about when was the best time to query agents, and it seemed to be the spring. Definitely not pre-Christmas or August. So if someone's closed during those times, they might reopen soon.