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Laer Carroll
04-10-2015, 02:55 AM
Before I started actively looking for an agent a few months ago I thought of all agents as pretty much the same. Now I've finished the research and narrowed my list down to 61 with a top 10 to query first. And the variety of agents in just my chosen field is amazing.

Take their backgrounds. Many have degrees in literature, many of those in creative writing. But there are several lawyers and a scattering of those in very diverse fields - insurance, the navy, just to name a few of the more surprising. Their ages, family situations, ethnicities, and gender orientations varies widely too.

The kinds of works they represent also vary. It's not unusual for them to support several genres of fiction and kinds of nonfiction. However, often reading between the lines you can see they have one or a few areas they like most.

Speaking of "like" one commonality seems to be a great love of reading. Some of them speak of their great excitement when discovering a new writer, especially one with an unusual voice.

Another commonality seems to be a great workload. It's not unusual for them to handle a hundred queries a day and handle dozens of other tasks such as chatting with editors, sending out royalty statements, attending conventions, and so on. No wonder they read a lot of those queries on their smartphones while traveling, eating, and ostensibly relaxing at home.

All this has changed my agent-search strategy. I had intended to write one great query and send out a dozen or more a time, waiting only a few weeks between sending out the next wave. Now I limit myself to just a few, and give those a couple of months before prepping the next wave.

Also, I research each agent in detail, not just depending on their submission guidelines and agency bio. I reason that finding an agent is like looking for a marriage partner; it's intimate and important and may last for many years, even a lifetime. Then before sending out a query I re-read my "perfect" query and see if I need to customize it in some way.

So far I've had five standard rejections, one totally ignore, and one with a "not for me but like to see more." And I'm satisfied with that. I never expected this process to be quick and certainly not easy. And meanwhile I've a new project which excites me, something very different from what I've done before.

cornflake
04-10-2015, 03:26 AM
Before I started actively looking for an agent a few months ago I thought of all agents as pretty much the same. Now I've finished the research and narrowed my list down to 61 with a top 10 to query first. And the variety of agents in just my chosen field is amazing.

Take their backgrounds. Many have degrees in literature, many of those in creative writing. But there are several lawyers and a scattering of those in very diverse fields - insurance, the navy, just to name a few of the more surprising. Their ages, family situations, ethnicities, and gender orientations varies widely too.

The kinds of works they represent also vary. It's not unusual for them to support several genres of fiction and kinds of nonfiction. However, often reading between the lines you can see they have one or a few areas they like most.

Speaking of "like" one commonality seems to be a great love of reading. Some of them speak of their great excitement when discovering a new writer, especially one with an unusual voice.

Another commonality seems to be a great workload. It's not unusual for them to handle a hundred queries a day and handle dozens of other tasks such as chatting with editors, sending out royalty statements, attending conventions, and so on. No wonder they read a lot of those queries on their smartphones while traveling, eating, and ostensibly relaxing at home.

All this has changed my agent-search strategy. I had intended to write one great query and send out a dozen or more a time, waiting only a few weeks between sending out the next wave. Now I limit myself to just a few, and give those a couple of months before prepping the next wave.

Also, I research each agent in detail, not just depending on their submission guidelines and agency bio. I reason that finding an agent is like looking for a marriage partner; it's intimate and important and may last for many years, even a lifetime. Then before sending out a query I re-read my "perfect" query and see if I need to customize it in some way.

So far I've had five standard rejections, one totally ignore, and one with a "not for me but like to see more." And I'm satisfied with that. I never expected this process to be quick and certainly not easy. And meanwhile I've a new project which excites me, something very different from what I've done before.

I don't understand the bolded - why wait months in between batches?

Treehouseman
04-10-2015, 04:55 AM
I don't understand the bolded - why wait months in between batches?

Hmm, well I queried in batches, mostly because after sending off to ten or so, I wanted to wait to see what the result would be. In the first instance my query was unaccountably bad. I only got one request out of 15.

Fortunately I hadn't burned all my agent list on the basis of my bad query! I went back and tweaked it, and got a much better hit rate after that.

I think Laer's doing the same thing.

blacbird
04-10-2015, 06:51 AM
People usually respond to inquiries.

caw

cornflake
04-10-2015, 07:11 AM
Hmm, well I queried in batches, mostly because after sending off to ten or so, I wanted to wait to see what the result would be. In the first instance my query was unaccountably bad. I only got one request out of 15.

Fortunately I hadn't burned all my agent list on the basis of my bad query! I went back and tweaked it, and got a much better hit rate after that.

I think Laer's doing the same thing.

I'm all for batches and waiting to check a response rate at certain periods before continuing but sending out just a few at a time and waiting months between each group I don't get. Maybe it's something I've never thought of, but I don't understand.

amergina
04-10-2015, 07:25 AM
Of course they're people with varying tastes and interests, etc. What else would they be? Authors aren't all the same and books are not interchangeable widgets. Agents are as diverse as the folks and books they represent.

I wouldn't necessarily think of finding an agent akin to courting a marriage partner. They're business partners and that is worth remembering. I like my agent a lot, and consider her a friend, but it's still a business partnership.

I also wouldn't wait months between batches of queries, though. I don't think there's much value in that. Weeks? Sure. Months? Not so sure.

screenscope
04-10-2015, 07:36 AM
A targeted strategy is very good. Most agency websites have bios of the agents which tell you exactly what they like, what they are looking for and often what they don't like. You can then tailor your query individually to each agent.

I did this last Monday with a query on my WIP to three agents in the UK and two of them came back overnight and requested the working manuscript. I was just trying to test the waters on the book's theme, really, so the requests were a bonus.

Good job I edit as I go!

Treehouseman
04-10-2015, 01:11 PM
I'm all for batches and waiting to check a response rate at certain periods before continuing but sending out just a few at a time and waiting months between each group I don't get. Maybe it's something I've never thought of, but I don't understand.

Well it took months for them to get back to me :-(

Recently got a rejection from a year ago.

oceansoul
04-10-2015, 04:09 PM
I wouldn't wait months between batches, but that's just me personally. When I queried my last novel, I did it in batches of 3 weeks. There is some overlap in response time then, but you don't wait eons. I'll probably do it the same way again with my current WIP.

mayqueen
04-10-2015, 04:40 PM
I also don't see the point of waiting months between patches and spending a long time personalizing each query. I did the exhaustive research and personalization thing the first time I queried. (I'm on round four with MS #4, if you're playing along at home.) It was a waste of time. Now I check them out to see their genres and interests, their submission guidelines, and whether or not they have any red flags here and at P&E.

Wait should you not wait months? Math (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=291559). A rejection on three or so queries after a couple of months isn't really enough to tell you anything. You need to get to ten or twenty.

Jamesaritchie
04-10-2015, 07:54 PM
The biggest mistake most new writer make is sending out huge batches of generic queries. They burn through all teh good agents with teh first batch or two, and then they're stuck. Unless they just overlooked a top agent, they'll end up with no agent at all, or a poor one.

Agents are people, which means honesty and wonderful intentions does not make all of them equally good. Writers tend to think publishers treat all agents equally, and this simply isn't true.

Some agents routinely have wonderful material. Others sometimes have wonderful material. Yet other only rarely have anything an editor wants. Still others almost never have anything but crap.

A really good, specifically targeted query, sent out a few at a time, with enough time between to hear back from teh ones you have out, stands a great chance of getting a good agent.

I doubt more than one or two genres out there has more than two dozen really good agents, yet many writers send out fifty or more queries at a once, and get rejections on all of them.

Something is seriously wrong when this happens, and what's wrong is almost often the generic or poorly written quality of the query. Shotguns are nice, but you need a rifle for accuracy.

Laer Carroll
04-11-2015, 09:18 AM
Shotguns are nice, but you need a rifle for accuracy.

Hah! The mark of a good writer. Nailed it in one short vivid sentence!

Roxxsmom
04-12-2015, 04:53 AM
I doubt more than one or two genres out there has more than two dozen really good agents, yet many writers send out fifty or more queries at a once, and get rejections on all of them.



That's pretty depressing, considering how many of us there are trying to win an agent and how most will only take on a handful, at most, new clients in a given year.

Sadly, a number of the agents who rep my favorite authors don't even take unsolicited queries, and a number of others are closed to queries for the forseeable future, so if this number is accurate the actual number of good agents who are queryable in a given genre might be much lower.

Out of curiosity, aside from record of recent deals with acceptable markets in one's chosen genre, how does one define a good agent?

Usher
04-12-2015, 05:12 AM
I agree with your approach. First time round I sent out generic enquiries but it was actually very different 5 or 6 years ago.

Once I started targeting my queries that is when I got a good rate of personal responses. I started following the agents I wanted on Twitter etc and now I do have requests to see other material etc

Waiting for the responses is a good idea because you get a good idea of whether or not the query needs work.

Laer Carroll
04-12-2015, 06:29 AM
I doubt more than one or two genres out there has more than two dozen really good agents...


I suspect this is true generally, but the situation is not that depressing.

First, in general, in most populations of any entities there is a bell-shaped distribution (may slant to one side or the other) for most qualities. If we're measuring GOOD to BAD there will be only a few REALLY GOOD. More FAIRLY GOOD, and most MEDIOCRE.

Do we really care if we get the absolutely top-flight agent in any field? I don't. I'd be happy to have a merely competent agent.

Besides, much of our success is dependent less on the quality of our agent as the quality of our books, the publishers we frequent, and historical accident.

Finally, what is good is not an absolute quality, but a relative one. The very best agent generally may be utterly wrong for some authors. I care more about the question: Is my agent RIGHT FOR ME? Understands my works, understands the editors and publication houses they work for. We might think that a "Big 5" publisher is better than a smaller one, but a medium-sized or small publisher who specializes in my genre might be a better bet to publish my books.

(Latest thought exercise by a professional systems analyst. How much you believe my conjectures, well, hmm.........!)

CrastersBabies
04-12-2015, 10:07 PM
You send 50 queries at once? I don't know anyone who would do that, honestly. You send 10(ish) at a time. Could be your query letter isn't working. How would you know to revise if you shot your whole shebang in one fail swoop?

Your book could be downright perfect, but if your query sucks? And you send out en masse? Probably not a good strategy?

Drachen Jager
04-12-2015, 10:25 PM
You send 50 queries at once? I don't know anyone who would do that, honestly. You send 10(ish) at a time. Could be your query letter isn't working. How would you know to revise if you shot your whole shebang in one fail swoop?

Was that intentional wordplay, a Freudian slip, or simple misunderstanding of the correct phrase?

Thedrellum
04-13-2015, 09:26 PM
If you have a query you believe in, then your wait time should actually be directly in response to the agent's response time. If you check on their AW page or on QueryTracker (which has a lot more data if you're willing to pay for a membership, but can still be really useful without), then you can see what an agent's normal response time is and whether they respond at all. There's no point waiting three months if they are a "no response equals no" and they usually yea or nay within two weeks.