View Full Version : How do I find a good agent?

06-29-2016, 06:51 PM
I am yet to find an agent that does not take two to three months to answer with a form rejection. Are there any out there? If so, where can I find them? (I'm happy to wait a week or two for a form rejec.)

Aggy B.
06-29-2016, 07:33 PM
Good agents are those who work for their clients. Agents that are slow to answer queries are generally busy working for their clients.

All stages of the publishing industry are slow. A bane on the existence of those of us who are not very patient, but also a hard truth that must be accepted or different alternatives sought.

[Note: This doesn't meant that agents that respond quickly aren't working for their clients. But not being a top priority (as a querying author) does not mean an agent is "not good".]

06-29-2016, 07:35 PM
Querying in the US and the UK are two different monsters, but if all you're getting are form rejections, then the issue may be with your cover letter/sample (assuming you're querying in the UK). Have you had anyone look over either of those things?

06-29-2016, 08:49 PM
Querytracker provides stats on agent response times if you wish to use that as a selection criteria.

06-29-2016, 11:46 PM
Commercial publishing is all about having patience. You wait at the query stage, at the manuscript request stage, at the being on submission stage, at the copy edits stage... Etc. Basically, good is not the same thing as making you wait. Heck, I'm starting to feel like a form R is even a good thing over a non-response to a query or requested materials.

But as waylander said, QT is a great resource for how long, on average, agents take to respond at various stages.

06-30-2016, 10:13 AM
I think your expectations are somewhat unrealistic. Agents will take however long they want to send a form reject. Many don't even bother with form rejects. Of course, I have a vast preference for agents who work fast, but as far as I know, there is no correlation between how long they take to send out form rejections and how well they work as agents. At the querying stage, my advice would be to send out the queries and then forget about them. Treat them like they're going to be rejected and keep chugging along, querying widely and working on the next book until you get an offer. THAT'S when you can discuss your hopes with regards to how fast the agent reads and gives you notes etc. Before that, you have about zero bargaining power, and the agent will get back to you when she's available.

06-30-2016, 12:47 PM
I am yet to find an agent that does not take two to three months to answer with a form rejection. Are there any out there? If so, where can I find them? (I'm happy to wait a week or two for a form rejec.)

Answering queries just isn't the priority for agents, who are busy with their clients. I only know one or two agents out of the entire lot here in the UK who are currently in a position to respond within in two weeks. It's just not a realistic expectation.

You need to remember that, as a querying writer, you're at the bottom of the agent's very busy to-do list. That doesn't mean you're unimportant or powerless -- this is still a business, you still need to have confidence in your work and your ability to offer agents a book they want -- but you're not going to be their priority until you're a signed client.

This is how you want it to be, as much as it hurts now. When you're a signed client, you don't want your agent reading queries when they should be submitting your latest manuscript.

I just got a full request after three months, so don't take the radio silence as rejection. But if you are relentlessly getting form rejections, take a look at the sample pages and synopsis, they might not be good enough.

(Your covering letter might be letting you down, too, but most UK agents will overlook that if the pages are strong.)

Want to get a response quicker? Target new/junior agents at reputable agencies, with a small client list so they've got more time to spend on the query inbox. Target US agents on the Querytracker quick responders list (https://querytracker.net/top10fastest.php), if you really want, but you'll need to pay for Premium for that.

But is it really worth getting a quick response if you're picking agents that don't fit your work, or that you wouldn't want to work with? Sometimes it's better just to get your head down, keep writing and let the e-mails arrive when they arrive.

Dennis E. Taylor
06-30-2016, 06:29 PM
Commercial publishing is all about having patience. You wait at the query stage, at the manuscript request stage, at the being on submission stage, at the copy edits stage... Etc.

Holy jumping hell, is this ever true. I keep thinking, now I'm past the waiting, now we can get moving. Nope. Right now I'm waiting for my assigned narrator for the audiobook to work through his queue to my turn. Grrrrrrr.

06-30-2016, 10:06 PM
I think for me it's difficult to find a suitable agent. I should have worded my sentence better.

I go to the big agents at the big literary houses and no where else because they, to me, are more reputable. Maybe that's why it takes too long. I should try and venture out a little more.

Thanks for the answers! I appreciate your time.

Aggy B.
07-02-2016, 02:56 AM
So, obviously you (general you) don't want just *any* agent. You want an agent who is familiar with the markets for your particular genre/subgenre, who has connections and has made sales, who loves your work.

What makes each of those things true is different for each agent/author combo. Finding the right person to represent you and your novel(s) can take a lot of time. (I spent somewhere close to 11 months on the agent hunt. And that's not even a really long time compared to some folks.) Persistence is typically the determining factor between success and failure, especially in industries/careers that tend to have a lot of waiting at the various stages.

When I started querying I put a lot of effort into taking the emotion out of the process. I wasn't looking for an agent to rep my "baby". I wasn't look for a magical connection with my agent where we would not only sell my MSs but also be BFFs. I had a MS and I needed someone with the connections to sell it that MS. No magic, all business. Period. It was still hard. In the end I got a horrendously detailed rejection following an R&R in which the agent just shredded my MS. (After being "in love with it" when she requested the R&R.) I almost quit right there. I was so disappointed and angry and frustrated that even in trying to keep it as a business thing it had gotten surprisingly ugly.

I was also very stubborn. I sent out another query just so I could say I hadn't given up yet. And four minutes later there was a full request in my in-box. Two weeks later there was a phone call and an offer of rep. And suddenly it was magic because it was clear that he LOVED my book as much as I did. But I would not have gotten there without being persistent and stubborn and doing my best to keep my emotions out of the querying process. (As in, the actual process of sending out the letters and getting back rejections and requests.)

This thing is hard, but you can do it.

07-02-2016, 08:19 AM
You want the agent who will love your book and fight for it from the first. Anything less is a disservice to you and the agent. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

07-04-2016, 03:07 AM
I definitely make sure I have agents in my query list that either respond quickly (according to QueryTracker) or given a definitive timeframe on their website. (Responds within 6 weeks if interested, etc.) Not all the agents on my list meet those criteria, of course, but I make sure in my first few rounds of queries that I have several that do so I can get a good gauge of whether my query is working fairly quickly.

As far as finding good agents go, you can also use Publisher's Marketplace to find records of their sales. It's not comprehensive because it's self-reported, but it's another data point.

07-07-2016, 02:48 PM
You don't have to go one-at-a-time, you know :-)

Craft lovely query letters personally to each agent (NOT a mail-out with everone's name in the header.)

Send them all out at the same time, or email them day-by-day..

Within 12 weeks you will know then that every top level agent has either A) replied or is B) not interested.

(I've had replies from agents 12 months after the fact. Some of them asking for the manuscript! You have to be polite when you say someone was quicker.)

Lets just say you do this over the coming weekend. By the middle of October this year, you will have your answer.