Research!

January 8th, 2008 • Kate

As a writer, you know when you have to research as you’re writing your book — when you’ve decided to write a historical novel set in 18th century France, for instance, or you need to know the best way to dissect a corpse for your character’s anatomy class. But I’m talking here tonight about the research that goes into finding an agent.

You may hear of a new agency opening up on a message board, or in a chat room, and you recognize that this provides a new opportunity to share your carefully polished manuscript. Before you zip off an email (or, to speak more generally, before you type up that query), do a little more research.

Cross check the data. Is this agency’s website coming up on multiple author resource sites? Have you confirmed that the agency, or any of its named agents, aren’t on the list of the 20 Worst Agencies? Has the agency or any of its agents recently posted a sale to Publishers Lunch?

Once you’ve done these general searches, get down to specifics: read the agency website, or look at their list of clients or recent sales. Have you heard of any of their clients? Even better, have you READ any of them? If you can, head down to your local library or bookstore and look at some of the books represented by the agency. You don’t have to buy them (but feel free to do so!), but confirm for yourself that that they are of a style you feel comfortable sharing a shelf with.

If you’re lucky, the agency will provide a list of their interests. Have you written a memoir? Before you dash off a query, check if the agency handles memoirs. If not, why waste your time submitting? Rejection is hard enough — don’t set yourself up for a fall by not following guidelines for submissions.

Basically, don’t just jump on a trend, or a new listing, just because it’s new or trendy. A lot of people might be able to wear ballet flats, or gaucho pants, but that doesn’t mean I’m running out to buy a pair for myself. Know what fits your style, and have fun within it.

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3 Responses to “Research!”

  1. Trish Says:

    When I started querying agents, a writer friend of mine would say, "Query so-and-so, he's so nice!" or "Have you queried so-and-so? She's really fast." But when I checked that agent's website or Agent Query listing, it didn't say she was looking for YA. I took my friend's advice a couple of times and my query was met with a quick, polite "no thanks" while many of the agents I'd carefully researched said, "Yes, please, send more…"
    Daphne's right. Do your homework.

  2. Alyson Says:

    Such good advice, Daphne– about the agents and the gaucho pants!

  3. Kate Says:

    Another strong voice on the same subject – do also read Victoria Strauss' blog on using caution on the internet.