Agent Research 101: Ten Must-See Resources Before You Query, by Lori Ann Palma

Your manuscript is polished, your query letter is compelling, and you have a list of literary agents ready to go. It’s time to submit, right? Not so fast! One of the major steps in the submission process that many writers skip is the agent research stage. This is when you take your list of agents and hone in on what they want and how you fit into that category. More than that, it also provides you with valuable information to personalize your query letter, letting the agent know that you’re not only serious about them, but also about your work.

 

Below are ten of the best websites to kick your search into high-gear:

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·         The Agency Website: The agency that employs your chosen agent should be your first stop in the research process. You’ll want to see what category and genre the agent represents. For example, they may represent YA, but only fantasy or science fiction. For this reason, be sure to look at the details. Additionally, this is where you should gather submission guidelines. While other sites will probably list them, always gather this information directly from the source, as they will be the most updated and accurate on the agency site.
 
·         ManuscriptWishList.com: Agents who set up a profile on this site can update their listing at any time, providing writers with a wishlist that is often more specific than the agency website. And if you’re on the hunt for even more wishlist details, use the link to see the agent’s latest #MSWL tweets. (#MSWL is short for “manuscript wishlist,” and some agents periodically tweet a story concept they want to see by using this Twitter hashtag.) As you mine this resource for an agent’s interests, be sure to save the information so you can personalize your query introduction.
 
·         PublishersMarketplace.com: In addition to the agent’s wishlist, you’ll want to visit Publishers Marketplace and review the agent’s member page. This will give you a snapshot of the number of clients they currently have, and the types of books they represent. If the list is heavy on science fiction but you write contemporary realism, it might be an opportunity to fill a gap in that agent’s list (provided they also represent contemporary). While you’re there, also review the number of recent sales to ensure the agent is actively making deals. To find an agent, simply enter their name into the search field on the home page.
 
·         Amazon.com: Now that you know the agent’s clients, take a look at their books. Hopefully, their current list has books that are similar to your own manuscript in style and genre. However, beware if there is book that’s a little too close to your own. An agent who reps a book that’s extremely close in plot or theme may pass because they don’t want a repeat, or two authors in direct competition.  
 
·         The agent’s own website/blog: Many agents have their own sites to provide more insight into their interests, share news about their clients, and provide updates on query response times. For example, Jenny Bent has a website called Bent on Books, where each agent provides a monthly manuscript wishlist item. Not all agents have the time to manage their own site or blog, but if they do, it’s a must-read.
 
·         LiteraryRambles.com: This site has a regular feature called “Agent Spotlight,” where they focus on an agent who represents children’s and/or young adult literature. The post includes information on what the agent is looking for, personal quotes, interviews, and links to their web presence. Links to every spotlighted agent are alphabetically listed by agent last name on the left side of the home page.
 
·         QueryTracker.net: See what other writers are saying about an agent by using the agent directory. Also, if you sign up for a free membership, you can also view real data such as query response times, number of queries sent, and response rates. The directory is located at: https://querytracker.net/literary_agents.php
 
·         WriteforApples.com: Query.Sign.Submit is a regular interview feature that discusses the agent’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission. Because the questions are directly related to querying, you’ll definitely want to check to see if an agent on your list has been interviewed. You can find a listing of participating agents here: http://www.writeforapples.com/p/query-sign-submit.html
 
·         Google.com: Don’t overlook the simple, yet effective Google search. The results will bring up additional interviews that might reveal important information, such as how the agent prefers a query letter to begin—with the title, genre, and word count, or the pitch. Using these small details to your advantage can make your letter stand out from a crowded in-box.
 
·         Preditors & Editors: A quick check of the Preditors & Editors site help you separate the legitimate agents from the scammers. Take the time to check and see if any names on your list are not recommended. You can find the A-Z directory here: http://pred-ed.com/pubagent.ht
 
Now that you’re armed with information, you’ll be able to narrow down your list to the agents who best fit your work, and avoid those who aren’t legitimate.
 
Now that I’ve listed my ten best resources, I want to hear from you. What sites do you recommend to research an agent? Add them in the comments below!
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4 Responses to Agent Research 101: Ten Must-See Resources Before You Query, by Lori Ann Palma

  1. Lady Lucas says:

    These are all great resources Lori! Thank you so much for sharing them… I wasn’t aware of any of these websites other than Google. I can’t wait to check them out!!

  2. Wow, this list will definitely help me thoroughly research agents. Thank you so much, Lori! One thing I like to keep track of is whether they’ve been to local conferences, Rutgers’s mentor or 12×12 featured agents. This gives me a sense of where and how aggressively they’re searching for new talent.

  3. Great post! Thank for the checklist. And Virginia — thanks for the additional tips.

  4. Pingback: Agent Research 101: Ten Must-See Resources Before You Query – Lori Ann Palma

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