Hi everyone! I'm posting this a little early since I'll be traveling all day tomorrow. So if you have questions, I likely won't get to them until Tuesday. But here is the lesson:
Lesson 2: How Do I Look For An Agent?
Now that you've decided if you want an agent, the question becomes, how do you get one? There are hundreds of literary agents out there who represent romance (though only a certain percentage of those hundreds are actually "good" and not rip-off artists... which we'll get to in another lesson). How do you approach them in a way that will give you the best chance to end up an agented author?
1. The Search:
The Blitz versus the Very Specific List.
The Blitz: The Blitz is just what it sounds like. Take a very large list of potential agents and query them all according to their guidelines, of course). That may mean you'll be sending out 30-40 query letters (or query with synopsis or query with first chapters... guidelines again) at once. What are the benefits of this? Well, you'll cover all your bases at once and you'll have a lot of options. If someone does make you an offer of representation, you'll have a lot of other agents to call who have material.
The Modified Blitz: The Blitz is fine, but I prefer the Modified Blitz. Make a list of all the agents you would consider querying. Then you want to split that list into A, B & C. Your A-list are your dream agents. They represent your favorite bestselling author maybe. They got another author a six figure deal on her second book. Whoever. They are the best of the best agents. Agents we'd all give our eye-teeth to get. Send your queries to them first, in batches of five at a time. If you get a rejection, send out another query to your next A-list agent until you've run out of A-list possibilities.
Your B-List is filled with agents who you'd really like to have. These are agents who have success in your particular subgenre. They may have several recognizable clients, as well as some new and upcoming authors. You may know of them through friends who are represented by them and give them high marks. As you run out of A-list, start querying this B-list, repeating your process from above. Got a rejection? Send out a query or two.
And then there are the C-List. These are agents who you'd like to have. They have good reputations, you haven't heard bad things about them, they've had some success in your subgenre. C-List goes next as rejections come in.
By doing this A, B, C process, you will go through a large stable of agents, but you will give yourself first shot at the agents you want the most first. You will be rewarded with feedback throughout the process that may help you strengthen your query letter or submissions. And the rejections won't all come in all at once.
The Very Specific List: The final way to do your agent search is with the Very Specific List. Perhaps there are only a few agents, less than ten, who you are interested in. Maybe you've had good experience with them during past searches. Maybe they represent a friend who is encouraging you to submit. Maybe you just don't want to spend a lot of time looking for an agent. Whatever the reason, you make your Very Specific List, you send out all your queries at once and you wait. If you don't get an offer from any of them, you move on to editors with the project.
The benefits of this is that you only spend your time on a few agents who you like the most. The disadvantage is that if you are rejected by them all, you may have to go it on your own for that particular project.
2. Where do I look, though?
You may be saying, ok, so now I know how to search, but how do I search for agents who are the best ones? There are tons of iffy agents out there, hanging out a shingle and waiting to take advantage of authors just like me.
How do I make a good list to send material to?
Luckily, with the internet and other sources, you have a lot of information to help you with that very question:
RWA (Romance Writers of America) approved agencies -- Every year, the May issue of the RWR (the RWA monthly trade magazine) releases a list of agencies who are approved by RWA. They are agencies that have represented romance during the last 12 months, made SALES in romance in the last 12 months and don't participate in questionable practices. This
information is also available at the RWA website in the Members Only Section. Please be aware that the information is NOT always up to date so you'll want to double check all your info before you submit. But it's a good place to START your search and get a good base list of agents to query.
The Passionate Pen List -- At my site, The Passionate Pen, I have a list of agents who both have a website and take romance clients. Though not all these agents are RWA-approved or AAR members (more on that a bit later), I have checked them carefully to determine if they are doing legitimate business. You'll want to do the same before you query any.
Once you have a list compiled, big or small, you'll want to double check the agents you've chosen for their legitimacy. Here are some good places to do that:
AAR -- The Association of Author's Representatives is a professional organization for agents. To belong, an agent must follow a certain code of ethics and there's a hefty membership fee. If you go to their website you
can search their database with agent names to see who is a member. I personally dislike their new database, but it gets the job done.
Preditors and Editors -- This website has a listing of agents, agencies and publishing houses and gives recommendations and "not recommended" scores. Though their system isn't perfect, and you probably shouldn't base
your entire opinion of an agent on their site, it is a good reference during your search.
Writing email lists -- Email lists like WOW (Women of Writing), the national RWA lists, Charlotte Dillon's RWCList, and your local RWA chapter are great places to ask about specific agents. If you ask politely and have a modicum of discretion, most of the time people will be pretty honest about their experiences with agents or editors.
Google search -- Google is a great search engine! Type in the agent's name or agency name you are interested in and it will list any occurrence where they are mentioned. This is a good way to find out who the agent you're interested in represents, read papers they've written lately or see what conferences they've been a part of.
To close this second lesson, I'd like to give you my personal tips for The
Great Agent Search. They worked for me and maybe they'll help you:
Pitch to agents first, then publishers. -- Even for single title writers, there are very few mainstream options. If you've pitched your work to a bunch of editors before you start looking for an agent, you've significantly reduced her options for pitching your book. My suggestion would be to pitch to agents first, then if you come up empty, pitch your work to editors yourself. That way you don't end up in a situation where an agent loves your book, but ends up unable to do much with it because you've already tapped out her options.
Have more than one project. -- This is just good advice in general. When you type The End on your first manuscript, Type Chapter One on your second. Because very few people sell their first book (it happens, but it isn't as likely), you'll want to have another option out there. Aside from which, if you pitch book one to an agent and they reject you, but with a glowing rejection, being able to send them another proposal right away is just good business. It keeps your name out there and softens the blow of rejections.
Set a time limit. -- Though they are better than editors most of the time, you aren't going to get an immediate answer from an agent. And since there are so many agents to choose from, it's easy to send your material out to agents and just look for an agent forever, instead of moving to editors where your work can actually sell. My advice? Set a time limit. When you start your search say, "I'm going to send material to agents for six months (or nine months or a year), then I'll pitch to editors." Obviously, if your six month time period ends and you have two agents looking at a full manuscript, you might want to give yourself a little leeway time (because of tip 1), but if you feel like there's nothing on the horizon, put that project out to editors on your own.
Keep track of what you send. -- And not just what book you send, but how much of it, to which agency? To which agent at that agency? And what date. Because you're going to get back form rejections that you'll look at and say "Huh?" And you'll want to follow up if your partial has been on an agents desk for six months, just like with an editor. Having a tracking system of some kind, any kind will help. I have an example of my own tracking system at The Passionate Pen http://www.passionatepen.com/trackitarticle.htm
The Next Lesson: So now I'm ready to query, but how do I do it? Examples of query letters.
Feel free to ask any questions!