Now that you have your query letter, you need someone to send it to. This is where the research starts.
Before you can start researching, you need to know your genre and age category. Where does your book fit into the market place? Is it adult romance, middle grade fantasy, young adult dystopia, adult high fantasy? If you missed my first blog post on preparing to query, check out the Literary Rejections site for information on genres and sub-genres.
Where are you going to keep track of the agents you want to query? I have forms that I print and fill in (see below), as well as a spreadsheet with columns for the date queried, agent name, agency, genre represented, estimated response time (often found on the agent’s website), and email. The printed forms allow me to add more details about the agent while the spreadsheet is more for quick reference and easy organization. Keep the data in whatever form suits you, but keep it somewhere and make sure you can use it. You don’t want to lose an agent’s name and miss a chance to query him/her or query an agent twice with the same manuscript.
You know your genre and have a place to keep agent information, now where do you find agents?
There are books released yearly that list agents and agencies. I’ve seen Writers Digest advertise one.
The internet is a fantastic resource for finding agents. My first stop is Query Tracker. Through this website you can search agents by genre. A very handy, and free, feature on this site allows you to build a list of agents to query and mark when you query them and when they respond. Other people querying can leave comments and you can view a list of an agent’s clients. If you become a member, you have access to additional features. That choice is yours to make.
Great, so I can print a list off Query Tracker and query all the agents that represent my genre.
It’s important to read about the agents, visit their websites, do an online search and read interviews on those you’re interested in querying. This is how you learn if the agent is the right fit for you.
For example, I’m looking for an agent who represents urban fantasy and hopefully paranormal as well. I’ve visited websites or read interviews and found out the agent is only be looking for high fantasy. Sometimes, when I visit the agent’s website, I find she/he isn't even looking for fantasy, which means the Query Tracker entry may not have been updated in a while.
Always, always, always, visit the agent’s website. There are still some who don’t have websites and it’s hard to find information on them, but the majority do.
Yes, that means clicking on each agent on the list and looking up their websites and any other interviews posted online.
Other websites that will help with your research are:
I follow some blogs that introduce new agents:
You can even just do an internet search for “literary agents that represent (genre)”.
With the help of those websites, you will be well on your way to finding the agents who could be right for your project. We get enough rejections without sending to agents who aren’t right for your manuscript. Every now and then though, I see an agent mention that she/he found a manuscript from a genre she/he doesn’t represent. That’s rare.
Dig up what you can about the agents you think may like your manuscript. This is what you can use in your query letter. Don’t get creepy by writing something like, I follow you on Twitter and think your kids are cute. Do personalize: I saw a tweet last week that said you were interested in fairy tale retellings and thought my retelling of Thumbelina would interest you.
The research will take up a fair bit of time. But if you don’t find the right agent for your current project, you have the list for your next project (if it’s the same genre).