Compiling a list of agents

So many fish in the sea...(Old Sardines by Emmi Visser)I haven’t been able to write much in the past weeks, not since April’s Camp Nano ended. I have, however, been preparing my agent querying process, which I hope to start in the next two weeks or so. Although I am absolutely no expert when it comes to agent querying – after all, I have yet to send out my very first query ever – I have spent a lot of time reading about how to prepare for the process and then to actually prepare myself.

So what have I been doing? Not writing queries, that will come soon enough. As a writer, that should be the easy part. After all, I already have a pitch, I am aware of my own bio and which parts of it are relevant for a query, and I know all the general pleasantries. What I still need is an opening explaining why I am writing to that specific agent of that specific agency. However, before I can even begin to write my queries, I need a list of agents. And that is exactly what I have been doing these past weeks.

The first thing you find out when you want to look for a literary agent is that there are A LOT of them. It’s not so bad in the UK, but there must be thousands of literary agents in the US. The UK is easier for another reason. I have about 5-6 UK agencies on my list, and all of them accept general queries. This means you don’t have to pick a specific agent within the agency to send your query to. You just send the query to a general submissions emailaddress or through a form, and someone (probably an intern) will receive them. This is quite convenient for the aspiring writer, although it also feels like your query might get lost in the mailbox more easily.

It’s not so easy for US agencies. Every agency consists of a number of agents, varying from 1 or 2 to 40 or 50 and in most cases you will have to pick one that you feel is most likely to appreciate your particular book. Moreover, there are hundreds and hundreds of literary agencies in the US, if not thousands. So when you start compiling your list, you might feel overwhelmed. I certainly did!

Some useful websites:
AgentQuery, Literary Rambles, Publishers’ Marketplace

I had to start somewhere. For the UK-based agencies, I simply found the wiki page that has all of them listed and then checked them all out. Then I chose the ones I liked and put those on my list. For the US pages, it took me a while to figure out where to start. Eventually I found a wonderful blog called Literary Rambles, where they have an ‘agent spotlight’ feature. This is a truly wondrous and enormously helpful feature! Every agent spotlight post includes just about anything and everything there is to find about that particular agent, including links to interviews and other sources. However, in the initial stages I simply searched for all agents who represent YA and then checked out each and every agency this gave me. The list wasn’t numbered, but I am guessing I checked out some 100-200 agencies. Instead of using Literary Rambles, AgentQuery is also a useful place to start. It will do the same as Literary Rambles and is probably a bit more extensive, as not all agents have been featured on Literary Rambles. However, this can be both an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you look at it.

After going through several hundreds of agencies I was spent and had a list of approximately 50 agencies I liked (more or less). Then I researched every individual agency, finding the agent best suited to my novel (most websites have a section where the agents explain their interests), and made a note of what they wanted to see in an initial query. I also marked each agency/agent as a ‘yay’, ‘alright’ or ‘mmm’. This resulted in this document.

So in June I will start querying the ‘yay’ agents/agencies. Until then, I am researching the individual agents I picked (check out their blog, FB or twitter) so that I am confident I know why I picked them and why I believe them to best suited for representing my novel. And that is the final info I need to write my queries.

Are you planning to query agents? Or have you already queried agents? I would love to hear about your experiences!

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