Literary Agents: Coordinating Your Hunt

Saturday, July 27, 2019
It’s a good thing that I like to do research because I’ve been looking for an agent.  For each agent, I read up on favorite books, books they’ve acquired, what they are looking for now and more. 

As I identify agents to send my work, I often have to backtrack. What did she want first? What is it he wants in a cover letter? As much as I love research, I don’t love redoing research. Because of this, I'm keeping a database.

I should point out, my agent may be more complicated than what many of you have to do. I write primarily but not exclusively for children. It would be nice to have someone who could market my mystery and my memoir in addition to my children’s books. But the breadth of my work for children is problem enough.

Agents who represent middle grade novels and young adult novels don’t always represent picture books. Agents who handle picture books sometimes only want to work with author/illustrators vs authors who cannot illustrate. I also need to find an agent who represents both nonfiction and fiction.

So what do I track in my database?

Personal info. This includes the agent's name and agency and, if I can find it, how long they have been agenting. I’m not opposed to a new, inexperienced agent if they are at an agency working with someone more experienced.

Book types. At first, I checked off the types of books the agent wants -- picture books, middle grade, young adult and nonfiction. I saved information about preferences in a “notes” section. Later, I realized it was better to include many of these notes under the type of book. Humorous picture books. Young adult fantasy. Middle grade nonfiction of all types. 

What to Submit. Some agents loathe query letters. Others require you to submit through a form. Still others want marketing information. It helps to have this information handy when prepping your package.

Notes. Sometimes an agent will say something about things they love (movies, dogs, tacos) and things they hate (spiders, birds, science fiction). I also note degrees that we have in common as well as hobbies.

Links. I keep track of the links I used to do my research.

Once I’ve gathered my information, I can rank the potential agents. If I don’t highlight their name, they aren’t a good prospect. I keep them on the list so that I don’t research them again. 

A name highlighted in RED means that this person looks good but they aren’t accepting submissions. If they give a date when they will re-open, I add this before their name. YELLOW means this person looks pretty good but I need to read some of their books or do a bit more research. GREEN are the agents I’ve submitted to or am prepping my packet.

Yes, it is a bit type-A but when you are keeping track of the information on any of a dozen agents at once, type-A means not having to spend a morning re-researching a block of agents to find out who it was who wanted graphic novels for younger readers.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins September 23rd, 2019.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--If you are type A when it comes to hunting for an agent, what am I? Type ZZ? I've done such surface research compared to yours. I've embraced the "scatter-shot" method instead of the "dive deeeply" method.

Is the agent/publisher wanting middle grade fiction? Historical fiction is a plus.

Is the publisher open to writers without agents?

What kind of vibe do I get from their blurb?

Are there any phrases in their blurb that I can use in my query letter, to connect with them?

The agent/publisher is in black ink. When I submit is in red ink, and is highlighted in yellow. When I get an answer, that is also in red and highlighted in yellow.

Sue--You jump in with both feet when you're doing research. I jump in and flail around. What you do works for you. What I do? Well, it hasn't resulted in a publishing or a representation contract yet, but I'm hopeful. You, on the other hand, have been published a gazillion times.

Thanks for letting us get a peek into how you work.

Carole Mertz said...

Though I work in a different genre, thinking about this type of information organization was very useful, Sue. Thank you.
I've kept lists of all kinds, but as my work increases, I sense the need for a more detailed database.

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