Monday, April 20, 2015

Research agents to query your little heart out

I don't care how special your book is, have the courtesy to follow the guidlines.While I have never gone from polished to published I am currently in the process of querying my first novel. Well, not really my first but the first that I consider even close to being good enough to query.

Here's the mini-synopsis:

Layla Ballard is just a succubus trying to stay on the straight and narrow in the human world – a feat that would be easier if she hadn't just killed her boss. To hide the murder/snack, and keep cash coming in until she can figure out what to do next, she takes over his P.I. firm, only to catch a case that’s far beyond their usual “cheating spouses” client. In trying to find a missing sister, Layla discovers a slew of disappearances and deaths that point to a culprit that isn't human. Between dodging a murder charge and battling her hunger, can Layla get it together in time to save the sister and stop the supernatural murderer?

It's been quite a journey from first draft to the query pile. I've written before about my experience with coaching. After all of my editing rounds were complete, I sent my initial query draft to Cathy who punched it up quite a lot. Since Sheena already wrote an excellent post about the query process in general, I'm going to focus on one part in particular: researching your prospective agents.

Know what they want part 1

First comes the easy part. Well the super easy part, I should say. Find out what they want. I'm not talking about the genres or anything like that yet. Find out the submission guidelines. If your agent wants the first five pages and a one-page synopsis don't send the first three chapters and a blow by blow outline.

Know what they want part 2

The second step is finding out what they're actually looking for. This is so you're not going to send a serial killer killer trailer for someone who's looking for a sweet romance or science-fiction hard science fiction to someone who's doesn't rep anything speculative. This is also a good point to check that there they actually represent something that is like the thing that you have written. So say for example if you if you write sweet romance and the agent is looking for erotic romance or, say, you write hard science fiction and the agent is looking for space opera you don't waste your time or theirs sending them something that they're just going to reject out of hand.

The reason I'm putting this second is that this can get quite detailed. While you're doing this, you should also have an eye toward the next step, which is:

Make sure you know why you want them

Now there are some agents who just don't care. QueryShark has mentioned several times that she's not interested in any greetings somesuch and that she wants you to start with your book. Most agents are not like that. Many are quite adamant about getting to know the reason you are querying them specifically and not the agent down the street. Even if you are also querying the agent down the street.

Even if you are querying the QueryShark or to be more specific Janet Reid, it's still a good idea to have a clear reason for your own purposes why you want to query that particular agent. An agent doesn't have to be a bad agent to be unsuitable for you specifically. 

Make sure you know how long it takes them to respond

This is more for your own piece of mind than anything else. Most agents can take up to eight weeks to respond and others never do. You should of course track your queries and make sure you know who you've queried, when, and what kind of response, if any, you've received. I prefer QueryTracker myself but there are certainly other ways of doing this, starting from a single CSV format text file.

Most importantly, have fun. The world will not end even if you don't get an agent for this project. It won't even necessarily halt your literary career. There are still plenty of options out there. Meanwhile, as you wait, you should be writing the next book. Preferably in another world.

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