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Picking Agencies to Query

September 29, 2014

Hello all! While pondering the meaning of my query letter, I’ve been thinking about where I want to send it. The Bound Chronicles deserves the best!

But who is the best? What’s my ideal agent like? What genres would they represent? What kind of publishing companies would they have ties with? Location (though spoiler: most of them live in NYC)? Are international possibilities important to me? I dreamt big and made a list: I’d like an agent that represents historical, LGBTQIA, psychic/supernatural, mystery, literary, and religious books, has ties to the Big Six and internationally, and lives in California.

But then I came back to reality. I recognized that I’m going to need to compromise on most of these. For instance, the mystery, literary, and religious genres are more what my book spills over into, but are not at the core. LGBTQIA and psychic/supernatural are central, but historical fiction is a good umbrella term for what I write. And so: I will be querying agents who represent historical fiction, with preference to agents who also represent LGBTQIA and psychic/supernatural books.

As for my other dream elements, California is unlikely to happen and experience with the international landscape will just be a cherry on top. In-roads with the Big Six I’m firm on though. I want to shoot the moon at least once in my life.

After that I was ready to look at agent listings. If you know me, I can be pretty book-research-oriented. And so, I grabbed the materials in my bookshelf: Writer’s Market! I might have said this before, but agent listings can be found everywhere on the internet. A good focus point and resource of positively 100% sure-to-be-awesome agents is Writer’s Market, whether online or hard copy. I own a couple Writer’s Markets, the 2009 and 2014 editions, so I’m working off those to begin with.

If you’re also looking for an agent too, I’d suggest either purchasing the latest edition of Writer’s Market (or more to the point, Writer’s Market’s Guide to Literary Agents), or signing up via their website. If you’re short on cash, try your local library, or perhaps another writerly friend has a copy you can borrow. Again: there are a ton of agent listings out there, but for me this resource is right at my fingertips. I’d be silly to ignore it.

Once I got my books, I read through each listing and annotated, marking up ones that fit my criteria in any way. The next step was based on what my parents did when I started looking at colleges: I made an Excel worksheet/database.

Here's my coolio literary agents Excel spreadsheet/database. Listings are alphabetical by agency name.

Here’s my coolio literary agents Excel spreadsheet/database. Listings are alphabetical by agency name. Click to make the image bigger, and click again to bring in focus.

I put my Ideal on top, just to keep me focused, and made the following heads: Agency Name, Found In, Represents, Website, Specific Agent Name, Email, Mailing Address, State/Country, Phone #, Special Considerations, Submission Guidelines, Submission Sent, Expected Response Time, Response/Notes. I set up the Excel Filter options too, so it’ll be easy to see all the agencies that do XYZ.

Then came the tedious task of filling it all in with the agencies I’d marked up in the books. That took awhile. I listened to The Secret Life of Bees on audiobook to pass the time.

When it was all filled in, 60 cell rows later, I ate a bunch of ice cream to celebrate, and it was time to choose which 10 agencies to query first. Especially with first time queries, it’s good to send them out in batches and see if you hear back: your first danger sign will be if you hear absolutely nothing, not even form rejections, from agents. This step actually took a lot less time than I expected since I just fiddled with the filters and saw who met my criteria, and the agencies I’ll try first are highlighted in green.

Now just to send my query off. I sent one off already, so 9 more to go. I’m actually quite nervous. Wish me luck!


From → The Christening

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