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Good Work

I spent last night going through the Writer's Market and looking up agents. I have no idea what to look for. My criteria seem completely subjective to me, and I have no idea whether they are helping my search or hindering it.

My criteria:
  • Should have been in the agenting business for five years or more (I figure this weeds out those who are losers and/or not serious)

  • Should represent at least 50 clients (this tells me that they're serious about agenting, not running a beauty salon/literary agency)

  • Should list information about recent sales, and should actually have recent sales to list (if you "decline to comment," it may be because you've got nothing on which to comment)

  • Prior to being a literary agent, should have worked in a related field (publishing, another agency - no former substitute teachers or psychologists need apply)

  • Should be local (I'm needy and don't want to spend a fortune in long distance and airfare whining to an agent)

  • Contains less than 2% of: represents my genre (literary fiction), reasonable query turnaround time, doesn't come off as smarmy and nasty

  • So, I figure that I have plenty of time to craft the most amazing cover letter possible for my book (since it's not finished yet) and then carpet the earth with query letters. Yes, many of them say "no simultaneous queries," but if I have a manuscript that I spent three years on, I don't want to send it off to one agent, wait two to six months, send it to another agent, etc. A good fisherman uses a sturdy pole and the right bait. A REALLY good fisherman uses four or five poles and homemade bait. A professional uses half a ton of chum and a big fucking net.


    ( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
    Apr. 29th, 2004 01:11 pm (UTC)
    sounds like a solid list to me. the only one i'd think about is number two and how much time someone juggling that many clients will have to devote to you.
    Apr. 29th, 2004 02:23 pm (UTC)
    Well, the deal is that the Writer's Market lists agencies, rather than individual agents. The individual agents are sub-listed by agency, and most agencies have at least two agents, some have a whole lot more. I'm suspicious, though, of a one- or two-person shop that only represents 10 clients. Unless those 10 clients have last names like King, Steele, Grisham, etc., nobody's making a living from 15% of the tiny fees commanded by most writers.

    Apr. 29th, 2004 04:26 pm (UTC)
    ah... good to know...
    Apr. 29th, 2004 06:29 pm (UTC)
    Sounds like a good list to me, although you might want to place more emphasis on making sure they represent your genre. Agents do NOT like to get stuff outside of their scope.

    And be sure to check out Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/beware/) for their tips, and check out individual agents on Preditors and Editors ( http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ ), an ongoing list of agents, editors and publishers who have been engaging in smarmy behavior.

    And don't worry about the simultaneous queries. Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of "Pay It Forward," told the audience at a writer's conference I attended a couple of years ago something to the effect of it isn't a problem if you don't get caught. Words I have taken to heart, in many areas of my life. ;-)
    Apr. 29th, 2004 06:30 pm (UTC)
    And apparently I like starting senteces with "and"!

    And I think I need to stop that ;-)
    ( 5 comments — Leave a comment )