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The Great Agent Hunt

Dee Tenorio is blogging about her Agent Quest over at Romancing the Blog.  It’s an interesting angle to the Great Agent Hunt.  So many blog entries, articles, and workshops have been dedicated to writing the perfect query, the dreaded synopsis, or all the research that we should do before querying, but few down-to-earth commentaries about agents are really out there.  Maybe because we’re all trying to be too careful?

You just never know who’s reading that blog entry bemoaning two rejections received on the same day, or Nathan Bransford’s lightning fast response (I read someone had a rejection in 9 minutes), or another form rejection from Dream Agent, or whatever woe is common in the Great Agent Hunt.  I know some agents I’ve queried have at least visited my website.  So I’m not going to flap too much about specifics, and I know most people probably feel the same way.

This isn’t the first time I’ve hunted for an agent.  Technically, I suppose it’s the third time.  I queried both Rose and Beautiful Death before they were contracted by Drollerie.  I actually had much better luck as far as requests went on Rose (thanks in large part, I think, to finaling in the Molly contest).  Yet even though this is my third round on a new book, I haven’t hit 50 queries.  Not even close.  I’d have to do some digging, but I’m probably between 20-30 agent queries on three books total.

I know all the advice out there says to hit many targets.  Always have 5-10 out at a time.  That’s just not my style.  I’ve been watching and listening for five years now.  I pay attention when authors talk about their agents.  I’ve read many agency blogs for years, all wonderful sources of information. 

But I don’t read for query to-dos any more, or rejection horror stories, or what’s hot.  I know what I write.  I know my style.  The trick is finding the agent that matches that style, who loves what I love just as much.

I’m studying communication styles and interaction.  Is the agent hands on or off?  E-mail savvy or snail?  Slow to respond?  I know an agent’s personna in public is very different from the private side her clients see, but true professionalism and love for Story come shining through, whether in interviews or in a blog post.

We’ve all heard tales of the towering mountains of slush our stories must shine through, but I think we should look at our own “slush” and do a little careful weeding.  There are thousands of literary agents out there.  Many of them are solid, good, dependable agents.  That doesn’t mean they’re right for me. 

A writer’s time is just as precious as the agents’.  I work full time, have three monsters, and a mountain of laundry calling my name.  I’ve got so many stories I want to write and time’s a wastin’.  Every minute I’m querying an agent is a minute I can’t write.  I’m sorry, I’m not going to wait around for 6-8 months on a simple query response, or worse, the no response camp.  I had two of them on the last round.  I know accidents happen, black holes suck up mail (even snail mail — one contest packet came back to me nearly a year overdue) all the time, but those agents are crossed off my list.  Sorry.

My list is small.  I try really hard to target stories correctly.  Letters is much different from my “brand,” but I’d like an agent who can handle both spicy contemporary and romantic sff, so that narrows the list even more.  I’m not querying just agents with an online presence — but I do “know” someone online who has worked with these agents in the past.  Every round of queries I send out, I learn something new.  I see which “hooks” attracted which agents.  I record response times. 

That’s not to say I’m afraid to take risks.  I have queried a few agents on a lark, just to test the waters, so to speak.  I used to do the contest circuit, trying to final in the “right” contest to get in front of Dream Agent or Dream Editor, but after one story propped someone’s desk up for three years…I decided to go the more direct route.  :shock:

If all of my current packages come back as “no thanks,” then I’ll punt and go to plan B.  I’ve punted before.  Hopefully each time, though, I’m getting a little closer to the goal line.  :mrgreen:

P.S.  It’s not surprise at all that the Great Agent Hunt = GAH.  That’s exactly how I feel each and every time I see a response in the mail box, whether snail or electronic.  GAH!!!

1 thought on “The Great Agent Hunt

  1. GAH – I love it! 😆

    I think I’m going to agree with your philosophy, if ever I get to the point of seeking an agent. It just seems more logical to me to do a bit of research and take the time to sight-in the most appropriate targets, rather than use the spray-and-pray method. We try to do the same thing in my EDJ – target the biomed journals most appropriate to the subject of our manuscripts. We may not publish in JAMA every time, but in the end, I hope we’ve wasted less of everyone’s time that way.

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