Starting & Organizing Your Agent Search

17 Nov

When I started the querying process with my first book, I was part of a group blog called The Purple Hearts. While there I did the following post on how I found, researched and sorted agents. I thought I’d already transplanted that post, but here it is. Of course I’ve done a little updating 🙂

 I’m very visual – I need a logical way to look at information or it might as well be street graffiti. At first everyone laughed at me, but now they’ve started asking for the Bria Agent Search Spreadsheets for themselves (maybe I should start charging!)

I won’t lie. It is time consuming in the front-end. But later, when the querying begins, it will keep you on track and organized. Another plus à it will stop your focus from drifting to time wasting (and embarrassing) querying of agents who don’t rep what you write.

So, breaking this down in very easy steps, here we go:

Step 1 – Decide what you write.

My main passion and focus is YA Fantasy, but I also have ideas for a RomCom and a historical (which may be YA, Women’s Lit, or Romance – depending on who you ask) so my focus groups are: Fantasy, YA, Romance, and ChickLit. You’ll have your own, but we’ll stick with mine for these examples.

Step 2 – Create an Excel Spreadsheet

This is very easy if you’ve never done it before. Open it up and then save it as “Agent Search.”

Across the top create a column for each of the following: Agent Name, Agency, Solicit?, Email, YA, Fantasy, Rom, ChLit, RWA, P&E, Exp, TOTAL, Authors, Notes

Step 3 – Link to:

In place of my genres, put all your writing genres

Step 4 – List Creation: This is the longest part. Cut and paste each page into your spreadsheet and then line up the information with columns. Put an “1” under each genre the agent reps. You may want to consider weighting one genre heavier than others – for example, my future agent MUST rep YA, so that column gets a “2” instead of a “1.”

Step 5 – The remaining columns are weighted columns

So you may have notice that you still have RWA, P&E, Exp, and TOTAL, left.

RWA (Romance Writers of America)
is a very reputable group. Whether you write romance or not, you should consider joining. The group is highly focused on Craft and many agents have said they can often tell a person is an RWA member from their clean manuscript and professional queries.

If the agency/agent is RWA certified, add another “1”

P&E (Predators and Editors) as another amazing resource. They list everyone in the industry they’re aware of. If they give an agency/agent a “highly recommends” add a “2” – a “recommends” add a “1” —— they’ll also let you know if they “highly don’t recommend (“-2”), “don’t recommend” (“-1”), or if they are listed on “Writer Beware” (“-3”)

Exp stands for “Experience.” The longer you are in the publishing circle as an unpublished person, the more opportunities you’ll get to interact at conferences and workshops with agents. You’ll also meet some wonderful people who are already represented or have met agents (note: make sure these people are 100% reliable in your book and not just out to bash or praise to feel “in the know”).

Personally, I looked at blogs, talk to other writers, read articles, followed people on twitter. One of my top 10 agents (for book 1) was bumped off my list completely because of her attitude toward her clients and potential clients on her blog. You want to know this ahead of time. Use the same rating system as P&E.

TOTAL – create a sum total column for each row and then sort by the TOTAL column.

The last two columns are just as important. You should always be familiar with the authors an agent already reps. It lets you know what they like and where they succeed. Also, it allows you to ‘sell’ yourself better

The Notes column should be for things like industry updates, reminders about appearances (online and in person) you’d like to attend, site updates (agents sometimes stop taking queries for a short time), contests they’re judging, etc.

Then, on sort the agents into folders. I did them as Top 20, 1.5, 2.5, etc Sent, Rejected, Requested.

All this information comes together on one page to let you judge and weigh the agents to see if they’re a potential fit and if you’re a good fit for them. Don’t forget, this is a business decision…not just for them, but for you as well!

Starting this organized with this much info up front is a great step in running your writing career as just that – a CAREER.

Contact me for a blank template set up of the Agent Hunt Spreadsheet


7 Responses to “Starting & Organizing Your Agent Search”

  1. Cate Hart November 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm #

    This is a fabulous idea. I started a spreadsheet for agents, just alist I’d subbed, and one for contests. But you put some real time into this, and it paid off. 😉

  2. briaq November 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    Thanks so much – I like to have an assult plan for things like this….but would you believe I’m a pantser 🙂

  3. December November 17, 2009 at 7:44 pm #

    I like the attack plan – I may have to hijack, er borrow it!

  4. Celise November 25, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    When I first made the rounds, I did the spreadsheet thing, too, but yours was more detailed than mine. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. briaq November 25, 2009 at 8:52 pm #

    I’m a bit of a spreadsheet junkie I guess 🙂

  6. Ansha Kotyk December 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    I made the spreadsheet today. Your idea is just what I needed. You Rock!


  1. Great Agent Hunt – Getting to Yes (part 1) « Luv YA - November 20, 2009

    […] you didn’t see my post on how I researched, organized and sorted agents, check it out HERE. It explains that part of the process very […]

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