Tag Archives: querying agents

10 Minute Mentor: Organizing Your Agent Hunt

7 Jun

I’m refresthing this from the agent series because so many people asked for agent search info for the 10 Minute Mentor Series 🙂 

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: http://www.agentquery.com/search_advanced.aspx

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 QueryTracker.net 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.

ETA: Anyone who sends me your email or requests it in the comments — I’ll email you the blank Agent Search Template page

Advice for your Agent Search

4 Jan

My blog post on Organizing Your Agent search is a constant favorite, but I realized when speaking with someone about to start querying, it left a lot of the advice stuff out that friends have been asking about now. And so, here goes.

KILL YOUR DREAM AGENT

Not literally. Don’t hunt them down and shoot them or anything (especially if she’s my agent. I like her and we’re still getting to know one another.) There is one thing I learned in this process. There is no such thing as a dream agent.

Knowing an agent’s client list does not mean you know the agent. She may rep similar things, but that doesn’t mean you’re a good work match. There are agents who are a *perfect* match for you, your style, your career choices — but may not currently rep a TON of what you do. That’s great too. That means she doesn’t compete against her own list. That’s why finding someone who reps a lot of stuff “exactly” like yours probably isn’t your dream agent.

Also, you’re going to be surprised how many agents are out there that aren’t part of your “Social Knowledge Circle.”

Think of it like this: If you said “Who is the best professional baseball catcher?” I’m going to say Jason Veritek. Why? Well, because I don’t know a ton about baseball players, but I’m from Boston and so he’s my knowledge base… Is he the best catcher? Or do I need to do some more research?

CHEAT ON YOUR SHORT LIST

Querying is like looking for a job: You wouldn’t send out one resume at a time, would you?

Not only that, but querying your list in big chunks gives you leverage. Ask a bunch of recently agented writers and you’ll hear all about sending the “I was just offered representation, are you interested in looking at my book and talking before my final decision” emails. The fewer queries you have out, the fewer chances of getting the first offer, the fewer fulls and partials you’ll have in play to send that email to. This is a business. Think opportunity.

I looked at my stats —> Let’s pretend you have grouped your agent list in 3’s. So you send 3 queries out at a time. My stats show that 1 agent will respond within 2 or 3 days. 1 agent will respond within 2.5 weeks. 1 agent is a wild card who could not respond at all or email you in four months to ask if it’s still available. That means, you only truly have 1 query in play at all times (the fast responder) the others are sitting in an email box collecting dust.

Change that number to a bundle of your top 20 agents (because you’ve learned about your Social Knowledge Circle) and you’ll constantly have 6 queries in play and turning over.

EAVESDROP ON AGENTS

It’s time to put your super-spy glasses on and eavesdrop on agents. There are four major things you should do:

  1. Follow their blog and twitter – This will give you current information about what they’re doing and looking for, their attitude toward genres, writers and style, and any changes they may announce (I pounced when my now agent put on twitter that she was caving to the call of YA.) I will admit to striking 2 “Top Agent Choices” from my list completely because of their blogs. I know I’m not the only one who has done this.
  2. Google Alert or Search List – Google Alert the agents you’re interested in OR Google them every week. Pick a day as “research day” and keep up with who is say what, looking for what and discussing what. They may be doing interviews off their own blogs OR one of their clients might be sharing info OR they might have a new deal getting reported. This move slow and change fast sometimes.
  3. Conferences – These are so good for so many reasons:
    1. Face to Face meetings and pitches. This is your chance to (1) make an impression and (2) gain an impression. Don’t ignore the vibes no matter how much you like what she represents.
    2. Talks and Panels – I love these. The conferences I went to these were basically all I went to. Craft I could learn off a tape weeks/months later. What the agents were saying I needed to know because it was up to the minute info. Also, seeing them relax and chat with each other up there gives you personality ideas. The questions people think to ask are often things we might forget ourselves. Overall, really helpful
    3. The bar – I’m not a big drinker… I may have had a drink in 2009 LOL. But, let’s be honest. Just like any business, a lot goes on in the bar at conferences. People relax and chat. Information is shared. Deals are struck. I once heard a 7 figure deal being worked at the table next to mine. It was an Eavesdropping Experience to remember.
  4. Inner Circle – Your Inner Circle will tell you things people in general won’t. I heard the good, the bad, the ugly and the very very ugly from people I trusted who knew I’d lock that info in a vault and never repeated. Not only did some agents come off my list or move further down it, but several agents I wouldn’t have known about or may have overlooked were bumped up it. But, don’t forget. Keep the faith, lock the vault.

ORDER YOUR AGENTS

No, don’t boss them around. Put them in order. If you haven’t checked out Organizing Your Agent Search, do so. It will tell you the how and why of making your list clear. It will also give you away to shuffle things when you finish eavesdropping and to remind you of who is where why (that’s a lot of Ws).

I’M THE BOSS OF ME

You need to remind yourself that you are the boss of you. Act like every day is going to be the day you get the call as soon as you send that first query letter out. You need to know exactly what you want in and from this business partnership. What questions are you going to ask them…AND know the answers you most want to hear to line up with you. What’s YOUR business plan for your writing? Are they interested in that? Do they have an idea of what they want to do with your book(s) — Yes, that’s plural. One of the parts of my conversation was about what else I’d done, was doing, and had planned. The idea that some agents didn’t care was off putting. I’m an aggressive planner and wanted to know that I wasn’t the only one look at the now and the future… Know what you want and look for a match – OR someone who knows better and can tell you why?

Also, as the boss of you, don’t let your best employee (YOU!) slack off at work. Just because the query is out for book 1 doesn’t mean you should be getting ready to hand over book 2. Worst Case Scenario: No one wants book 1, but you’re ready to start querying book 2 when you get through your agent list. Best Case Scenario: Everyone wants book 1 and during your discussions you’re able to talk about what else you’ve written to see who is the best overall fit for you back list.

If you missed them, here are the Great Agent Hunt – Getting To Yes series:

Getting To Yes, Part 1
Getting To Yes, Part 2
After the Yes

Great Agent Hunt – After Yes

27 Nov

What am I going to do with all this time once I can stop looking for an agent?

How many times have you or one of  your friends said that? A kazillion? Yeah. Probably. Trust me, I know the feeling.

Think of all the writing I’ll get done! I’ll finally do some really great deep cleaning and catch up on housework! I’ll join a gym! I’ll SAVE THE WORLD! Yeah, that’s what I’ll do! I’ll Save! The! World!

So, you may have noticed, the world (in general) is still in peril.

One thing I noticed thru the entire process is the understanding of the Before Agent and Post Agent friends. I’d always fallen firmly in the BA w/slight sympathy…but, yeah, there’s a divide.

BA looks like this: What do you mean your stressed making this decision? You’re picking from amazing agents who want to represent your work! It’s great! There’s no stress here!

PA looks like this: Don’t worry. They will get back to you. Yeah, it’s a big decision.  Just start the process as the emails come in. But, as long as you did your research, talked to people, spoke  with each agent and feel confident in the ones you narrowed it down to, it will be hard to make a *wrong* choice. There’s *BEST* choice though, so make sure you do all the steps. It will be fine.

Then the decision happens:

BA: Now you’re a represented author. It’s all cake from here.

PA: Now you’re a represented author. It’s your gig to lose my friend. Nose to the grindstone. This is not the relationship to slack on. Do not forget, this is a business relationship so you have to focus. Yeah, you can be friends with people at work, but don’t forget this is your career.

Then the revisions happen:

BA: This is great, someone to tell you exactly what you need to do! You’re so in!

PA: Ok, so you’ve got general feedback, now you have to make it your own. How the heck are you going to do this? Yup, it’s time to read that manuscript start to end *again* Now get to work. PANIC PANIC PANIC…ok, stop panicking. The worst thing that happens on this first time out of the gate is failure to give her what she wants. FAILURE? I DON’T DO FAILURE? WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN? Well, you’ll work this the way you work everything. Do it, check it, re-do it, have someone you trust look at it, re-do it and hand it in.

So, if you’re making these decisions and are really struggling with your friends not getting it, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. We didn’t get it when we were BA no matter how supportive we tried to be. It’s a path, and you can only see the path from where you are on it.

And, that’s as far on the PA path that I am. I can say, I’ve had a really stressful couple weeks (life-wise) since signing and it’s definitely effecting my work in a negative way. I”m pulling out all the stops trying to work around that stress because, like our PA said above, this is work. This is the career I want. And that means learning new ways to do old things…It means that in every job. It means that no matter what life is throwing at me (and it really feels like it’s throwing a lot now) you push forward. But mostly it means that I need to learn to keep my writing attitude up-beat and focused. And that is something that as a PA I have to do, because it’s no longer a Oh, I can do this someday. It’s a I should do this now.

You can also check out GETTING TO YES Part 1 and GETTING TO YES Part 2 segments.

Great Agent Hunt – Getting to Yes (part 2)

23 Nov

So, if you’re just joining us, last week I announced my signing with my agent, posted how I researched, organized and sorted agents during the search process, and discussed what I learned from the first half of the query process. At the end of the last post, I promised to discuss more of what I learned since I am (apparently) becoming blogwinded.

Fast forward to the first offer. I got the first off on a Friday (all of my friends have gotten Friday calls to. We’re really curious why this is.)

I was out and about and missed her email. When I emailed her back she asked if she could call…in ten minutes. Honestly, I loved this as it cut down the panic time! The downside was that my computer was in the shop and had the list of “What to ask potential agents” on it. So I felt like I was flying blind. Agent 1 was amazingly nice about this and actually suggested questions I may have forgotten to ask because I didn’t have my list. She was friendly, professional, excited and kind. I loved her and would highly recommend her to anyone. I did wonder about some of the suggestions we discussed and she was kind enough to send me written notes. I spent a lot of time looking at these and thinking over how I could attack them. A few I knew I couldn’t do. I knew I could go back and discuss them with her, she’d been very open with me and that wasn’t a fear.

After a stressed out call with poor Gwen Hayes (because I’m a worrier, and worrying always comes first) I realized that (unlike last time) no matter what, I would have an agent at the end of this process. it was an amazing feeling.

 

So, when we got off the phone, I looked at my list of who had partials and fulls out. I had sent out queries to my top 20 agent’s on my Top Match list and had more requests than I expected. Looking at the list, I sent an email to each agent I knew I’d be super interested in (which since that was my top 20 was all of them. Yeah, not much for cutting the list down that way) saying that I’d been offered a contract and wanted to know if they would like the opportunity to read the full and potentially discuss my manuscript.

Everyone said yes.

Some passed for various reasons: Not as intrigued as they expected, Already had someone with a similar voice, Didn’t know what to do with it.

Some waited until the last minute to email me back because they were busy. I understand, but one thing I definitely did was include a deadline (making it very clear) and stick to it. This is a business and you don’t want to mess with the people you’re already working with.

Two asked to read it and then got back to me a week after the deadline asking to offer. I let them know it was no longer on the table. One apologized. One was annoyed.

But several wanted to offer for it. And so the phone calls began. . . Oh, and one really great get together. 

I can say that speaking with Agent 1 was easy, straightforward, fun and informative. But, it was that for most of the people I spoke with. I felt very much like we were on the same page. That the things she mentioned were either a “doh!” moment or a “yeah, I can see how that would be better. Now I just have to figure out how the heck to do it.”  There was a lot to the phone call that made my decision clear.

But it was still a difficult decision because I could see that there was no *wrong* decision. Everyone I talked to was great. It was amazingly encouraging to discuss my work and publishing with such an intelligent, driven yet nice group of women. It reinforced to me that I was being blessed by the whole process!

After making my decision and hoping she hadn’t realized she’d read and loved someone else’s book (I mentioned I worry, right?) I spoke with Agent 1 again, solidified revision thoughts, discussed the contract and we were a go! Then the second worst part happened (beyond the worrying) — letting people I really respected know I was passing on their generous offers. It was hard. It felt personal after talking with them and it so wasn’t. I think every author who has to send those emails gets a small taste of what agents who meet and do some preliminary work with writers, and then in the long run pass, feel. Yuck.

Next step: Send quick notes to the 7 people who still had the query only letting them know that I had accepted an offer. Make sure you put something that lets them know you’re pulling your submission in the subject line so you don’t waste their time. Also, 2 of those agents thanked me for stating the date they would have received my query so they could find it quickly — they said that was a time-saver.

Two of those agents responded with the fact that they were disappointed because they were just about to request. Seriously, I could not believe this process.

So, what did I learn beyond the process?

I learned that my blog was a big help. Everything I’m about to say was mentioned by at least 2 agents:

  • My free read and it’s ability to showcase my voice and writing in a different setting….also the mention of not being a one trick pony
  • My fantasy – some of the agents were aware that I was actively writing fantasy as well and also had a fair idea what it was about
  • Excerpt Monday – I was asked the reasons I started this and got to have a great discussion about the pre-business of being pre-published
  • Bio – It’s a little less formal than the one on my query letter and gives more of a feel of what a nerdy dork I am – they should be prepared, right?

 

So there it is. The process as seen by a crazed YA writer. Right after this happened (like the next day) I got in the car to move across the country. It didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped and diving into the revision notes was a slower process than normal for me. But, I’m there — in my revisions — now and excited about the whole darn thing.

I love hearing your stories! To everyone who has commented or emailed, keep them coming – the support has been amazing.

 

OTHER AGENT SEARCH POSTS:

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: http://www.agentquery.com/search_advanced.aspx

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 QueryTracker.net 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

OTHER AGENT SEARCH POSTS: