Sunday, March 6, 2011

Agent Wish List 101

Katrina already wrote an amazing post on cyber-stalking researching agents. Read it, then come back.

Read it already? Good.

Now that you know how and where to research literary agents, it's time to dive into what comes after--compiling a list of your favorites. *fist pump*

Folks, I give you the Agent Wish List.

I've settled on a few things that will help you figure out which agents should be at the top of your querying list. Today, I'm going to share them with you :)

Le list:

1) What they represent

Genres are where it begins and where it ends, folks. You don't want to pitch your picture book to an agent who's sold crime thrillers--unless that agent reps both genres. This is the first thing you should be looking for, mainly because by querying someone with something they don't love, you're guaranteeing yourself a rejection. And nobody likes those.

2) What they're dying to find right now

I mentioned genre being the most important thing to consider, right? Well, for your Agent Wish List, you should also search for what those agents are actively seeking the moment you're about to start querying. Why? Let's say you completed Step One and found an agent who reps MG fantasy, which is the genre your manuscript falls into. Sweet! But what if you stumbled upon an interview with that agent and he/she said they're sick of dragons? And your manuscript is about a country boy who wakes up one fine morning and learns he must save the last... dragon? Yep. Back to the drawing board.

This step guarantees two things: a) you can personalize your query and let the agents know you've taken the time to get to know their specific tastes, not just what they represent; b) you're querying someone who will most likely request your sample pages. Double win. 

3) New agents AND old agents at the same time

It's normal to want to query agents who rep your favorite authors, especially if those authors are NYT Bestsellers or Printz award winners. Older, more experienced agents may have a great sales track record and a bunch of amazing clients, but you can't leave new agents in the dust. Most of the time, those are the ones hungriest for submissions. They'll be more inclined to offer specific feedback on your query/partial/full. Their response times might be a little faster.

My advice? Balance it out. Create an Agent Wish List with the same amount of new and old agents. Like, if your Wish List has eight agents, four should be new, four should be older. 

4) Online presence

For the purposes of this post, online presence should not be confused with blogging or Tweeting--it's about finding what you can about agents, and seeing whether you two would be a good fit. Sometimes non-blogging/Tweeting agents do a bazillion interviews instead, or even just one. Sometimes they participate in workshops and writers who attend later blog about their experiences (what they learned, how they think it'll help them improve, etc.). Sometimes the agents' clients will rave about their editorial skills, or how much they believe in their manuscripts. And sometimes those agents do guest posts on writing/industry blogs. The point? Don't think Blogger/Wordpress/Twitter are all the options you have! There are other ways for you to get know agents and their tastes, so make sure you go all out and don't shun those who steer clear of the obvious social media outlets

So there you have it, folks. My tips on crafting your Agent Wish List. Hope it helps!!

Now tell me: is there anything else you take into consideration? Let me know so I can add it to the list!


  1. Those are great! I ask around too, just to hear people's experiences. I also check books that I read and like and see if the author mentions their agent. If I read a lot of books that an agent likes, chances are they might like my style too. So I will add them to the list. :)

  2. So much to know!!! I'm working with a small publishing house but also thinking about snaggnig an agent. It's hard to know what path is right for you and what isn't. Does one every full know the wrong or right path? How big of a chance do you take?

    Oh the questions that come with querying... this is great!

  3. These are awesome suggestions for creating an Agent Wish List. I also like to look up who the agent already represents and read some of those authors if at all possible. That way I get a good idea of what blows them away. Also, I like it when I can find lil' gems of personal info about an agent that I can relate to. Then I know we'll have something to talk about :D Great post!

  4. Awesome post :) I also narrow my list down by sub-genre. So, if my book is a historical romantic suspense, my top pick agents rep all three of those genres. My second pick agents might only rep two of them (maybe historicals and suspense but not romance) and my third picks only rep one (like romance, but they don't specifically list historicals, etc).

  5. Great tips! This is definitely how I narrowed down my agent hunt when I was in the querying trenches. :)

  6. Great suggestions. I've been querying both "old" and new agents. You never know when today's new agent becomes tomorrow's superagent that everyone wants to be repped by.

    Michelle had awesome advice. I've had great success with agents who rep YA, romance, and thrillers/suspense.

  7. This is great advice. Though, I also found when querying my last MS that agents often surprised me. Agents I felt were perfect for my MS rejected, and agents I worried were a long shot have my full. So I would say that if an agent interests you and has great credentials in your genre, send the query! :)

  8. Great advice. Pretty much sounds like the way I research and query. And quite a few times I've added an agent to the list after reading a book, thoroughly loving it, and wanting to know who their agent was!

  9. Aww, thanks for the shout out, Amparo! These are awesome tips! I'm going to be so much more organized next time I query. I never thought of making a list balanced between old and new agents. Smart!

  10. I thought the appropriate answer was "A Pulse".

    Seriously, I think having an on-line presence is crucial. You want them to have the tools to promote their authors too.

  11. Given the books that they represent, I usually check those out at the bookstore or Amazon and read a few pages etc. Sometimes I realize that even though it may be the same genre, they will not like what I have to write by reading what they represent. I also think having e-query is one thing I look for, sounds weird, but if they haven't hit the digital age, I'm kind of concerned. If they have email accounts but don't accept them, that's different. If they say they hate computers...NO WAY! Having an online presence is great and think that makes a difference for me. I feel shy around older, experience agents, so I actually prefer new ones looking to expand and get out there : )

  12. This is the perfect post for me right now, as I am developing my "list" as we speak. I agree with all of these tips. As a picture book writer, I would also add that some agents who rep PBs only want author/illustrators. If you are only one or the other, best put your focus on agents that rep writers only or illustrators only.

    By the way, I totally agree with Bekah. If they don't take queries by email, I don't query them. I just figure that as everything goes more and more electronic and high tech, I don't want an agent that won't even take submissions electronically. Besides, email is so much more efficient (and environmental) than snail mail.

  13. Thanks for all your comments!! I think Agent Wish Lists vary from person to person, so it's great to see what works in a general sense. Best of luck with your agent hunt!!


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