Project: Agent Research
The cool thing about owning a blog is I can blather on and on about something inconsequential, like researching literary agents for instance, and you can either choose to continue reading and maybe even participate in the conversation by way of comments. Or close my page, never to return to my babbling again.
In either case I don't have to face a friend where I feel obligated to give a 30 second summary or depressingly watch their eyes go glassy as they wonder when I am going to shut up.
If you haven't read Part 2 of the Path to Getting Published series, you may wish to do so before continuing, but I've tried to write them so they can stand on their own.
I have begun the process of searching for an agent. Living vicariously through other people's blogs, but there is nothing quite like trudging through the process firsthand. A friend of mine I met on Twitter, Dee Ann Waite has two great blog entries on the subject:
The Horrifying Journey of Querying
and Are You Really Ready to Publish?
These have served as an excellent platform to jump from.
The second entry had a link to a Research Agents article which had great advice on finding an agent. The second recommendation in this article, Acknowledgments, in the list is where I am starting my search. Here is what they say:
Find out who represents authors you admire, either through the acknowledgments in their books, where agents are often thanked, or simply by Googling their names and words like "agent" or "represented by." If they're open to what your literary heroes are doing, they'll probably be open to your work, too.
Ahhh, sweet! Something to Google! I started with my literary hero: Stephen King. If you're going in, may as well go all in, right?
Google: Stephen King Literary Agent
There are a gazillion hits. Okay, searching....
Doh! Just got sidetracked by an article Ten Tips for Nabbing Yourself a Literary Agent, by Jay Clark. His [first] name is awesome and his article great. It's on setting your frame of mind when you do query, remember you are not a humble villager wishing to appease the great and powerful volcano god literary agent who can squash your dreams with a click of the mouse. You are a professional, by god. Act like you have something they need!
In addition, like in real estate, he points out another important quality in an agent: location, location, location. The presses are in NYC and so should your agent. Someone in Akron, Ohio will not be having a daily lunch date with their connection at Simon and Schuster, because S&S is in New York and your agent is in Ohio.
Jay's article led me to sign up for Agent Query. Create a profile? Check. Validate email? Check. Follow JayPatrickClark on Twitter? Check.
Oy. Google can be such a rabbit hole. Focus. Focus. Back to Stephen. Oh, crap, his literary agent, Ralph Vicinanza died last year. Twenty different sites, lots of clicks and I am getting good information but am no closer to figuring out who his agent(s) is/are.
OCD and years of attention deficit kicking in, time to switch gears. Trying another of my heroes, Dean Koontz.
Google: Dean Koontz Literary Agent
Bam! First link and I have my answer: Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media Group. Shazam! On a roll now! Researching Robert. Okay, so according to his bio, Robert is founder and chairman of Trident. Doesn't look like he is accepting new clients, but Trident has a eleven active agents. They are representing hugely successful authors like Mr. Koontz, but still do a quick check on their location as per Jay Clark's article...Snap! They are in New York. Check.
Looking at their submissions page, you can submit one query to one agent. Time to start my contact spreadsheet. Name, address, phone, company, blah blah blah. Starting with the first agent on their list, Don Fehr and working my way down, looking for what feels like the best fit.
It seems like there are two parts to finding an agent: leg work and instinct. This blog article is mostly about the research part of it. Finding the people. Checking their bonafides. Seeing if they are accepting submissions and if so, what genre and in what format. On and on. But like in writing, there is the other side, the gut reaction to the person. Do they resonate with you? Based on their description of how they work and their philosophy, do you think the two of you will gel? Sure all of this is coming from an unpub, who is just starting the querying process. But I trust my instincts, they almost never lead me wrong. Well, okay except for that time when I was 17 and Ruth and I got locked in the park after hours. But I think that was more hormones than instinct, but I digress.
So that being said, I weeded the list down to four after reading their bios:
Melissa Flashman - What resonated: I am always on the lookout for the novel that makes you want to call in sick," says Melissa. "I'm genre agnostic—it's the story and writing that have to click. I LOVE the phrase "genre agnostic." Even after Googling it not entirely sure what it means, but I love it still.
Alex Glass - What resonated: I enjoyed working with writers even more as a literary agent, helping them through the creative process and making their vision a reality with the publication of their books. I have a passion for the business aspects of publishing.
Ellen Levine - What resonated besides her MASSIVE list of clients: I love to guide my established authors' careers, but I also love discovering fresh talent and new voices, taking authors to the next levels of success. And of course, I get great pleasure in making the best possible deals for all my clients.
Erica Spellman-Silverman - What resonated: First her energy. It's weird, but I could feel this wave of energy coming out of her bio. Read it and tell me I'm wrong. Then there was this: I love great storytelling, and the talented writers who create the books," says Erica. I like being involved at the beginning of the process with the book, or even the idea and helping the writer to bring the work to fruition. Great storytelling is near and dear to my heart.
Okay, so I have four, now what? Now I am going through their list of clients to see whose work is closest to my own.
So first up: Melissa Flashman. In her bio she says categories include pop culture, memoir, wellness, popular science, business and economics, and technology, and based on the first dozen clients, none of whom were in my genre, I'd say this is a very accurate assessment of what she targets. Tons of good stuff, but doesn't seem like the two of us are on the same page.
Before I go on, I feel compelled to point out that about a third of the links to her clients' pages took me to someplace that I really had to dig to get any content. Sometimes it was a blog, sometimes Twitter, other times a random page I couldn't figure out why it was linked to. I don't mind working, but my ADD only gives me a minute or so per link to find useful content read before I move on.
Mental note: make a web page that gives the low down on who and what I'm about as well as links to my work.
Here is a superb example of what to do: http://www.eveadamson.com/. Really, this is awesome. Right off the top I see who she is, what work she's done, contact information, etc. It's simple and to the point.
Next, Alex Glass. I love his links to his clients, including the first one by Eve Adamson I mentioned. Of the first dozen, I got a ton of great information right away, though none quite as good as Eve's. Found several authors who write similarly to myself. Yay! Definitely keeping for round 3!
Going through Ellen Levine's massive list of clients is like pursuing a library and randomly pulling books off the shelf. The first few links for her clients didn't work, but after that so much. Memoirs. Documentaries. How-to. Including several in my genre. Yay!
Oops! Sorry, Alex and Ellen, but we have a winner: Erica Spellman-Silverman. Why? Well, first as I mentioned her bio radiates energy and I am like a moth to the flame for energy. If that's the way she comes across in her written word, what would she be like if I ever actually got to talk to her? Dude. Second, even though a lot of her client links didn't work, I felt compelled to keep going down her list. The reason was simple: at least half the authors had books I wanted to read. They resonated with me.
Three hours later I have the first literary agent on my spreadsheet and an item on my to-do list: create a compelling web site with all my information and links.
Until next time, carry on!