Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Query Question: prioritizing agent choice by publishers sales

I've been checking where agents have gotten their clients published. Should I be concerned if I don't see any larger publishers or publishers on my wish list? I wonder if maybe the books the agents were shopping weren't of interest to the larger ones or maybe the agents didn't have the right contacts with them. Is it advisable to still query them, then if I get 'the call' inquire about such things and make a decisions from there?
You're operating from an incomplete data base, no matter how carefully you research agents.

Not all deals are reported. Not all books have acknowledgements. Not all agents list all deals on their website or blog.  (I myself am WOEFULLY behind on posting deals for example.)

You're also operating from a limited knowledge base about publishers.  There is a lot of information about publishers you'll never see in public forum, and I wouldn't tell you unless you were a client and we were reviewing the submission data base.

In other words, you don't know enough to start culling agents at this point.

Query widely.

When you get an offer of representation, be forthright with your agent about what you want and then LISTEN to her/him when she gives you some info that might change your mind.


Julie said...

I've wondered the same thing, actually. I know we are supposed to query widely, but other than genre guidelines and trying to scope out the "feel and tone" of an agent for a good match based on their site (and making sure there aren't any glaring editing or spelling errors and it isn't clearly offputting to the very clients they're trying to draw), how does one start? You have to assemble a list somehow.

Julie said...

(Hey, I did it! Beat the crowd and the schoolbus both!)

Kitty said...

Congrats, Julia!

Sam Hawke said...

Julia - do you use Query Tracker? It's pretty great for sorting. You can make a list of people who rep your genre (and, if relevant, any other genres you might want to write in the future) and then prioritise from there. I know it can be tough to find criteria to do it on. I tended to focus on people who repped authors I really like as my starting point.

Unknown said...

Researching Agents. This question segues into something I've been thinking about since the Week in Review (WIR.) Janet answered a question I had about making sure an agent wouldn't leave their job for something else + one way she suggested was to see if they "wanted to be something else..." such as a writer.

What gives pause is time; writers + Agents consume a lot of it. Are there any writers out there who have agents who double as published writers? How's it going? What's your take? (Thank you.)

Anonymous said...

MB, you took the words out of my mouth, or perhaps the thoughts out of my brain?

I actually found a few agents in this category and chose not to query them for that reason. And I queried widely. I sent emails to agents I really liked who don't even rep my genre on the off chance my information might not be up to date.

And congrats Julia! Way to beat the early risers to the punch (or late sleepers depending on the timezone).

Also, what is one to do when they are a robot (a cyborg perhaps) and cannot in good conscience click on the "I'm not a robot" reCaptcha? What if lying is not in their programming?

maybe this recaptcha is wayyyyyy smarter than we thought...

S.D.King said...

We all know that Janet has a time-consuming second job (babysitting this group). She seems to handle it OK.

Had a full requested and then rejected by John Cusick, who is an author and agent. He appears to be doing a good job at both.

Sushi captcha today with blurry pics.

Jamie Kress said...

I'm not an agent/writer personally, but I know of at least one, Lucienne Diver (I may have massacred that spelling), who does both, and she has talked about it from time to time on her blog and at a website called Magical Words. Makes for some interesting reading.

Colin Smith said...

Julia: I'll second the Query Tracker recommendation. The basic service is free, and for a small (monthly?) fee you get extra bells and whistles. For helping you research agents, and keep track of who you've queried, when, and what the response was, it's a cool tool. :)

I do look at an agent's deal list, as well as any client lists. This isn't a deal breaker, as I weigh this with other factors. If they're a new agent, I'd be more concerned with whether they're with a bigger agency so they have that support as they gain experience, or if they're going it alone. I wouldn't expect a long list of credits to their name.

Indeed, I'd be more concerned about the agent-author situation. That smells to me like conflict of interest. If they write sci-fi and you write sci-fi, would you not be competing with them? Could that agent submit your ms as well as their own to the same publisher, knowing that publisher would have to choose? Eeek. The potential moral dilemmas in this situation make me shudder! Beside the fact, we know how much time and effort it takes to write an novel, and we know that agenting is a 48/7 job. One of those ventures will suffer if you try to do both.

Just my thoughts... :)

Julie said...

@Brian & Kitty - Yup, the confetti fell all over the apartment this morning, and now I'm vacuuming it up before packing for the library! :)

@Sam - Yup, I do. I know all the tricksies. The problem comes when one is so bloody OCD that the homemade spreadsheets start groaning and asking, "Really, Julie? I mean, seriously? Do you not have enough data in here already?"

Which is why I asked. What's relevant and what isn't, and how do we choose? Because frankly, I was using those "Recent Deals" posts as one of my dividing lines.

(Along with other things like whether there was evidence of amusing and intelligent life forms at the firm...)

And did anyone else notice a repeat of "The Call?"

Tell ya what, I'm filing for rights RIGHT NOW.

And starting initial thoughts on my next book. "The Call," featuring this scary yet dedicated Literary Agent with a "Badda-Bing" personality and a slightly manic edge. The trouble comes when a rabid pack of Woodland Creatures infiltrate her Manhattan office one evening and chew through the wiring and filing, disrupting her hard copy *and* her online data; but what they DON'T know is that one of them was slated to be the next one to receive...

bum bum buuuuum....



Stayed-Up-Too-Late-Writing-And-Reading-Louise-Penny Fish

Oh, Lord. Captcha's gonna feed me again today. Sandwiches = Feed #1. That's one for sandwiches. Let's keep track.

Susan Bonifant said...

I went to Publisher's Marketplace and sorted agents by deals published. Then I fell in the rabbit hole of arguments for and against big and small agents, local and faraway ones, new or established until I couldn't think straight and had to make some cat toys for Gus to clear my head.

I'm culling out more than in now; if the agent doesn't haven't a website, or if the "about me" photo is a selfie of a guy in a bar, I move them down the list.

Also, OP, you said "the call." I'm telling.

Anonymous said...


"What gives pause is time; writers + Agents consume a lot of it. Are there any writers out there who have agents who double as published writers? How's it going? What's your take? (Thank you.)"

I've taken some agents off the list because they are actively pursuing writing careers. Their clients seem to be happy, but I've noticed enough, "This agent is now focusing on their writing career and is closed" notices to make me cautious. Glory to them, but I don't want to go through this process again if I don't have to.

I have a hard enough time finding agents who rep epic fantasy I write without thinning the herd further.

Sam Hawke said...

Lol, Julia, I'm with you on the spreadsheet woes. I have QT plus my own spreadsheet, and I would rather run nude around the block right now than think seriously about how much time I have spent on these two resources.

Upgrading to the paid QT is a whole new level once you start submitting (it's $25/year, I think). Now you can see beautiful graphs showing you when everyone queried the agent you're looking at, how long they took to request, how long they took to get back on fulls, what order they answered in... SO MUCH DELICIOUS TIME WASTIN'.

Unknown said...

My thoughts echoed--to those who made comment on the writer-agent conundrum--because it feels more like encroachment and conflict of interest. They may be doing a fine job now but what if their book takes off? (Goodbye agent.)

Julie said...

@Sam - I'm nothing if not an end-game planner. Case in point, I'm here, fully and in the flesh, and you're all probably going, "Good Lord, woman, shut UP!" But. This after two years' time invested reading the archives on both blogs and watching the comments and making sure it was a decent teaching site and worth the time and effort and I wasn't going to get my proverbial leg bitten off by Mama Shark.

Honestly, the way I work, one would think I plan to be two hundred and fifty - I invested forty years of my life in pediatrics & neuroradiology before I finally threw in the towel and said "You people are going to kill me if I don't find something else to care about." And so here I am.

Point being, you bet I paid the $25 bucks. AQ Connect, Query Tracker, Writer's Digest... Good Grief, I even have librarian contacts at the bloody British Museum and libraries in Edinburgh and Cambridge (UK), because all they care about is learning, not privacy rights, so getting journal access and researching information is so much easier.

My issue is when it comes time to "Fish or Cut Bait." (See what I did there?) Because that's when we turn "Long Game" into "End Game," which is when I get nervous because then control of things moves from my hands to someone else's (like... my MS (Manuscript) moves from my thumbdrive to Agent Supernova's inbox), and I'm saying, "This is the best I can do; now it's up to you."

My brother once said, there's one thing you can never say in all honesty, and that is: "I did the absolute best I could do."

He's right, but there's a point at which continuing to eat at that can drive you crazy - how many more Agents should I investigate? How many letters should I send in this first wave? How many more edits should I do? And for the love of Mike, WHAT REALLY MATTERS?

Because, you know, I WON'T live to be two hundred and fifty.

So thank God for Mama Shark. :)

Swell Shark

Captcha Bread #1, Food #2 (for me)

Dena Pawling said...

A lady I've worked with for years and years just gave notice yesterday that she was retiring. Now, she's in her 60s so that wasn't a huge surprise, but it was still a surprise and I'm definitely gonna miss her. And I'm jealous that she can retire and I can't.

No one really knows what life will throw at us. Sure, an agent might also write and do so well s/he will leave agenting and live like the rest of us woodland creatures. But the agent might also (1) have a baby and decide to stay home, (2) have a really sick child and decide to stay home, (3) have an elderly parent and decide to stay home, (4) burn out of agenting for one of myriad reasons and change careers, (5) retire. The author might also do any of those things.

I would be a little cautious if my agent also wrote in my same genre, but I wonder if that begs the question, are writer-agents like lawyers, in the way that a lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client? Surely the objectivity wouldn't be there. Or do writer-agents have their own agent, maybe someone else from their agency or a different agency entirely?

And NOT that I would want to be querying again, but unless my agent had me on her fecal roster, I would think it would only be a good thing to include in the author bio part of the query that “I was previously represented by Agent X, who has retired from the business.” All the agents I would be querying would presumably already know that Agent X had retired, and it would show that my writing was good enough that I had previously had an agent.

Regarding the original question, based on the research I've done, there are both pros and cons to being with a large publisher. My name isn't Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Janet Evanovich or Nora Roberts, and I really don't know if maybe a mid-size or smaller publisher would actually be better for me and my manuscripts. That's one of the many reasons I'd really like an agent for this process.

[All I ever do is check the box attesting that I am not a robot. I feel deprived.]

Unknown said...

Dena, I think the difference is that while unexpected things happen, the agent-writer is stated. It's just one of those things that make me pause. Not a huge thing, but still, there.

Colin Smith said...

Dena: I think without exception every agent-author I've seen has a literary agent, usually with a different agency. That might mitigate against some of the "conflict" issues... but does it really? The agent-author is already an industry insider, so s/he has contacts and relationships that his/her client doesn't have. Would they be calling on those relationships as much for their client's work in the same genre as they would their own? I would like to think they would, but the temptation to be biased in one's own favor would be strong. And even if the agent played fair, they are laying themselves open to distrust and accusation should their own book sell and their client's book not. And that doesn't make for a healthy agent-client relationship. It's certainly a situation I would avoid.

Colin Smith said...

But Colin, aren't you assuming the agent would write the same genre?

Colin Smith said...

Colin: There's a good chance they would write the same genre as their clients. After all, writers tend to write what they read, and agents tend to read in the genres they represent. Ergo, they would write what they would represent.

Now go back to your kale and lima beans you silly boy!

Unknown said...

Not sure I see the conflict of interest aspect of a writer agent. If they sell your book you both win. I suppose the sales of a clients book might (and this is really a stretch, because I typically think the sale of one good book leads to the sale of ten others) cannibalize sales of their book, but then they probably wouldn't represent you.

Colin Smith said...

Rob: As I understand it, one of the criteria publishers look at before deciding to buy a novel is whether they have competing titles in their catalog--especially within the last few years, or about to come out. If the agent's book sells to SohoCrime, I believe that pretty much rules out client's competing novel from being bought by SohoCrime--at least in the near future. Publishers like variety in their catalog. Again, that's my understanding. Janet will correct me, I'm sure. :)

Colin Smith said...

Rob: Oh, and when you said, "but then they probably wouldn't represent you"--that to me is a major issue. In this instance the agent is not choosing representation on the merits of your work, and/or the saleability of your novel, but on the fact that it competes with his/her work. That's a big red flag to me and a good example of conflict of interest.

Dena Pawling said...

Colin -

“The agent-author is already an industry insider, so s/he has contacts and relationships that his/her client doesn't have. Would they be calling on those relationships as much for their client's work in the same genre as they would their own?”

That's one of the many reasons why I want an agent - for the agent's contacts and relationships. More power to him/her for also using those contacts and relationships for his/her [this is annoying, let's just use HER because it's more typical] own manuscript.

“I would like to think they would, but the temptation to be biased in one's own favor would be strong. And even if the agent played fair, they are laying themselves open to distrust and accusation should their own book sell and their client's book not. And that doesn't make for a healthy agent-client relationship.”

I can definitely see the possibility of accusations and distrust if her book sold and mine didn't. But if both manuscripts end up in front of an editor/publisher, I would tend to think that her book was just better than mine, or fit that publisher's list better for that period of time, etc. I think it would make me very uncomfortable if I was the AGENT, but not so much as the writer. Maybe that's just because I'm still a newbie at this writing gig, and I'm on the downhill side of over-the-hill, but that's my current take on things. Definitely a topic to discuss if/when I get “the call” [yes, I used that term. So sue me.] But I wouldn't use it up front to make a decision on who to query in the first place. I would hope that writer-agents were sufficiently professional that they would self-select who NOT to offer rep, if that writer wrote similar to what she wrote.

Or maybe I'm just the deluded eternal optimist. =)

Adib Khorram said...

My number one tool for finding agents to query has been reading books by their clients. There are agents I had never heard of that went onto my list after reading a great book; and there are agents I had on my list that I took off after reading a book that I really didn't connect with.

Incidentally, I reject the notion that BREAD is the same thing as PASTRIES. I guess that makes me a robot.

Colin Smith said...

Dena: I too would hope that the agent would act ethically. But we are but woodland creatures. And if agent's book sells, and our book doesn't, that woodland creature feeling can't help but rear its head. I don't want to enter into a situation where I could for one moment question the integrity of my agent like that. Trust is such a key part of this agent-client relationship, that I want to avoid anything that COULD cause me to doubt that trust.

Elissa M said...

Maybe I'm dense, but I don't pay much attention to what publishers an agent makes her sales.

When researching an agent, I make a list of her clients' books. I go to the bookstore and see if the books are on the shelves. I examine the books and buy the ones that look interesting to me. (I can't tell you how many great reads I've found this way.) If I I like the books, that agent goes on my list of agents to query.

It's pretty simple, really. A good agent will have clients whose books are easy to find and purchase. Otherwise, what's the point?

Julie said...

Um - Not so random question - Mama Megalodon has mentioned PW (Publisher's Weekly) repeatedly in both blogs. As an author, is this something worth dropping our Single Income into (i.e. Entering Conflict Mode With Home Finance Manager)? Or is periodic scanning sufficient to know what's out there and adjust aim accordingly?

And @Adib, I assume that means we're at Bread Count #2?


Captcha Food #3, Steak #1. Looks like Captcha's gonna feed me again today.

Colin Smith said...

Elissa: Nothing wrong with your approach at all. But after reading stories of agents that burn out, or quit agenting after a few years, or any number of reasons why you might one day get a call/email saying, "Sorry, Elissa, but I've decided to quit being a literary agent. Good luck finding another agent!" Looking at the agent's sales record, what kind of support she has at her agency, etc. can be indicators of problems down the road. Not guarantees, of course, but potential issues.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Aw man, my heart just dropped and I thought "I'm supposed to pay attention to which publisher they've made sales with too?!" But no, Ms. Reid says no. Thank goodness.

I confess, I'm starting to think of Janet less as Madame Sharque and a bit more like the Good Fairy in the kids' song "Little Bunny Foo Foo."

"Now down came the Good Fairy, and she said: 'little bunny foo foo I don't want to see you gathering all these worries and losing sleep at night"

(or something. A poet I ain't.)

Colin Smith said...

And that reply to Elissa needs to be edited, but I'm not going to do it. I'm going to let it stand in all its rawness to show the world that I can walk out into the world with my underpants on my head and mismatched socks just like anyone else! :D

Colin Smith said...

Hey, LynnRodz, Christine, Craig! Hurry, we need to prepare a cave for Jennifer. She just called Janet a "Good Fairy" and claimed that the fearsome, mighty QOTKU is best buds with Little Bunny Foo Foo!!

We have until Sunday. Has Gnarltoe the Insurance-Seller been evicted yet? Do we need to call Dena?

Julie said...

HA! First of all, how come (don't answer that) I didn't know you could edit comments? All of last bleeping Monday would've been edited. Good grief.

And second of all, Queen Carcharodon, I think, has a longer fuse than that. Or perhaps Foose. :D (Why do I get the feeling that I'm tempting the Fuse Fates here?)

On the other hand, turning her into a Bunny's Good Fairy does sort of imply that she's a Woodland Creature, if in an Elevated Form.


Maybe she's a Vorpal Bunny.

Cook! Where's My Hasenpfeffer?!

(Cue Captcha...)

Pasta #1, Food #3, with some weird nurse cake. Really, y'all, you need to see CakeWrecks. (See? I do shamelessly flaunt awesome websites such as this very one on other awesome websites.)

Colin Smith said...

Julia: I use the term "edit" loosely here. When vommenting on blogger, "edit" means delete-and-rewrite. :)

And QOTKU has a reputation to maintain. It's a testimony to her magnanimity (no, I'm not saying she's fat) that she would extend her advice to the woodland creatures, knowing how some may infer from this that her teeth are less than razor sharp. A line must be drawn--and Bunny Foo Foo may just be on the wrong side of it. :)

Karen McCoy said...

To the three heads of Colin: I know of at least two authors with writer-agents who are extremely happy with them. One I interviewed on my blog recently even said her agent clued her in to the picture book market (the agent wrote her own picture books first).

Each situation has its own set of nuances. I'd say wait until "the call" to consider whether you want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

ReCAPTCHA is giving me all carbs today--bread and pasta.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

My 2 cents worth as I enter this fray that you all are mulling over. Wouldn't an agent/writer WANT the stories she represents to succeed just as much as her own?

I mean, how many authors get rich off of the advances or royalties of their novels? Some but not that many.

well! It's numbers in recaptcha today for me.

And now back to writing.

Colin Smith said...

Karen: There are also people who smoke, drink, eat fast food, never exercise, and live to 100. But I wouldn't recommend that lifestyle. :)

Colin Smith said...

Lisa: I would hope she would too. The wife would want to believe that her husband spending every evening on business of some kind alone with other women is all above-board. Yes she trusts him. But the call to say he'll be late, the slightest hint of perfume on his shirt, or the stray blonde hair on his jacket can't fail to stir her doubts, no matter how unfounded they might be. The wise husband would take precautions to ensure his wife, and her gossipy friends, have no reason to doubt his integrity.

You would be suspicious of such a man because you know (either personally or anecdotally) of men who have cheated on their wives under the guise of a business relationship with another woman. Likewise, I have read of agents who quit agenting because they wanted to pursue their writing career.

I'm not saying an agent can't also be an author. I am saying it's an emotional and ethical minefield I certainly wouldn't want to step foot in.

Unknown said...

Karen, that's an interesting thread to this discussion. The reason I brought it up in the first place, was about time. I'm assuming an agent-writer will professionally carry out her duties and look to the success of her clients (which of course, will benefit herself.) It's the time-thing that keeps tripping me up. Doesn't a writer need to do a good deal of self-promotion? Doesn't a writer always look to the next book to write? All other issues aside, that in itself, makes me wonder about this duo-profession. After awhile it sounds like an opportunity for burn-out or choosing one over the other.

Colin Smith said...

MB: That too--a very important consideration.

Julie said...

MB - you got me all excited with the "interesting thread" thing. I thought we were going after Colin's three hydra/Cerberus/Medusa heads. Alas.

Nevertheless, onto the meat of it (although, like Karen, I seem to be getting lots of carbs - what is that, now, 3 definite pastas and 4 definite carbs? Hm.), merely checking in here and FB stretches my writing past limit, and adding in the mandatory 2 hours' reading has made me sleep-deprived and migrainy (Yes, that's a word, I just made it up). I can't imagine trying to Agent on top of that. (Well. I can imagine it. I could even write about it - see? I simply couldn't do it.)

But then again, I have no Magical Abilities.

Spaceman Spiffish

Steak #2 Food #4

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Hey, judging from the Pinterest board, Carkoon is my kinda place. The right kind of exile, with or without Lovecraftian flavor.

And anyway. The Good Fairy scolds Little Bunny Foo Foo. I don't think The Good Fairy herself is a woodland creature, unless she transcended from that state at some point. I don't think any of the literature gets into the niceties of that.

Donnaeve said...

I pondered whether to even jump into the "fray" at this point.

Forty comments already and counting, and it's only lunch time. Again, I've only skimmed, but as to the whole agent/writer thingy, it wouldn't bother me to sign with an agent who writes. I know of only one at the moment who seems to manage both aspects of her career choices quite well. (Betsy Lerner) And that's how I would see it, I suppose. That the agent is able to separate the two, and when they wear their agent hat, they advocate for clients, and when they wear the writer hat, they are like us. Except with a few insider tricks up their sleeves. The other thing that comes to mind is how vulnerable they are. Writing, I mean. They are putting themselves out there, to their peers, no less. Very brave.

Christina Seine said...

I am a bleary-eyed woodland creature this morning. My littlest one is sick, which of course meant no sleep for mom last night. And also, what is it about freshly laundered sheets that causes vomiting? And also, whose genius idea was it to put red dye in kids' liquid Tylenol?

@ Julia and Sam, I am definitely with you on the spreadsheets. I adore spreadsheets. Couldn't live without them.

I too noticed the phrase "the call," and for some reason it now reminds me of a Stephen King title.

Sometimes I listen to my kids talk around the dinner table making their plans for the future and think of us woodland creatures ...

Oldest son: Well when I grow up, I'm going to drive a Lamborghini.

Mom: Sure you will, honey.

Youngest son: Well when *I* grow up, I am going to have a limousine, with a driver who knows kung fu and parkour. And it will have an ice cream bar and a button you can push and Nerds (candy) come out. And a thing to rub my feet.

Mom: Ooh, I'll have to drive with you often.

Oldest daughter: Stupids, you'll be lucky to drive a beat up old car like mine.

Mom: (takes a bite of food so no one can hear her laughing)

Other daughter: Not me, because by then Mom will have sold a bunch of books and we'll be bazillionaires. And I'll get my Harley. A red one.

Mom: *chokes on food*

Youngest daughter: Mommy are you okay? Can I do the Heimlich on you? I know it, because one time on Power Puff Girls this guy was choking and ...

Youngest boy: Power Puff Girls are stupid.

Youngest girl: YOU'RE stupid.

Oldest daughter: *snaps photo of choking mom with iPhone and posts it to Instagram.*

The point being, sure I *hope* I get a Lamborghini agent, or even a cool yellow Mustang agent, or especially a Dukes of Hazard car agent. But in reality I'll be beyond thrilled with a slightly dinged-up SUV agent that could use a new radio and a good detailing, because I know they'll get me where I need to go.

Karen McCoy said...

MB and Colin: Valid points, both. And you're right. Juggling both takes a special kind of person (much like it takes a special kind of person to teach K-12--something I tried and failed at). Difficult, yes. But impossible? I'm not sure.

Regarding the original topic: it's nice to know that "query widely" is still good advice, and that the publishing iceberg goes deeper than most of us think.

Julia: Glad to have another in the carb club. I got bread yet again. ReCAPTCHA will bloat me before long.

Jennifer: Thanks for the "Little Bunny Foo Foo" reference! Hands down one of my favorite songs.

Anonymous said...

Regarding big vs small publishers:

When I first started writing for publication, I wrote short stories. That was how you got a reputation, I'd read, so you could then sell novels. I'd bought into the school of 'start small, then move up big'.

Then I got some really good advice: Start big. Because if you start with the small publications and get published, you'll never know if you could have sold it to a bigger publication.

This made great sense to me. I think it works for publishers, too. But then, I'm an unpublished writer. I'm completely with Dena: this is one reason I'd like an agent – to help me figure out how and where to start.

Regarding agents 'leaving' for any reason:

From what I've heard from others, these agents will usually be able to transfer their clients to another agent in the same agency - perhaps even their replacement. If you trust your agent, you can probably trust your agency to do the best they can with all their clients.

Choosing an agent on the off-chance they might leave agenting... You could come up with all sorts of ways agents may 'leave the business': another job, a family responsibility, an illness, even death (despite the pickling)... Life happens. With or without warning.

The thing is this: even if you have to look for another agent, you won't be the same writer you were before. With any luck, you'll be published, so you'll have a back list to show future agents (which can be helpful, as seen earlier this week). You'll probably have referrals from your former agent to others they know and trust. You'll have more confidence in yourself and your writing, because you were able to find at least one agent who believed in you.

Rather than worry about what an agent does in their off time, it's more important to find out what they do in their 'on' time. That's what the research is for. When you get 'the Call' (and you can't copyright titles or phrases :P [though I know of a trademark owner that got out of hand - ask if you want that story]) - as Janet said, that's when you find out if you can trust the agent and what the agent will do for you. You could even ask, "If you ever decide to leave agenting for any reason, what would happen to me?"

As for Janet as a Good Fairy:

Umm... I think you've been reading the wrong books. Good Fairies can kick some ass. It's not all waving a wand and making everything pink. If I wanted a Good Fairy to help me, Janet is EXACTLY the kind of Good Fairy I'd look for. Which may be why I'm looking for an agent...

Julia - if you're keeping track, I got soups this time.

Christina Seine said...

Shark Fairy? (lol)

Julie said...

@Woodland Creatures - Is it me, or is it absolutely wonderful how this "place" is like a Woodland Path that meanders around and around, visiting lakes and mountains and streams, occasionally revisiting home but always venturing forth into new and interesting terrain? And that we're all in the old wood-paneled station wagon with Mom at the wheel saying "Don't MAKE me pull this car over!" and one of us carsick in the back and someone else saying "You're on MY side!" and the rest of us all giggling?

Love it.


@Christina - here's how conversations go in MY house.

Me: PLEASE hold it down, I have a migraine, I'm trying to write, and I just wish someone would pith me. [SB If you don't know what that means, please look it up; I'm NOT typing it out here. But do keep reading.]

Thing 1: Pith you? What's that?

Brian (husband): Never mind.

Thing 2: Does it mean to decapitate you?

Brian: Never MIND!

Thing 1: Dismember you?

Me and Brian together: NEVER MIND!!!

Thing 2: Cut your foot off?

Thing 1: Poke your eye out with a hot needle?

Me: Oh, Lord. Forget it. I give up.

Thing 1: It's something even more gruesome, isn't it. It is, Thing 2.

Thing 2: Cool! C'mon, mom, what IS it?

Thing 1: Stick a knife in the back of your head!

Thing 2: Ram you in the knee!

Me: (Covering my face with hands) Can someone get me an ice pack? It seems to be getting worse... And where are my ear buds? Brahms. Brahms fixes everything....

THAT'S how conversations go in MY house.

CAPTCHA me, baby...
Just a checkmark. I feel slightly... abandoned!

REJourneys said...

Sadly could only skim the comments today as my lunch has been shortened by an all day meeting.

Anyway, I see queries like job applications (in a way they are, in a lot of ways they aren't, but just follow me for a bit). I submit to agents or companies I believe I would be a good fit with. They review my submission and if they like me, there will be follow up communication. This is the opportunity to get to know the agent/company better - the things you can't find on the internet so easily.

Your follow up materials/interview are reviewed, then an offer is made (you know "the call"). They like you, you like them enough to have continued this far. Now is the time to find out all the details before you commit to the agent/company. If you think they're a fit, they're a fit. If not, you politely decline.

Anyway, this was a long way to say query widely, then narrow down when it comes to further communication.

P.S. Is a fairy shark a thing? Are they scary like the goblin shark? Are they good in an evil way? The public has a right to know.

P.S.S. In honor of sharks I had to prove my organic form by selecting steak. None of those looked like steak.

Colin Smith said...

bj: Everyone has their criteria for an agent, and each one will determine how they're going to avoid bad agents, or deal with agents that might be too busy with their second job to give you the attention you need, or how concerned they are that an agent might be on the verge of quitting or burning out. But everyone who researches agents, makes lists of agents they want to query, etc., will consider these things. As I said, I certainly consider these potential issues, and maybe give more weight to them than others. Far be it from me to tell anyone else how they should choose their agents to query. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well, I just got home from work and we’re already 48 comments in. I skimmed.

Regarding the OP’s question, it’s a little like a high school senior picking a college by how successful he’s going to be once he graduates. IF, he graduates. You can apply to the schools of your choice, (send a bazillion queries), but they choose you. You can accept the fat envelope if you want but you will never know all the ins and outs of the school any more than you will know the success ratio of your agent or publisher.

Sometimes you just have go with red to-go cups, a bag of ping pong balls and a thirty-rack.

Unknown said...

Before I query an agent I do like to see that they have made at least some sales to medium and large size publishing houses. One thing to keep in mind is that publishers have imprints, which means that Vintage, Knopf and Crown all mean Random House. Pocket is Simon and Schuster. Plume is Penguin, which is also RH these days. So be sure to Google the publisher's name if you aren't sure. Or ask me. Happy to help.

Please don't think my ego is so huge that I'm thinking "Random House or nothing". I don't even HAVE an agent and maybe I never will. But I do have an idea of publishers I'd like to work with and dreaming is free.

I really like Query Tracker for finding names of agents. Literary Rambles has a lot of good links to interviews.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

What Adib said.

Read widely.

Colin, competing titles sound like the biggest problem.

Christina, Love the dinner dialog.

SD, I pitched John Cusick. 5 mins live. I was a disaster and put the m/s aside. Funnily, today I showed the illustrations for the story to some kids. They loved them.

I'm going to make a dummy and take it to the Salon de Livres de Jeunesse in the fall.

If Janet were in a fairy tale I think she would be the Golden Goose. Except the egg comes from her lips. Every word she offers is precious. Golden bubbles from the deep.

She could be a narval.

Now I'll drink some more cranberry juice. The only other thing in the bar I can stomach is Armagnac but it won't help revising until midnight.

Julie said...

But... how do we know with which publishing houses they've got contracts? I mean, yes, I see the positive correlation of "I see the deals on the website; therefore, I know that the deal has been made."

But I think Carcharodon's point was that one cannot similarly make the negative correlation: "I do NOT see the deals on the website and therefore the deals have NOT been made."

Such being the case...

So, here's what I've done, and in the fullness of time, I'll learn what was useful and what was worthless dross.
1) Read, read, read.
2) Find out who Agents those books I like - regardless of genre.
3) Try to establish contact with authors I like - and a VERY few agents, not because I want them as Agents (with one exception who will remain nameless) but because I just think they're cool people, and knowing people who know people is never a bad thing. And, further, you never know who can teach you things - whether they mean to or not.
4) Write. Write. Write. Write some more. Then read what I wrote. Then let it sit. Then read it again and edit it and send it out to my victims - er - betas/editors.
5) THEN I obsess about my spreadsheets and lists and stuff and webcrawl and do blog visiting and such and build up my criteria based on stupid things such as the following.
6) Have I learned about the Agent from any of the above, and does their website clearly, in any way, preclude me from Querying? (i.e., I Don't Do Angels).
7) Do I recognize any of the books or authors on their list?
8) If not, do any of them look remotely interesting?
9) If not, I move on and might come back later.
10) Then I double check with AQ Connect and Query Tracker and all that other Yelp-like stuff.
11) Then I go back and read the Agent bio and see if there's anything in the bio that peaks my interest ("I, too, have a weird and wild life just Like YOURS!").
12) Do they seem like they have a sense of humor?
13) Do they require a synopsis? Because I don't know how to write these yet. Go to the end of the line. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Julie needs to find "Synopsis Shark" before Querying You.
14) And then, if they "Pass," I query with a Query that has a) TRIPLE-CHECKED their name and my contact info and THEIR REQUIREMENTS; b) personalized based on whatever I read or found out in my obsessive web-crawling; and c) is cc'd to me in case something goes wrong, so I can see what I screwed up later on.
15) And EVERY Agent I look up, I add to the Spreadsheet (theoretically), with above data and dates of querying and responses.
16) And then I wait. And spend time here. And write novels in new genres. And read rules about how to write novels in new genres. And miss the main characters in my old novels.


Now, most of that is probably dross. But it's my obsessive, dysfunctional dross, and I'll find out whether it works or not when I either get the Brass Ring or don't.

I will say this.

I have managed a back door in through a genre-specific NYT bestseller who's been a bestseller since the 80's and I'm waiting to hear back on THAT.

Not that I need cardiac meds for that or anything. We'll see.

Going back into hiding now. Really. Just passed 40,000 words and Things Are Getting Serious.

Deep Benthic Lurker

Anonymous said...

One of my posse members is going to Florence, Italy with her 90-year-old mama. She's bringing me back a gorgeous Italian man because I'm special. *preens*

Everyone should have such great crit partners.

Man, I hope he cooks.

Donnaeve said...

Julie, this. *preens.*

Perfect word. I could see you in my head taking your hand and patting your hair with this smug little smile on your face.

Derailment topic.

I don't want to sound preachy, but holy all that is moly,Julie has proven (yet again) that perfect word choices throughout our mss are key to THE CALL. Or, THE EMAIL.

B/c with perfect words, "they" will ALL be hammering on our door - even QOTKU - instead of vice versa.

Nitpick the words. All words. The End.

Okay. I really wanted to see guinea pigs. I've had several when growing up. Patches. Andre. Pierre. I loved them little cavies, I did. Instead? Hamburgers. AGAIN. Le sigh.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: We had a guinea pig. He was a Himalayan guinea pig. We named him Sherpa Tensing. :)

That comment was completely on-topic. Donna's topic. ;)

Donnaeve said...

Colin, it was, right on topic. :)

On the name. Sherpa Tensing? Oh. My. One of my fave thing about guineas? The way they whistle. Patches used to whistle when he heard the cellophane wrapper on the lettuce. We'd give him a piece and he was a happy little piggy. I can still hear him in my head today.

One day I had him outside and put him in the middle of some clover. I was about 7. I went off to play. At the end of the day, I came inside and looked into his cage - and dashed back outside, frantic. Of course you can't call a guinea like a dog, but I was calling him anyway. "Patches! Paaaaaatches!" And there he was, where I'd left him. Still eating clover. He was a bit fat when I picked him up, but otherwise, unharmed. It was a miracle really. No idea how a cat, dog or even a hawk didn't get him. The pig with nine lives I guess.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

"be forthright with your agent about what you want and then LISTEN to her/him when she gives you some info that might change your mind."

I wonder what info would change the mind of an author assuming the writer could hear anything other than ringing in their ears after an agent offered representation.

Something like: You may have to change the ending.

Dena said she keeps a list of questions to ask an agent when the time comes. My list is a blank sheet. Time to change that.

I'd love to own a book by Janet Reid on how to interact with agents in the wild and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Y'all are making me sad. I never had a guinea pig when I was a kid, just two pet pigs named Alvin and Arnold. Though they did do tricks, loved to watch TV, and come when I called them. Does that count?

Karen McCoy said...

Julie: My version of "synopsis shark" is below (though I'm sure there are many other ways to do this):

First 200 words: who character is, inciting event

Next 200 words: Escalating conflict, things getting worse, plot thickening

Last 200: Climax and resolution

Written in present tense, no more than 3 characters named (but you can mention others without naming them (e.g. her mother))

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Sherpa used to squeal--weeeek! weeeek! weeeek! It was actually sort of cute. :) He was a pretty cute GP overall, in fact.

Lance said...

Quote: In other words, you don't know enough to start culling agents at this point.

Query widely. End quote.

Words from The Shark's pectoral keyboard. What else needs to be said?

Christina Seine said...

Side note from the Pit of Despair ... I mean, Carkoon (of course I am now getting what the kiddo has, and it is no fun whatsoever to be sick when you're the mom).

I apologize if anyone's tried to get ahold of me regarding the Carkoon Pinterest board (or anything else - it IS rather suspicious that the Publisher's Clearinghouse people haven't called yet). Sometimes I don't get a chance to read all of the day's comments. Just for future reference, the best way to reach me is to have Hugh Jackman throw chocolate at me until I respond. If that doesn't work (it might take a LONG time, lol) you can always throw lima beans at Colin, too. =) Thanks!

Dena Pawling said...

Here's the lists of questions I have printed and always ready, in case anyone is interested. I don't plan to ask ALL of them, but I've circled the ones that mean the most to me, so I don't forget to ask.

Colin Smith said...

Dena's links:

Anonymous said...

Laura Zats @LZats · Mar 17

Someone please send me a YA about a pool shark. Preferably female. #mswl

Who knew there was a demand for a YA about Sharque Janet Reid?

AJ Blythe said...

Wowzers. 69 comments! Sadly, could only skim them today.

So as I have nothing to contribute to today's discussion, I'm going completely off topic...

Remembering the great advice on what to do in NY if you are ever there, I was wondering if anyone can give similar tips for San Diego? The Hub is there at the moment for work and has the weekend to fill and isn't sure what to do =)

DLM said...

This community means so much to me, but because I prefer not to blather too much, I end up not commenting lately, because there's nothing I can add to the wisdom on display.

Loved the Thing 1 Thing 2 script. And Karen McCoy's 600-word synopsis plan.


Bye. :)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Colin, if you're wearing your underpants on your head, where are you wearing your mismatched socks?