Over the last few weeks there’ve been two pitch events on Twitter. The AMAZING #PitMad hosted by Brenda Drake, and the stellar #SFFPit organized by Dan Koboldt. There’s also been the ongoing battles heating up with the writing contest #QueryKombat.
Hopefully those of you who are participating in these contests are getting a ton of requests! The question that comes next is what do you do with those requests? Do you polish your sub package up all neat and shiny and send right away? I’d say yes ONLY if you’ve done your research first.
Getting a request is an amazing thing. It feels like discovering that “golden ticket” that’ll move you to the head of the slush pile. And while this may seem true, there’s still work to do. Your job at this point is to not blast off an email right away, but go to each individual agent or publisher’s website and do your research. Determine if their list, and what they are looking for, gels with what you are writing. If their sales and distribution chain match your goals.
In thinking about all these things, I thought I’d go back into my archives and share a post from my QUERY 101 series regarding research. This information applies not only to those who have received requests, but those just getting ready to jump into the trenches.
QUERY 101: RESEARCH
Once your query is a masterpiece you think you’re done, right? Wish I could say that’s so, but there’s more work ahead. Now it’s time to figure out who you want to receive that shining gem. But before you can do that, you must do your research.
First, I recommend you have a clear understanding of your category (i.e. is your book Middle Grade or Young Adult?)
Here’s a great post from Writer’s Digest on defining categories: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/writing-for-kids/defining-picture-books-middle-grade-and-young-adult
Next, make sure you’ve determined the correct genre for your work. This is critical to the querying process. Why? Because I’ve heard many agents say they’ve rejected a query because it was labeled wrong and they did not rep. said genre.
For help with determining genre, check out this link from literary agent, Jennifer Laughran: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html
When you have your category and genre clear, you can move on to agent stalking, umm, I mean agent research. While finding someone who takes your category and genre is imperative, you should also research their sales, publishers they’ve sold to, and how long they’ve worked with their clients. In my opinion, when querying an agent, you need to look for someone who wants to invest in your entire career, because of course, you’re going to write more than one book!
So where do you go to research agents?
Here are two websites that will help your process: AgentQuery and QueryTracker. Both will allow you to research by category. From there, you can drill down to see which take your genre. Once you determine this information, I suggest you go to that agent’s website. Many times they may have changed their query guidelines, be closed to queries, or revamped their wish list. You can also check out writing communities like AbsoluteWrite & AgentQueryConnect for writer feedback on agents. I’d also suggest dropping by the #MSWL website this Thursday, June 30 (2016) where agents will be dropping in and adding their latest updates!
Note: Research should also be done on publishers if you’re going to submit to them as well. My suggestion here would be to try and reach out to someone who has worked with them and ask about their experience.
Once you’ve determined the right agents for your manuscript, I recommend one additional research step. Google that agent and see if they have a personal blog and/or if they’ve done any interviews. Often times these bits of information can give you additional insight into what the agent wants. It can also help you personalize your query letter to highlight how you and the agent would be a good match.
I know this may seem like a ton of work – IT IS. But doing the legwork prior to querying may save you a lot of heartbreak. Determining which agent is a good fit for you will help with needless querying & rejection. Hopefully, it will connect you with the right person who believes in your work and wants to partner with you to ensure you have a successful career!
Want additional insight into what agents want and reject in queries? I recommend checking out these hashtags on Twitter:
And you can always ask your general publishing questions during #askagent sessions.
As always, I wish you luck on your querying journey. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments!