Words are merciless. ~ Oscar Wilde
Hats off to Mr. Wilde, who took his writing seriously.
I’ve started querying again, which means I’m putting in the time again, doing the work again, preparing myself to run the gauntlet once again. It’s what we writers do if we want to find the perfect agent to represent us and our work; if we’re serious about our writing and we are, of course we are. So, how should we do it?
For me, the first step in my research is the website QueryTracker
( https://querytracker.net/ ) Side note: I personally prefer QT to AgentQuery
( http://www.agentquery.com/ ), as I’ve found the former to be more informative and up to date. YMMV, of course.
At QT, I filter my personal agent search: literary, LGBT, thriller/suspense, offbeat/quirky, commercial. Some agents rep one of those genres; some, more than one. Thinking of the novels I’ve written and tend to write, the more of those genres an agent reps, the better it bodes for me.
I have yet to bite bullet and pay for a year of premium QT access, so my inquiry is limited to the comments section, query response times, and clients. If, after checking those stats, the agent seems like a good fit, I check my own query list to make sure they’re not already on it, that I haven’t already baked that potato.
If things still look good, I move on to that agent’s agency website. I read the agent’s bio, read about the agency itself, check out the other agents and the clients they rep, genres, all that jazz. I carefully jot down submission requirements and contact information.
Next, I check Preditors and Editors ( http://pred-ed.com/ ) for both the agent and their agency. If both pass muster (at worst, no raised red flags; at best, P&E’s seal of approval), I check online to learn more about the agent, reading interviews (current is better), blogs, twitter, MSWL ( http://mswishlist.com/ ) , Absolute Write
( http://absolutewrite.com/ ) (the Bewares and Recommendations forum ), etc. Again, I note any relevant information, along with anything else specific to this agent that I think I might need. The more a writer knows about an agent, the more confident she can be about her choice and the more personal she can make her query letter . . . assuming that’s what the agent wants. Be sure to check that. Some do, some don’t.
When I’m satisfied, I draft my email. I type my salutation, paste in the body of my query letter (drafted with a ton of help from the amazing squirrels in Query Letter Hell, over at AW), and personalize the rest.
Then, I check–and double-check–everything. I check the email contact address for the agent, the subject line requirements, my pages and/or the synopsis (if that’s what the agent is asking for). I check the spelling throughout, check the agent’s name again, check every damn thing and then I check it again, because once you hit ‘send’, that’s it.
One more look-see, a deep breath, and . . . yep. After that, it’s back to square one: lather. Rinse. Repeat. . .
* * *
On a writer’s best day, finding the perfect agent can be a tough, tough business. When you carefully research your agent pool, you give yourself the best possible shot. And while it’s true that you’re one of hundreds of writers floating in that proverbial sea of slush, agents are right there with you wading through that stuff, eagerly searching the waters for that one amazing query to pluck; that one amazing manuscript to read and fall in love with. You’ve worked your ass off to create something of value and while chances may be slim, it’s possible that what you’ve written is exactly what your dream agent wants.
So do yourself a favor: do the work. Do everything you can to make it worth their while to read your query. The ball is in your court now.