How I Got My Agent (Part 2: The Prep)
Research, research research the agents you want to contact. Make sure these agents represent your genre, and make sure you follow the agents’ submission guidelines — every agent has a different set of submission requirements.
The fastest way to get a rejection is to query an agent who doesn’t represent your genre or to not follow submission guidelines. And those are such easy mistakes to avoid!
When I started writing YA was when I started building my list of agents to query. Literally, every time I heard of an agent who repped YA, I opened an excel spreadsheet and popped the name, submission guidelines, and links to relevant info in. The day I started querying, I had >150 names. (Yes, I will totally share this list with you if you want!)
Other people swear by Query Tracker or AgentQuery. One resource I swear by is Casey McCormick’s super helpful Agent Spotlight. She lists all the info she can find about an agent, and she adds a new agent once a week. This is an amazing tool and saved me hours of scouring the internet (Thanks, Casey!).
Before I sent my queries, I spent a few days going through all the agents on my list. I picked 10 agents to be my Dream List, 10 to be my B-list, and 10 to be my C-list. My decision was based on a number of things: interviews, other clients’ thoughts, sales listed on Publishers Marketplace, online presence, etc. Keep in mind, that these 30 agents were my top 30 (so the top 1/5th of my list), so everyone I queried was someone I really wanted to work with.
For every single agent I contacted, I gathered all interviews/articles/bios/etc. by or about the person that I could find. This was where Agent Spotlight came in handy! Armed with this information, I tailored each query’s opening line to the fit the agent I was querying.
For example, here is the opening paragraph in the letter I sent Joanna Volpe:
I read in an interview that you seek strong female leads as well as steampunk. As such, I thought you might enjoy my 90,000 word young adult novel, THE SPIRIT-HUNTERS.
I highly recommend starting your query with an explanation of why you’re querying this agent.*** Why?
- It shows you’ve done your research — instantly making you shine in the slush pile.
- It shows you are approaching this query in a professional manner.
- It shows that what you’ve written is actually something the agent is looking for! Right off the bat, the agent knows it’s something he/she’ll be interested in.
***Some agents prefer you to start with the hook, so be sure to read interviews/articles/blogs to find out! If an agent I contacted preferred a hook, then you betcha I started with a hook.
So with my polished letters and my three stacks (dream, B, C), I started sending off my queries! But I’ll talk more about that tomorrow in Query Submissions.
BOTTOM LINE: Hard work pays, and prepping your query is an instant return on your investment. For real: Stephanie Meyer’s freak luck is not the norm.
←Part 1: Parts of a Good Query
November 30, 2010 @ 10:21 am
This series of posts is SO informative, Susan! Thanks so much for sharing.
November 30, 2010 @ 10:23 am
I’m glad it’s so helpful! Thanks, Laura. 🙂 (BTW, I read Hex Hall on Friday… The whole thing. AWESOME.)
November 30, 2010 @ 1:00 pm
This is an awesome post, very helpful!!
November 30, 2010 @ 1:42 pm
Thanks, Angie! I think most people know to do their research, but sometimes it’s brand new. 🙂 I sure didn’t know about it all when I first starting writing… I blush when I think how ignorant I was at the start. 🙂
November 30, 2010 @ 3:05 pm
These posts are so informative! You are way more organized than I am. I have a list of agents I’d love to work with, but the names are just scribbled haphazardly in the back of a notebook.
Krista at Mother.Write.Repeat also does great agent interviews. I’ve learned a lot from her site:
November 30, 2010 @ 3:35 pm
Oooh, great link!
And like I said, I’m totally willing to share my Master List. 😀 I spent so much time building it, and then I barely used it! I only contacted 12 of the 150 agents. 🙁
November 30, 2010 @ 4:05 pm
That’s a good thing! No sad faces!
I would totally love to see the Master List. 🙂
December 4, 2010 @ 5:19 pm
This is one thing I want to spend a lot of time on. It’d be so horrible to miss your chance because you didn’t want to do your homework! Thanks for the tips, and I’m definitely going to check out Agent Spotlight!
December 6, 2010 @ 11:23 pm
Susan! I just saw this and am reading your whole series. I’m so glad Lit Rambles was helpful in your search for representation. Congrats on signing with Joanna. I adore her!
October 7, 2011 @ 2:11 pm
wow I just fell on your blog and I love it already, its so wonderful to see authors be so enthusiastic and helpful this way
October 7, 2011 @ 2:29 pm
Thanks!! I really appreciate your comment. 🙂
May 24, 2013 @ 2:27 am
Your blog is so helpful! Thank you for all your encouragement, and congratulations for your success!
January 21, 2014 @ 9:51 pm
Love your blog… it’s been super helpful in my journey to becoming a published author! I was wondering if you ever shared your list of potential agents on the blog? You mentioned it in the post above, but I didn’t see it anywhere else. Thanks!
January 21, 2014 @ 10:25 pm
I didn’t share on the blog but rather offered it to anyone who emailed me. 🙂 It’s years out of date now, but if you want it, you can email me: susan @ susandennard . com
Rachael A Edwards
December 16, 2017 @ 10:19 am
This is so helpful! Would you be willing to share your spreadsheet with me?