I don't have the expertise to negotiate the finer points of a contract with a publisher, so I knew I’d need an agent should I ever be offered a book deal. So, I took the methodical approach to finding one.
Firstly, I construct a Top 20 list of names based on my copious notes of research. A great place to start is Agent Query. The site lists a huge number of agents, their genre preferences, some bio information about them/their sales and contact details.
Next, I visited their websites for more information about them, any other agents at the agency, their clients, their sales/deals/books and what services they offered. I scanned their blogs (if they had one) to a "get a feel" for what they were like. I googled their names to see what interviews and other information came up about them. Sometimes I went back several years to see how they'd developed or grown in the business. I checked each out on Query Tracker, Publishers Marketplace & Preditors & Editors.
Essentially I made mini-portfolios on each of them - agent's name, contact details, genres represented, clients, sales, other interesting information - and what each agency had to offer. I made notes on my impressions of them if I'd seen or met them at conferences.
I also drew up a list of what I wanted in an agent. The qualities I felt were important to me, things like communication, passionate about my work, willing to help hands-on with the manuscript rather than just do the “business” side of things, interested in a career rather than just a deal, we had to “connect” and feel comfortable with each other. Based on this list, I prioritised my Top 20 list from "dream agent/agency" on down.
Throughout this year I queried in batches of 5 starting with a mix of the top ten and bottom ten on my Top 20 list - saved my Top 5 for later. I kept another simple database on who I'd queried, with what (eg.QL & 3 chapters, QL & 5pgs etc), and when, then dated when a request or rejection came in, if they requested, what they'd asked for – a partial or a full.
When I received a rejection I made a comment on whether it was a standard rejection, semi-personal or personal with encouraging feedback. In the cases of getting feedback
of any sort I reworked my query letter or made a note that this agent was "interested & made personal comments". This helped me in my second & third cycle of queries when I sent out a query on a new ms. or with the one I originally pitched with only to different agents on that Top 20 lists.
I went through what I call three cycles of queries throughout the year - the first was in January, the next in early May when I found out I was a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart®, then in August after I'd won a Golden Heart®.
Next post I’ll share how I ended with my dream agent and agency!