Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chapter Seven: Using Print or Online Guides

I’m ready to start selecting literary agents to query about representing my Young Adult Mystery. This is an exciting milestone in the journey I began when I typed the opening sentence of my novel onto a blank screen. I’ve written, edited, and rewritten my manuscript uncountable times. Changing a word here or adding a word there, a tendency I have trouble overcoming, isn’t going to make any significant difference in its publishing prospects - it’s time to send it out into the world.

Now that I’m ready to look for agents, I have to choose between doing my agent search in book form or online. The 2011 Writer's Market and 2011 Guide to Literary Agents are on sale now. 2011 Hermann’s Guide to Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents will be available October 1. Generally considered three of the best book guides, each is around $20 on If you go the book route, one should be sufficient. I strongly recommend you take time to check them out at a bookstore or library before you buy because some index agents by name only, not by the kind of material they represent (Romance, Science Fiction, etc.). Skimming through hundreds of agent write-ups looking for one that’s interested in Young Adult zones me out.

Since I don’t have the patience to read through book guides, I'm using online agent databases. The quality, quantity, and scope of these directories are pretty amazing.

Free to use and so easy to navigate, I'm starting with AgentQuery, WritersNet, QueryTracker, and 1000 Literary Agents. These offer a wealth of information about agents, publishing, writing query letters, manuscript formatting, submission protocols, scams, and royalties. Determining which agent handles what type of material is as simple as typing in the genre of my novel. Some provide services to track queries, provide data about agents’ responses, and offer forums for writers to exchange information.

Others sites such as,, and offer similar, sometimes even more, information but require subscriptions. Generally, the fees are quite reasonable and memberships are available by the week or month. I tried in my previous attempt to find an agent and found the key to getting my dollar’s worth was being ready to search when I joined, identifying and making a list of agents who interested me, and canceling my membership as soon as I finished. This time, I'm going with the free directories and keeping the fee-charging ones as back-ups.

Most books and online directories make an effort to vet the agents they list. However, that doesn’t guarantee that a scammer doesn’t slither into the listings so precaution is in order. As I’m selecting my first batch of agents to query, I go to each agent’s website to determine if he/she belongs to AAR as well as to familiarize myself with the agent’s query guidelines and follow them. Sending the wrong kind of material to the wrong agent the wrong way wastes my time. That approach guarantees me a negative response or no response.

I'm going with e-queries because they're so fast and hassle-free. Most agents accept them now and their submission guidelines clearly state if they do. Since most agents specify they want material in the body of the email, don't send attachments unless specifically asked to do so.

The processes of writing/perfecting a query letter and selecting agents to query are time-consuming and slow. As much as I want to rush to the end of this, I need to be deliberate and give this as much thought and research as it takes.

Let’s get published!

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