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marthawells

Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus


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marthawells

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melissajm asked: Has anyone asked about the best way to get an agent yet?

That's something we haven't talked about in a long while. The best way is basically the old-fashioned way: research to find out the agents who represent the sort of things you write, then query those agents. The research part is made a little easier by the fact that more agents now have blogs and websites, which will list the genres they represent, their current clients, and instructions for how to query them, three big things you need to know before you query.

(And you should read Writer Beware's Thumbs Down Agency List. This also lists all the things to avoid, like agents who try to charge you fees, who want to shuttle you off to an associate who will "edit" your manuscript for a fee, who haven't actually ever sold any books. Don't get scammed.)

There are also general writing sites that will have lists of agent names, addresses, and emails. That's a good place to find a list of agents, but it's very important to look them up individually and get as much information as you can. Not every agent represents every genre; sending a query to them for your SF/F novel when they don't represent SF/F is a waste of your time and theirs. Every agency has different guidelines for sending queries, and you need to know what they are so you can follow them exactly. It's sad, but just carefully following the guidelines will put you ahead of a huge number of the other people sending queries.

There are also pay services that will send out queries for you. Don't use those. They're basically spamming hundreds of agents at a time, without following anybody's guidelines, and they aren't worth the money. Nobody likes to be spammed.

There's also this service AgentinBox, where you post your queries and agents will look through them and contact the writers they're interested in. It's a neat idea, but I can see some problems with it. Unless it's policed scrupulously, it's a perfect hunting ground for scam agents who charge fees or people who want to be agents but have never actually sold a book before and don't really know how to go about it. It also looks like one of those things that's going to work brilliantly for a few people and not at all for most of the others. I don't think people should rely solely on it; you also need to do your own research and pick the agents you want to query, so you're more in control of the process.

I know there are also conferences where you can pay a fee to schedule pitch sessions with agents. I've never been to one and don't know much about them, so I don't know how useful they are. It sounds like it's potentially expensive, and again, like something that will work brilliantly for a few people and not at all for everybody else.


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Thanks!

My gut feeling on the paid pitch sessions is much the same as yours. Plus, are we sure these agents are pre-screened to make certain they're *not* fee-charging scammers, or knowledgeless wannabees?

AgentinBox does sound like danger, Will Robinson.

Hmmm... I went and checked them out, and at least the F/SF agents on there are in general from very reputable agencies. I cannot speak for the agencies I've never heard of, and don't really want to take the time to cross-check them against the AAR website when they don't deal in genre anyway, but from the looks of things, your query is not posted openly, but made available only to the agents you choose from the list.

So maybe it's safe after all? (I mean, yes, they say they vet the agents first, but of course, one would want to do said cross-check, and check P&E.)

I used agentquery.com to create an initial list, then checked it against Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors. Then I checked the agent's website, the Background and Bewares board at Absolute Write, and finally I Googled each agent's name along with the word "interview."

It takes time, but it's worth it.

definitely. What I was saying was not that I wouldn't take the time to do such, only that I wasn't going to take the time to experimentally cross-check agents I have no intention of querying. It's a lot of work, yes. It's a lot of pointless work if the agent only represents self-help and non-fiction. I do check up on the genre agents I'm interested in.

Yep, exactly. I think that's a really good way to go about it.

I did a couple of pay agent pitches before I became integrated into the sf community, and while I don't regret it, I also don't think I was at the point in my life where I should have even been looking for an agent. It was a nice ego boost, because agents are inevitably polite, but that's all.
If I want the face to face advantage with agents now, I'm sufficiently comfortable in the con circuit that I'd chat up an agent at a party (without discussing writing) and then mention in a subsequent query letter that it was nice meeting them at the party. (Not that I've done that yet. I'm _almost_ done with a book that's good enough to query!)

Talk about your well-timed question! I was pondering asking this, but felt like I'd just asked a Really Big Question. Thanks!

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