Thursday, August 21, 2008

Agent queries

Got rolling on these today and surprised myself by not getting frustrated to the point of wanting to quit the field altogether. A few things have changed since the last time I did this. One is that there are a lot more resources on the web for finding agents. Between Agent Query and Publisher's Marketplace, I've got a list of 39 agents who do YA SF after just 2 days of research. Last time around, I was struggling to find a dozen, and I got a million rejections from agents saying they only did one or the other and didn't want to see both in one book. Okay, obviously a dozen agents didn't produce a million rejections, but that is how it feels. Agent Query, especially, has better searching capabilities and nice entries by the agencies that let me know whether they're an agency with one SF agent and another doing YA, or one that is actually looking for YA SF.

I am also using these resources more than my own network, which is a little counter-intuitive. The last time I did queries I used everything I knew about my colleagues agents to start my research. However, none of my colleagues do hard SF for teens, so now I'm breaking out of that mold. Granted, I still do hear quite a bit through the grapevine and have found several agents that way.

It also helps to have more free time than I did before. Without the day job, I can sit and read agents' websites in detail and look up interviews they've done to get specifics on exactly what they want in a query letter. All the guides say to do this, but it's incredibly time consuming. Research on one agent can take well over an hour, and it's typical to start a round of submissions with ten agents. That's two hours every evening for a whole work-week, which is more than a lot of working folk can afford. Add on top of that the time it takes to prep the submissions, and it starts to add up to a part-time job.

I got 13 subs out today and that is all I'll do for a couple of weeks. It helps to send them out in bursts, because a landslide of rejections lets you know that you need to change your query letter. I also am grouping them up by what they require in a query package, and that's just so I can keep the format straight in my head and don't drive myself nuts with two different envelope sizes and a million documents open on my computer in one round. It also turns out that, working this way, I end up with several agents I really would love, several I think are great, and a few that I'm not real sure I've heard of in each batch. I don't want to burn through all my favorites at the beginning, only to learn my query is flawed. Nor do I want to leave them until the end.

This'll be the only entry I do about agent subs, unless I land an agent with this novel. I'll blog about that. I'm not going to post my rejections in the reject-o-meter, though. I expect there will be a lot, as this is always a long haul. Like I posted before, a good friend of mine took nine months and queried over forty agents before landing a top notch one who turned around and got her a very respectable deal at a major publishing house. This is an exercise in perseverence. Fortunately, I've got a book I'm willing to stand behind until I query out the entire field.


  1. Good luck on the agents!

    Are you subbing the sequel or a different novel?

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  3. Okay, that didn't sound coherent, let me try that again. I'm subbing the SF novel around, and yes, I will still send it to you.

    I ended up, as I was doing the rewrite, using all of the first round of crits from Critical Mass and then getting a ton of feedback from Trevor, so if the thing's got structural problems at this point, I'm beyond hope as a writer. Given I rewrote the thing after four years, it's been as workshopped as I think any piece can be without getting mangled.

    But I can always use a second pair of eyes on the finishing work. You're always good at spotting scenes that are a little off, characters that could be a little clearer, etc. So if you'd like to read it, you are most welcome to.

    As you can tell from my post, I'm not expecting an agent to snatch it up immediately. This process would be too hard if I held out for that. I mean, if it happens, I won't complain, but as I look at the future I see myself subbing queries on and on and on.