Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Anatomy of an Agent Hunt: Researching Agents (Part Two)

So now you have a list, or at least the beginnings of one. That was the easy part. The hard part is determining which of the agents on that list are legitimate and, harder still, which ones you think you’d most like to work with. Fortunately, there are a few websites that will help you accomplish both of these tasks at once.

The truth is, most of the agents listed on the major online databases aren’t (total) hacks. So if you found the name on one of those websites, chances are, it’s all right. But there’s a big difference between a ho-hum agent and an oh-my-gosh-I’d-pee-my-pants-if-she’d-just-request-my-first-page agent.

Step #2: Sift your list. Keep in mind, you’re looking for quality and compatibility now. Here are a few websites that will help.

1) www.aaronline.org This is the official website for the Association of Authors’ Representatives. If agents are members of the AAR, they’re legitimate, period. But there’s still a lot more to consider, such as how active they are at the moment and whether their agenting style corresponds to your needs.

2) Preditors and Editors While every member of the AAR is legitimate, not every legitimate agent is a member of the AAR. That’s where Preditors and Editors comes in. Illegitimate agents are highly publicized here, and those agents with quantifiable sales are also clearly defined (they’re designated with a dollar sign next to their names). Preditors and Editors, however, can be (slightly) behind the times, so if you’re looking for up-to-the-minute information, Publishers Marketplace is probably the best place to find it.

3) www.publishersmarketplace.com I think of this website as sort of the online hub of the publishing industry. A lot of agents have listings here (although Publishers Marketplace isn’t nearly as searchable as the sites I mentioned yesterday), and they also keep a daily log of deals made to respectable publishers. A lot of this information, however, is only available to their paying members, and while I’m sure it’s well worth the money ($20 a month, according to their homepage), I’ve never found occasion to actually register myself. Especially when a lot of writers over at Absolute Write are already members and share this kind of stuff on the message boards.

4) Absolute Write Water Cooler The Absolute Write Water Cooler has a lot more to offer than just background checks, but these forums represent perhaps the best source of free, fresh information and anecdotes from other aspiring authors (and even some published ones). Here you can get a general feel for agents’ sales, response times, querying preferences, and more. In addition, after registering with the website, you can post your own questions and comments on specific agents and get answers and feedback from fellow writers.

Well, that should be enough to get you started. And once again, if anyone has any other suggestions for vetting agents, please post them in the comments section.

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