When I started writing, I finished One Night In Bridgeport and sent a few queries out to agents. Probably around 15-20. I got no interest at all, and I gave up on traditional publishing for that story. When I finished Weed Therapy, I tried again, a somewhat halfhearted effort at best. One agent read my query letter and asked for the first ten pages. I sent it to her and got a “no, not what I thought it was” kind of response.
Ever since it’s been indie publishing for me, with not a huge amount of success at finding an audience. Whenever I write, in the back of mind is the question of whether to give traditional publishing another go.
With The Dime, my just completed novel, I’ve decided to do it. The story may have more commercial appeal and potential than other things I’ve done. I mean, it could be marketed as YA fiction, and that’s a huge piece of the marketplace these days.
I plan on putting a lot more effort into it than I did before, and sharing my experience and lessons learned here as I go through the process.
Kevin Brennan, writer and editor extraordinaire, provided me with three resources to do an agent search.
Association of Authorized Representatives
Starting with the Manuscript Wish List database, I’ve spent the last two days putting together a spreadsheet of agents repping YA fiction and trying to identify those that are interested in contemporary, realistic fiction, instead of the fantasy/dystopian/love triangle type of YA fiction.
As other writers point out, this is a daunting task. While there are similarities in the asks for queries, it still feels like each and every agent is different. They vary in what they want submitted. A query letter only. A query letter plus five pages, or ten, or 30. Some want a synopsis. 3-5 paragraphs in length. 1-2 pages in length. Some want an elevator pitch included. Some want social media info. Some don’t even mention it.
Which is why a spreadsheet comes in handy. After going through the Manuscript Wish List, I have 86 agents identified as possibilities. And I haven’t even gone over to the other two databases.
The spreadsheet includes their name, agency, website, email, and submission requirements, and once I send a query, that will be entered, as well as any responses I receive. But first, I need to do a few things.
I need to check the website for each and every agent to make sure they are currently accepting submissions. The database occasionally mentions this, but I have found plenty of agents for whom the database doesn’t indicate they are closed to new submissions — only to go to their website to see that they are closed. First lesson learned — check the websites and don’t rely on a 3rd party database. This goes for each agent’s query requirements. Doublecheck their website!
[Edited to add: another reason to check the agency websites? The number of agents who are no longer at the agency’s identified in the 3rd party databases.]
One thing the websites also frequently state is that they will only accept a query to one of their agents. You cannot send multiple queries to different agents at the same agency. Well, except for one agency, which encouraged multiple queries to their agents. Second lesson learned — check the websites and learn all of the details for each agency and agent. Even within the same agency, there can be differences from agent to agent.
Once I finish up my website research, I’m going to start drafting my query letter. I’m going to start with agents who don’t require a synopsis. As hard as a query letter is to write, I find the synopsis exponentially more difficult. But I will need to develop that at some point also. The reality is that these documents are the most important part of the query process. They are what an agent relies on to make a judgment about your story.
How about you? What have you done in trying to go the traditional publishing route? What lessons did you learn? Did you have any successes?