QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, April 29, 2013

Agent Stalking

by Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL


You’ve finished the final edits to your manuscript, and your query has garnered great feedback. Now you’re ready to query.

Or are you?

You’ve identified your initial list of agents you want to query, and they all represent your genre. Except, how do you know if these are the right agents for YOU?

Every year, hundreds of writers land representation with agents. And a year later, many of these professional relationships end. Some writers fire their agents. And some agents, to the surprise of the writer, fire their client. Reasons for these terminated relationships vary. Many could have been avoided with prior research.

So, how do you learn more about your potential dream agent without asking the FBI to do a background search (which they won’t do unless said literary agent is on the FBI’s most wanted list)? You stalk them*. But I don’t mean “stalk” them on Twitter two days before you query them. That’s too late. You need to start several weeks in advance, sooner if possible.

Here’s why.

Two weeks ago, an agent (Agent #1) tweeted that she was interested in New Adult books. She explained what she was specifically looking for. This is great information to know if you’re querying a New Adult novel (or will be), since it’s not mentioned on her website.

Agent #2 read this tweet and responded. He complained that writers are asking him about this category at conferences. It was obvious from his tweet that he has low opinion of the category. Good to know if you’re writing YA (which he represents) and NA books. Now you know not to query him if you want an agent who will represent all your books.

Agent #1 replied and explained that she didn’t get the category, either, but she was willing to check it out.

Red Flag #1

Why would you want an agent who doesn’t “get” your genre? How would she be the best advocate for it? That’s like letting a surgeon who doesn’t “get” the function of your pancreas perform surgery on it. You want someone who not only gets your genre, she understands what criteria readers expect to see.

Now, if you really like this agent, because you’ve “stalked” her for a while, and you decide to query her, the above information is important. If she offers representation, you can ask her what books she’s read in your genre and what she liked about them. If she has only read two, you’ve got a problem. Also, make sure she does understand the genre. For example, if you queried her for your NA novel and she tells you NA is really YA erotica, then you need to keep looking. This is not the right agent for you. She’s clueless about the genre.

Or, you might not care either way and decide to sign with her. But at least you’ve made an informed decision.

Let’s get back to the Twitter conversation between the two agents.

Agent #2 tweeted back that he hoped Agent #1 enjoyed the porn that would now fill her inbox.

Red Flag #2

I have no idea how Agent #1 felt about the condescending tweet, but it upset the individual who emailed me the conversation. It showed a lack of respect toward a colleague in the industry. Plus Agent #2 was miles out of the football stadium when he referred to New Adult stories as porn. What is ironic is that his attitude mirrors those of individuals who try to impose book bans on certain children’s and Young Adult books, and this includes some of his clients' books.

For some writers, the agent’s comments aren’t an issue. But for those individuals who don’t tolerate this level of disrespect and close-mindedness, it’s best to delete him from your list. He might not be the best agent for you, because his tweets could be an indication of how he treats his clients and others in the industry.

If you decide to query him, you would do well to check if any of his clients have left him and find out why. The more you know about the agent before you make a decision to sign with him (should he offer you representation), the more likely your client-agent relationship will be long term.

As you can see from the conversation between the two agents, it’s important to start your agent research early. Otherwise, you’ll miss vital information that could impact you in the long term and have a negative (or positive) effect on your writing career.

Are you following agents through any social media sites? What is your primary reason for doing so?

*Stalking in this sense means the legal kind done through social networking. I’m not referring the kind of stalking that will put you on the NYPD’s radar and land you in jail.

I hope this post is a good reminder why it’s important to filter your thoughts when using social media sites. You don’t want to say something that could damage your reputation. 

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes young adult and new adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog.  


Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, these are good reasons to research agents and not rely on a bucket list of what they're looking for.

For now, I'm mostly reading agent interviews. But at some point, I'll probably skim their twitter feed. I don't have time to stalk them all more closely.

Brandon Ax said...

This was a great read and now that I'm part of twitter these are some things I will be watching out for.

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

Great post. It's important to realize that, while an agent might put out a great shingle, there is still a real person behind it. That's the person who is going to represent your work--and it might not match the description you thought you were querying.

Realize, too, that stalking goes two ways. Always be genuine and professional in your blogs and tweets because sometimes agents stalk writers, too. Be the writer an agent wants to sign.

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

Great post. It's important to realize that, while an agent might put out a great shingle, there is still a real person behind it. That's the person who is going to represent your work--and it might not match the description you thought you were querying.

Realize, too, that stalking goes two ways. Always be genuine and professional in your blogs and tweets because sometimes agents stalk writers, too. Be the writer an agent wants to sign.

Christina Lee said...

This is a good reminder, Stina, that professionalism is key (and goes both ways in a business relationship).

Beth said...

Excellent advice, Stina. Thanks!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Whoa. That was quite a tweet conversation between agents. I'm on Twitter and follow some agents. I see I should spend more time checking them out before I query. I had just planned to look at website info and query tracker, but, thanks to you, Stina, I will take that search even deeper.

Mart Ramirez said...

Yup yup as always great advice, Stina! Twitter can def reveal all kinds of personality and info even when you're not looking. Another great post :-)

Pam Pho said...

Great post! It seems like a lot of NYC doesn't want to admit NA is a thing! I love it. And understand it (as much as one can understand anything.)

Stéphanie Noël said...

Great information. I'm not looking for an agent just yet but it's good to learn about it early.

Michael Di Gesu said...

This is such amazing and VALUABLE advice, Stina.

Thanks for pointing this out. I know I should be doing a LOT more "stalking" before I start another round of queries.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Leigh Ann said...

Definitely awesome advice. Twitter and blogs can't show you all the sides of an agent, but they can show you a lot. Back when I was querying, I accumulated a pretty good-sized list agents to never, ever query, just because their behavior was unprofessional and embarrassing. That kind of thing only intensifies OFF the internet, in my experience.

Good luck to all queriers! It's a wild ride, for sure.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great post Stina. We writers are always told to be careful about what we say on Twitter, and it should be no different for Agents or any other type of professional. Writers use the information in tweets to make better choices about who to approach and why--something agents themselves recommend doing so they aren't wasting their time on queries that are not a fit. So, if an agent knows people are reading tweets for this purpose, they should always take care. Writers, who are the lifeblood of this industry, are paying attention to what is said.

I get that NA is new, and that Agents are catching up to understand what it is and what it is not. It will take time for agents to have a fuller grasp of it and decide if it's something right for their lists. The more information we can share about it, the faster this will happen. :)

That said, equating NA to porn is disrespectful to the writers of that genre. I don't know if it was said as a genuine opinion of NA, or simply an example of not understanding of what NA is. Either way, even if this was said as a joke, I assume the agent is savvy enough with social media to know how writers of NA would take that comment.


D. K. Burrow said...

Great article, Stina. Deciding which agent is right for a writer is really a multi-faceted process.

Thanks for the reminder!

Unknown said...

Heya. Surfed in from Agent #1's blog, where she posted a response. Looks like there might have been some crossed wires/misinterpretation. : )

Adrianne Russell said...

This is great advice. I think querying writers (myself included) are so invested in securing representation that it's easy to forget that it's a two-way street. It's wise to do as much research as possible!

Stephsco said...

I think a lot is left to be proven, and discovered, with New Adult, so an agent wanting to take one on despite being an expert is not a red flag to me. I don't know that many experts on the emerging category exist simply because it is so new. I would personally place more stock on the credibility of the agency and their sales over a few comments on twitter.

Stina said...

True, Stephsco, but if an agent thinks NA is really YA erotica and you don't have sex in yours, you're wasting time querying her. And if you do query her, there's a chance her R&R will require you adding sex scenes. Fine if you're comfortable with. Not so great if the idea of that makes your squirm.