Before you send out your query to an agent (or publisher), it’s important to do the necessary research to reduce the risk of a rejection.
One of the first places to look is the individual’s website. If the agent doesn’t list your genre/category, he isn’t a good match. Please don’t waste his time (and yours) by querying him. The exception is if you’ve seen on Twitter that the agent is suddenly falling over himself for books in your genre. Then query away.
If you check the Querytracker database and it doesn’t list YA (for example) as a category the agent is looking for, check the raw data for queries sent (found with the Premium membership). If you see people have sent queries for YA and he’s NEVER requested material from any of them, then don’t add yourself to the list. He’s not interested. Get the hint.
The next thing querying writers tend to do is search writer forums for information about agents. These forums are great for giving you feedback as to the expected wait times, and can be super supportive while you wait and wait and wait to hear back from the agent. The downside is that bitterness lingers in some of these forums. People understandably don’t like rejections. But because of the anonymity of these forums, some individuals enjoy spreading bitterness by attacking agents (or publishers). And unfortunately other like-minded individuals do the same thing and start saying things that might not necessarily be true.
If an agent tries to defend himself, the angry folk pull out their pitch forks and add more negative comments, thereby further besmirching the agent’s (or publisher’s) reputation. They figure if the agent really is good, then his clients will stand up for him.
But here’s the deal, his clients are busy with other things. They are waiting for their books on submission. They are writing their next book. They are editing the book sold to a publisher. They are promoting their new release. What they aren’t doing is hanging out on the agent’s forum. They don’t need to anymore. They have an agent. Their dream agent. The agent who is doing more for them than is revealed on these forums. Unfortunately you won’t know this because you only see the negative comments, or the comments that don’t really tell you much, other than writers are still waiting to hear back on their queries.
So what can you do when researching an agent to potentially query? You can look up the agent or publisher on P&E (Preditors & Editors), and you can talk to writers (offline preferably) about their agents. But not all writers are going to be willing to talk to you, unless they know you. All you can do is query the agents who seem like a good choice, based on the interviews you’ve read and their blog posts and tweets. If the agent does offer representation, make sure you ask them lots of questions and talk to some of their clients. You’ll learn more from their clients than you will from the poisonous grapes who leave negative comments on the forums.
And if you are rejected by an agent or publisher, please be professional and keep your negative comments to yourself--unless you have proof that the agent is performing unprofessionally. And in that case, you can fill a complaint with P&E.
Where do you find your research before querying an agent?
Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes Young Adult and New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website. She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance, TELL ME WHEN, will be released Jan. 20, 2014 (Carina Press, HQN).