Monday, March 22, 2010
How much research do you do before submitting to an agent? None you say? You've just lowered your chances of connecting quite a lot. A little research? Well that's a start, but the answer should be as much as you possibly can.
It does absolutely no good to submit your thriller to an agent who is only interested in children's books, or your YA book to someone who only handles nonfiction. You are going to be rejected as fast as they can press a button on the keyboard.
OK, so let's say that the agent's bio says that they handle commercial fiction and you write mysteries. You probably won't get rejected right off, but you still may not have submitted to the right agent.
Let's look at it from the agent's point of view. They probably fill out a questionnaire to help authors understand the categories that they handle. The last thing that they want to do is miss a good book so they make the categories as wide as possible. The more specific agents are on the questionnaire, the more likely that an author may determine that their book doesn't fall into the category that the agent handles, and therefore not submit. The agent misses out on the next big book.
It is true that the book may or may not be in a category that the agent handles at the moment, and maybe the agent realizes that it could be a brand new category. I mean, before Harry Potter, how many agents had YA fantasy as one of their featured categories. I think this happens, but is very rare, so the chances that this happens to your book isn't good.
OK, so back to the budding author. You've looked at the agents bio and realize that they handle fiction, and you are ready to submit your new thriller. Hold on a second. Have you looked at what type of fiction they are most interested in? Some agents will say they are interested in mysteries, thrillers, and commercial fiction, and that's a help, but the best thing to look at is their clients and previous sales.
I was researching an agent for my latest thriller, and his website says that he is interested in fiction, mysteries, thrillers, etc. But when I look at his client list, and the books that he has sold, they are better described as historical fiction, or quirky fiction. I could submit a query to him, and maybe he would take a look at it, but I think the chances of him liking it are slim to nonexistent. It's true I could catch him on a day when he's just read a great thriller, and get lucky, but that's just the point, when the match isn't a one to one, you have to rely more on luck. You are better off picking an agent with a much better match.
Agents don't simply need to like your book, they need to love it. Make sure that your agent loves not only your genre, or type of book, but books like yours as well. If you find books like yours in the bookstores, look at the acknowledgments, or do a web search to find their agent, and submit to them.
Of course it almost goes without saying that before you submit, to make sure that you have the best query letter you can generate, the best synopsis possible, and have edited your novel until it's as good as it can be.
What about you? How do you pick the agents you submit to?