Although I did send out material to several agents last year, I think it would be stretching it to call it an agent hunt. Hunt implies an active search and a lot of effort. I printed things off. I made a list of names. I looked into about 20 people and ruled out a lot. But I submitted to or queried very few. I need to make a concerted effort to seek out agents and submit every month.
So what do I look for in an agent?
First things first, I look for someone who represents what I write. I know it sounds a little obvious but a lot of people skip this step altogether judging by the number of agents I see complaining. “I only represent romances, don’t send me picture books.” “I only represent children’s literature. Why do people send me erotica?” Okay, I made up those two examples but you get the point.
I need to find someone who handles materials from picture book to young adult and both fiction and nonfiction. Granted, I’ve sold very little fiction but I’d like to write and sell more. Besides, the hard part is finding someone who is serious about nonfiction.
Second, I need to make sure they are accepting materials right now. If this is an agent that I research in January but she is closed until March, she needs to go back in the March folder.
Third, I need to look at what they represent. I’ve met a lot of agents whom I genuinely liked, and some that I really connected with, whose sales are nothing like what I write. I couldn’t do cute to save myself. I am, at best, your gritty realist and on other days I’m a bit more than gritty. I need an agent with a similar outlook.
As I’m looking into what they represent, I need to make sure they don’t have someone whose work is too similar to my own. After all, that author already has his or her foot in the door.
Today, I have my short list for January (Ed Maxwell, Molly O’Neill, Rena Rossner, Mark Gottlieb, and Clelia Gore). Now I need to look at their clients/books. Next week, I’ll be sending things out. Yes, it is a lot of work but it will be worth it to have someone representing my work.