Keeping Track of What’s What: The Agent Search

Looking for agents is NOT a simple task.
(Desk blotter with fountain pen and magnifying glass.)

Anyone who is searching for an agent knows that there is a lot of information involved. In addition to the agent’s name and the agency name, you’ve got what they represent, how they want the material, and so much more.

Yes, this information is online. But there is finding it once and being able to find it again. Even if you bookmark the site and page, you have to hope an update doesn’t shift that detail elsewhere. So what do you do?

In this, the age of webinars, I screen shot slides. Then I paste these shots into a document on that particular agent. This isn’t information that I share, it is simply my way of taking notes. I capture book covers and wish lists.

But when it comes time to compare agents, I need something skimmable that has information on the whole gaggly. I use an Excel spreadsheet. Columns include what they want, whether or not they respond, who they represent, and books they’ve loved.

It seems like an eclectic scattering of information but all of this helps me rank them. If I have two agents who represent nonfiction and picture book authors but only one responds, that agent is now in the lead. If both agents respond but one is only looking for author/illustrators, that person drops in the rankings.

It sounds complex but a lot of it is instinct. When an agent says that they love humorous books but everything they list as “books loved” felt angsty to me, I know this person would be a bad fit. When I realize an agent is a bad fit, I change their font to red. WARNING. They aren’t a bad agent, they are just not a good agent for me. But I keep them in the database so that I remember I’ve researched them.

The best matches? Those are highlighted in green. Get it? They have a green light. Again, it isn’t that they are better in any way other than that I think they are a better fit for me.

Some of my students keep track of agents in a Word document. Others use index cards. Like finding an agent, the key is to find or create a system that is a good match for you.