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Preparing To Start The Process Of Querying Agents

One of the most important things you should do is to research literary agents before deciding whether or not to deal with them. If you get an inexperienced agent, s/he might mean well but may lack the necessary connections to sell your book. There are many times when writers get involved with agents who are not reputable and find out when they have wasted significant amounts of time and possibly money.

Depending on the category/genre your book belongs to, go to a bookshop and find books that are similar to yours. Some genres contain sub-genres. For example, post-apocalyptic science fiction, military science fiction, and alternate history are all sub-genres. Categories also have sub-categories. For instance, the fantasy category has the ‘urban fantasy’ sub-category. Find the novels that are most similar to your novel when you want to compare your work with that of other authors.

The next step is to note the authors, titles of the books, and publishers of books that are most similar to yours. Look at the Acknowledgments section of each book to see if the author mentioned his literary agent. Authors usually acknowledge their agents and give their names and agencies.

When you repeat this process in several bookstores, you should have a list of agents who might accept your book. The next task is to expand the list by finding out if the agents you have listed are reliable. Find out what people are saying about the agents on websites that cross-check information submitted to them by agents. The objective is not only to vet the agents, but also to find out what an agent likes and dislikes. This process will save you time when you start to query agents to avoid sending letters to agents who died, went out of business, or make no sales.

When researching agents, you should be looking for their submission guidelines so that you can make every query letter count. The submission guidelines can be found online on the agents’ websites and from other resources. Make sure you get the right submission guidelines for every agent because if you don’t meet the guidelines when querying agents, there is a good chance that your work will not be considered.

For instance, you will find some agents that say “query only.” These agents want only a query letter and don’t take excerpts or other parts of your manuscript. Some agents say they want query letters with the synopsis and the first chapter of a book; others say “query with first 50 pages.” Whatever the conditions that an agent gives, you must follow them to the letter to avoid your work getting ignored.

You should also keep a log of agents who you want to query in future. This log can be as big as you like but you must prioritize the list and start with the agents most likely to represent you.