One of the biggest steps a new writer will take on their path to publication is finding an agent to represent their manuscript and/or career. It’s exciting! But it can also be stressful to make such an important decision without a whole lot of information regarding agents available. And without having met someone who will become your business partner before, and sometimes even after, you sign with them.
How do you research agents prior to querying? Or after you’ve queried and have gotten a full request or offer of representation?
Here are five ways you can learn more about an agent before signing with them:
- Look at the agent’s track record
Some agents will have the books they’ve represented on their website or available elsewhere like on Publisher’s Marketplace (though PM is a paid option). If you’re looking for something unpaid, you can also do some research on an agent’s clients (if that list is available) and gather information on their client’s releases. This is a wonderful way to see if your project will fit with the projects they represent. Worth noting, however, that new agents might not necessarily have made a lot of deals. In this case, you can always take a look at the agent’s agency.
- The agent’s agency (especially if they are a new/newer agent, this can be super handy)
Signing with a new agent isn’t a bad thing. There have been many new agents that have excelled in their field in a matter of a couple of years and now have sizable lists and great track records. It might also mean that your project and career will have more attention from an agent that doesn’t have a wide list yet. What you might want to look at is whether or not a new agent who is interested in representing you has the resources, toolkit, and mentorship available to them at their agency. Are they being taught the trade by a senior agent that has experience in your age group and genres? Is the agency that they’re at legitimate, well-known, and without red flags?
- Reach out to current clients or to writer friends
There has been some controversy the past year on whether or not querying writers should reach out to an agent’s clients outside of those an agent connects them with after The Call. Although it’s true that different writers will have different experiences with the same agent, therefore, a writer might critique an agent based on personal business preferences, it’s also important to be as comfortable querying an agent as possible. If this means talking to current clients (respectfully so) or seeing what information is out there about an agent, you are completely within your right to do so.
- Look at QueryTracker
QueryTracker is a paid yearly subscription database that allows you to keep track of the agents you’ve queried and your query status for each. Because it’s a shared database, it also gives you a timeline of responses per agent and lets other writers share their statuses and experiences with you. This is a great way to see how long an agent usually takes to respond, where you might be in their queue, and see if there are any negative notes from other querying writers left regarding the agent.
- Find interviews online
Some agents will participate in cons or panels that are later posted on YouTube or made available online. Seeing an agent and getting to know them on video is at least second best to getting to meet and pitch to them in person. You might also be able to find online interviews that don’t contain videos but will still allow you to learn more about an agent, their style, and what they’re looking for!
It’s important to remember during any pitch event that you don’t have to send your query or manuscript to all the agents who request it. When it comes to choosing representation, remember to go with your gut and to do your due diligence. Only query the agents who you would be happy about getting an offer of representation from. And who you are sure are legitimately in the business. Knowing how to learn about agents prior to querying can help you narrow down your list and make signing with an agent so much less stressful!