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How to Research Agents Prior to Querying

How To Research Agents Prior to Querying

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

The Different Types of Agent Responses from Querying

You’ve done it! You’ve sent away your first queries (or are planning to send some soon) and are now patiently (or not so much) refreshing your inbox for any news from agents.

What are some of the responses you might hear back?

Read on for some of the most common.

PASSES

Let’s get the not-so-fun responses out of the way first. You might receive a pass on your query within a few hours, a few days, or even months down the line after sending your pitch to agents. The majority of agents still respond to every query, but some don’t have the bandwidth to do so. Likely these agents will have a timeline posted on their submission guidelines that will let you know how many weeks after you submit to them can you consider their response a pass. Passes at the initial querying level are typically generic, with the agent simply stating that they didn’t fall in love with the project, that the pitch just wasn’t for them, or even that they already have something similar on their list. It’s important to not take passes to heart. Though this is difficult, publishing is a very subjective business. All it takes is one yes, so keep querying!

PASS WITH AN INVITATION TO SUBMIT MORE

There might be times when an agent passes on your manuscript but invites you to submit your next project to them. Or even asks you if there is another project that they can look at from you at the moment. Among the many reasons you should be professional when messaging agents after passes, this is a big one! Agents don’t offer to look at more projects from you unless they’re truly interested. This kind of pass might also keep you motivated to keep writing and working on your next project.

PARTIAL OR FULL REQUESTS

Based on your query and sample pages (if applicable) an agent might ask for a partial of your manuscript, which is usually fifty pages or so, or they might go straight to requesting your full manuscript. It’s a good rule of thumb to include your query letter at the start of the Word document before sending it to agents. And make sure that your manuscript is a standard, 12 pt., black font. A partial might also turn into a full request, so be prepared to send your full manuscript in a timely manner.

REVISE AND RESUBMIT (R&Rs)

You might have heard the term R&R before but haven’t been entirely sure what it means. R&R stands for Revise and Resubmit. This is when an agent passes on but also invites you to revise your manuscript based on their feedback (which could be extensive or a sentence or two) and send your manuscript back to them if you choose to make their changes. An R&R is completely optional! You should definitely believe in the changes being offered before tackling an R&R. If you choose to complete an R&R, it’s also good to keep in mind that it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive an offer of representation, but it is an opportunity to potentially make your manuscript stronger with the feedback from an agent!

REQUESTING A CALL

The most exciting thing that can happen once you’ve sent an agent your full manuscript is hearing that they’re interested in hopping on a call! This might be a phone or video call, the latter of which has become more commonplace since the pandemic started. The Call might be an offer of representation, which the agent might tell you about beforehand, or it could be to discuss changes before offering representation. Rarely, but it does happen, The Call might be a pass with the intent of offering feedback on a more personal level. It’s important to not jump to any conclusions about The Call, but to also be prepared! The Call is as much about you as a writer getting to know a potential agent and interviewing them as it is the other way around. Have questions ready to go, and maybe a celebratory meal planned for the best possible outcome.

Although this isn’t a full list of agent responses you might hear on your querying journey, we hope it has helped prepare you for five of the most common. Whatever responses you receive from agents, remember to celebrate that you have gotten this far. Querying is not an easy road or process, and just having the confidence to send out your work is a major step in becoming a traditionally published writer!

Managing Twitter Pitch Event Expectations

You’ve surely heard that no publishing journey is the same and it’s so true! Some writers will query for the first time, find an agent in days, and land a six-figure deal within a week. Although these are unicorn cases, they’re often the stories we hear most often and daydream about. Meanwhile, the reality is that most published writers will have queried and gone out on submission with multiple projects before finding a home in traditional publishing. Both cases are absolutely okay and can lead to successful writing careers. So much about the publishing industry revolves around managing expectations and doing so for pitch contests isn’t any different than for any other part of the process.

Whether this is your first time participating in a Twitter pitch day or your 10th, here are three realities that might help you manage Twitter pitch event expectations:

  1. You might not receive any likes or retweets. As recent years have gone by, Twitter pitch events have gained momentum and popularity. Although this means that more agents and editors are participating in events, it also means that lots of writers have adopted this as one of their favorite methods of gauging interest from agents/editors prior to sending out queries and pitches for their manuscripts. The most popular pitch events are reaching tens of thousands of posts. This is a lot of writers pitching on an extremely fast-moving thread, especially when the target audience doesn’t have the bandwidth to review all the tweets sent out. TIP: In order to make the most out of your Tweets, schedule them at least an hour apart so they appear at different places in the event thread.
  2. Agents and Editors might react differently to your pitch once they receive your query letter and sample pages. 280 characters is not a lot of room to completely pitch your manuscript, so it’s understandable that agents and editors might react and be more or even less excited once they receive your query letter and sample pages. TIP: Double-check that your pitch matches the content in your query letter, and that your query letter matches the content in your sample pages if applicable. Consistency can be extremely helpful in keeping agents/editors interested in your project based on what they read about it in a Tweet. 
  3. The number of likes/retweets you get on a pitch don’t necessarily matter. This one might seem contradictory; however, the reality is that you can get one like from an agent that amounts to a full request that might turn into an offer of representation, or you might get ten or thirty with the same outcome. Or an adverse outcome. TIP: More than worrying about the number of likes you might get, concentrate on celebrating that you’re putting your manuscript(s) out there and the many ways you can take advantage of a pitch event!

It’s impossible not to think of the possibilities that come with a Twitter pitch event. This might be what leads to you finding the perfect representation or even house for your project, and that’s a big deal. Hopefully these realities of what pitch events can be like, though, help you navigate the realities and what is likely to happen during the event and focus on the most important part of it all: The simple fact that you believe in your manuscript enough to participate is already a win!

Run Little Chaski: A Cover Reveal

Chaskis as drawn by chronist Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala in 1615.

Mariana Llanos, one of the founders of our #LatinxPitch has a new book coming out this year, and the best news is that it releases simultaneously in Spanish and English. Run Little Chaski! An Inka Trail Adventure and ¡Corre Pequeño Chaski! Una aventura en el Camino Inka, illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson, will release May 1st of this year with Barefoot Books. Hear from Mariana Llanos:

I wrote Run Little Chaski late in 2016. After running it through my critique group, working on revisions, and finally feeling like it was “ready”, I decided to begin the submission process. It was last year, and with the help of my new agent, Clelia Gore, that I sold it to Barefoot Books.

The few people who have read the book mention what a novel idea it was to feature these interesting foot-fleeted messengers that delivered messages through the Andes mountains in the times of the Inkas. I feel fortunate I found a publisher committed to diversity, but what people usually don’t realize is that novel ideas set in lands (not to mention times) faraway are a tough sell no matter how original they may seem.

Many publishing houses still puzzle over the idea of producing books set in other cultures. The most common argument is that children in the U.S won’t relate or that the editors themselves can’t relate. I obviously, disagree with this notion. As I have stated before, I grew up reading books set in “other” cultures, but those books still made me dream, laugh, and learn. How do we expect children to open their mind to the world if all they can see is their own reflection?

I learned this when I published my first self-published book in 2013 (Tristan Wolf). In those times I was doing plenty of Skype in the Classroom visits to schools around the world. On the same date I had a visit to a school in Illinois and one in Nigeria. I was a little worried about both visits: would the Illinois children understand my accent? Would the Nigerian children understand my accent?

It turned out they did (as children usually do), but not only that. Those children who were in different continents, separated by a great big ocean, reacted with laughter and surprise to the same parts of the story. Furthermore, their questions were substantially similar. So, my conclusion is, children are children wherever they are. They crave adventure and a well-told story. They recognize universal themes and are excited about learning from “others”. Children are children, everywhere.

Without further ado, here you have my newest book, which is also available to preorder from AMAZON (Hardcover English or Paperback Spanish) or BOOKSHOP (English or Spanish).

And more exciting news: Run Little Chaski debuts as a Junior Library Gold Standard in English and Spanish. What an honor!

Please be a good Little Chaski and share the news far and away!

Corre Pequeño Chaski: Una aventura en el Camino Inka
Run Little Chaski! An Inka Trail Adventure

Learn more about the chaskis (or chasquis) from the National Museum of the American Indian

Learn more about Mariana and her books, including her latest Eunice and Kate (Penny Candy Books, 2020) HERE

Rules to Participate in #LatinxPitch

LatinxPitch is around the corner! We hope you are preparing your pitches for September 15, 2021.

Here is a reminder of who can participate and how to participate.

ELEGIBILITY

  • All UNAGENTED and AGENTED Kidlit LATINX authors, author-illustrators, and illustrators are welcome to participate. Kidlit includes board books, picture books, chapter books, middle grade, graphic novels and young adult.
  • Anyone who self- identifies as Latinx with cultural ancestry in Latin-America is encouraged to participate. If you’re a bilingual Latinx creator not living in the US but are interested in publishing in this market, you are eligible to participate.  If you are married to someone who is Latinx or your subject matter includes Latinx heritage, but you are NOT a self-identified Latinx creator, we ask you to refrain from participating in this specific event. 
  • Latinx creators are welcome to submit any type of story or topic that falls under the Kidlit umbrella. There is no expectation that pitches should only cover Latinx themes as we fully recognize the diversity of talent, interests, and knowledge of our community. Our goal is to showcase these talents and promote Latinx expertise and skills to the wider community.
  • Agented authors and illustrators should check with their agents and agencies before the pitch.
  • If you’re an illustrator pitching work-for-hire/commissions include work samples from your portfolio and your topics of interest. 

HOW

FOR WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS

  1. Post your pitches using #latinxpitch from your personal Twitter account. You are not required to register for this event. 
  2. Add your genre #BB (board books) #PB (picture books) #CB (chapter book) #MG (middle grade) #GN (graphic novel) #YA (young adult)  #Art to make it easier for agents and editors to find you.
  3. Add a subgenre if desired:  #AuthorIllustrator,  #NF (Non-Fiction),  #OWN (Own voices), #DIS (Disability), #Romance, #Fantasy, #LGTBIQ, #WFH (Work-for-hire)
  4. Artists will use hashtag #Art and submit a link to their portfolio or 4 individual illustrations. You may mention what are your sources of inspiration or what kind of projects you are interested in working.
  5. Agented authors and illustrators must include the hashtag #Editor to indicate they are looking for an editor and not an agent.
  6. Pitch each manuscript/art project only ONCE in the morning and ONCE in the evening. Each project can have a total of two pitches during the event. Only pitch completed, unpublished manuscripts or samples of a complete proposal for artwork. Self-published projects are not eligible. 
  7. You can post up to 4 manuscripts/art proposals in the morning and 4 manuscripts/art proposals in the evening, for a total of 8 pitches during the day. You can only post the same project twice during the event. 
  8. Remember do not like fellow creator’s pitches. As a creator you can show your encouragement to work you like by commenting on pitches. We are looking for ONLY Agents and Editors to FAVORITE and RETWEET pitches. A retweet from an editor will be a signal for agents, they are looking for this specific type of project (#MSWL). A retweet means interest, a like means request.
  9. Please note if an editor likes your pitch, but can accept ONLY agented submissions, do not submit your work directly to them. However, you can note their interest when querying agents.
  10. If you receive interest from agents or editors accepting unagented submissions, we recommend you do your research before submitting. You have no obligation to submit your work if it’s not a right fit for you. 

FOR AGENTS AND EDITORS

  1. Please visit our event from 8 am to 8pm on September 15th. Writers will post up to 4 original pitches in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. The same project will be posted a max of 2 times.
  2. Post your guidelines for submitting on your twitter page.
  3. Please LIKE pitches you would like to request. Agented writers will use #agented as a hashtag. Unagented writers will not have that hashtag. If you prefer only agented submissions, you may RETWEET to signal agents you are interested. A retweet means interest, a like means a request.
  4. We hope you find many voices to enrich your book lists and we appreciate you for opening a door to the Latinx community.

Add Your Voice to #LatinxPitch

Hey fellow writers and illustrators, we want to hear from you. What does REPRESENTATION mean to you? Has the lack of Latinx representation in children’s literature affected you personally in any way? As a creator of kidlit, why are you committed to lift up Latinx voices? What are some experiences that have shaped your commitment to represent through your writing or illustrating? How are your children or students affected by the lack of representation?

Please share with us a short video (1 to 2 minutes) where you respond one or all these questions. We want to hear from you whether you are a super-well-known author/illustrator, a debut author/illustrator, or a pre-published creator. Your voice is important.

HOW?

  1. Record yourself on your phone or favorite device. Make sure you are recording in a well-lit space.
  2. Upload to your Twitter account.
  3. Tag @LatinxPitch and use hashtag #LatinxRepresentationMatters . We’ll RT from our account.
  4. If you want us to post from our account send us your video via DM. We’ll post from our account tagging you.

WE CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Thanks, Gracias, Obrigado!

LatinxPitch would like to thank all our donors for their time and their commitment to boost Latinx representation in children’s publishing. We couldn’t do it without your support.

Also, a big thanks to

Julie Downing – https://www.juliedowning.com/

Alex Giardino – https://www.alexgiardino.com

Adria Quinones – http://adriaq.com

Donna Muñoz – https://donnalynn26.wixsite.com/donnamunoz

and Renee Beauregard Lute – https://www.reneebeauregardlute.com/

What’s a Twitter pitch?

A Twitter pitch is a short and catchy “what my book is about”. Think of it as an elevator pitch but with the word count constrains of Twitter. For our event, #LatinxPitch, you also need to leave room for hashtags for your genre (#PB, #CB, #MG, #GN, #YA) or if you are #Agented.

Quick tips:

  • Remember to add our hashtag #LatinxPitch either at the beginning or end of your tweet.
  • Your manuscript should be ready to go when you participate on this event. Sure, you could still polish it and make revisions, but the story has to be finished. We’re not pitching ideas, but complete manuscripts.
  • Write your pitch several days in advance and include hashtags to see how many characters you have. Twitter allows up to 280 characters including spaces.
  • You may want to use Twitterdeck to keep track of likes and retweets of your pitch. Learn more HERE
  • Polish your pitch and keep it simple. Your tweet should capture the heart of your story and present it in a compelling way.
  • When an agent or editor favorites your tweet, go to this person’s page and look for their guidelines for submission.
  • Keep in mind that even if an agent or editor picks your pitch, there’s no guarantee they will offer you a contract. But at least you would have a opportunity to show your work.
  • Have fun! Get to know other Latinx writers, follow their work, and if you can, buy their books (or request them at your library). Representation works only when we work actively towards it!