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How to Research Literary Agents in 2020

Wednesday, 4 November 2020  |  Posted by Angel Zhang

Welcome to querying! If you’re new to querying literary agents, or haven’t done it in a few years, it may be good to brush up on the latest tools and techniques for researching agents.

QueryTracker

FREE or $25 a year

QueryTracker has emerged as the place for querying writers who want to research agents and keep track of their queries in one place. It’s free to register, and the free version offers you the ability to see information on an agent’s contact information, their agency, and genres. Each agent page has user-generated comments on their experiences, so you can sift through to see if there are any agents to be avoided. These comments cannot be deleted, so problematic agents are easy to spot.

You can add agents to your query list on the website, then mark with icons when you send a query, receive a response, etc. Some agents have Success Interviews where writers who signed with them discuss their querying process and share their successful query letter.

The $25 a year membership gives you all the free login benefits but with powerful additional features. Filters allow you to see how much time an agent usually takes before responding to queries, partials, and fulls. The Agents with Similar Tastes report under Premium Reports will help you find agents you might otherwise not know to query and is based on their previous requests. You can try the $25 a year membership for free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you.

Publisher’s Marketplace

FREE or $25 a month

Publisher’s Marketplace is the industry website where everyone goes to research deals. You can search by agent or agency name, editor, publisher, title, or keywords. The website will tell you if the agent has deals, what those books were about, what editors at which publishers they’re selling to, and what type of agency they work at, and often how much the advance was on the sale. Not all deals are announced on Publisher’s Marketplace, but it gives you a great understanding of the type of work an agent represents. Ideally, you would want to see that the agent has deals with the publishers that you would like to be published with.

The free version is Publisher’s Lunch and is an email that is sent directly to your inbox but doesn’t give you search functionality. The format of the deals announcements is a poetic form unto itself and reading them will help you craft concise elevator pitches.

The $25 a month membership allows you unlimited searches. Many writers will sign up for a month or two while researching agents and make a list.

Writer Beware SFWA

The Science Fiction Writers of America has a page called Writer Beware with alerts for agents, agencies, publishers who have a history of unfair dealings with writers. The site is not updated as often as in the past, but it is still a great resource. Do not query anyone who’s made a Writer Beware warning list.

Agency Websites

If you are going to query an agent, you should go to their agency website. Most agency sites will give you an idea of the type of books they represent, the agency’s history, and specific information on each agent’s background and genre/storytelling preferences.

#MSWL

Manuscript Wishlist started as a hashtag on Twitter and now has a website that aggregates all the #MSWL by agents and editors. Mostly these are agent self-generated descriptions of the topics/ideas that interest them. Many are highly specific, which can be frustrating to a querying writer. But you may find someone who is looking for exactly the book you’ve written.

The website is not always up to date, as sometimes agents who have left their agency/the business altogether are still on the website, so take note and cross-reference with other sources.

Google/YouTube

It seems basic, but don’t forget to google the agent and see if anything else shows up. Many agents have YouTube videos posted of them at conferences or events, and you can get a deeper understanding of their taste and outlook that way.

Best of luck on your querying journey!

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