I’m currently in NYC! Today I meet my agent, Elisabeth Weed, and yesterday I met my new editor, Sarah Knight. I’ll tell you more about these meetings when I get back home. For now, I wanted to share an idea I had with you, something that occurred to me while straightening my desk the other day and happening upon some old notes.
You remember the agent who’d commented on my manuscript, who then had the opportunity to read it again at the recommendation of his colleague? Well, what I didn’t tell you at the time was that 2nd read resulted in quite a long talk with the agent. He not only spoke with me about how his vision for the work differed from mine, he also acknowledged that he could be wrong and gave me a list of other agents to consider, along with several books he thought my story might be comparable to. But here’s the really interesting part: When I went through that list, I realized that several of the books mentioned were published by (or otherwise linked to) Shaye Areheart Books, my new publisher. If I’d searched deals made to SAB, I would’ve stumbled upon a small list of agents who’d sold there. Who had connections with editors there. Who might’ve been looking for other writers to place in exactly that house.
And I would’ve seen Elisabeth’s name on that list.
Maybe another strategy when you’re trying to find an agent–especially for a fuzzy-genre manuscript–is to approach the agent hunt in exactly this inside-out way. Here’s how.
Brainstorm with critique partners. You might not have an agent willing to share a list of ideas with you, but you probably have a ready resource at your disposal: your critique partners and/or beta readers. Ask them to help you create a list of books that might be comparable to yours. Use Amazon or Publishers Marketplace to ID who’s published those books. (If you aren’t a subscriber of PM, note that you can subscribe on a monthly basis, when you’re really in the thick of marketing your work.)
Hit PM for a deep search. Use the “deals” search to find out which particular agents sold those books on your list, yes, but also search all of the deals those houses have made over the last year or so. Which agents have connections with those houses–the houses that publish books like the one you’ve written? If your work fits a particular house’s style, those connected agents may very well be looking for you.
Be thorough. Most agents have preferences–mystery, fantasy, romance, YA, suspense, women’s fiction; or none of those, thank you. Go to that agent’s website and see what they’re looking for. Adjust your list accordingly.
Query with confidence. Send your query and mention the book your work compares to, using an acceptable phrase like, “in the vein of.” The agent you’re querying will know that book and your work might both be in line with the house s/he’s knows so well, possibly rousing instant interest.
Anyone else have thoughts about inside-out agent hunting? If you have an agent, how did you go about finding him or her? And if you live in NYC, where should I have dinner tonight? :)
Write on, all!