Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On a diet, getting ready for some fishing

It's been a while - nearly four months - since I mentioned any progress on Ghosts. Back then, I fondly imagined completing my edits and being back to querying before the end of April.


March and April got ambushed by the A to Z challenge.

Since then, I've been on a bit of a blogging diet and made good progress with the edits. After the line-by-line critiquing feedback, I had a few significant scene insertions to work on. It felt good to get back to putting new words on the page. But this left the total word count tipping the scales at 100,800 - blowing my target of keeping it to under the magical 100k.

So now the MS needs a diet as I try to wrestle it back down a bit. Things are going well there, too. So well, that I started dusting off my old records from my last round of querying two years ago.

First stop is my existing master list of agents, which I keep in a spreadsheet.

Cross-check this with Writers Beware and Preditors & Editors for any new alerts or recommendations. A few things have changed since I last looked.

I am still building this list, and will need to visit places like AAR, Publishers Marketplace, and SF Writer, for more agencies that I don't already know about. These will also get checked for warnings and added to the spreadsheet.

I keep the "dodgy" ones on file, even though I will never query them, because it saves me from repeating the research if their name pops up again. If it wasn't on my list already then I'd be likely to add it only to have to strike it off again.

Each prospect gets further vetted through their website. Do they represent my genre? Does the specific agent bio talk about the kind of story I'm querying (even sci-fi is a big field)? Do I get any funny "vibes" from the tone of the website - i.e. would I feel comfortable dealing with them (for example, one or two I flagged as "sounds snooty")? Other red flags: closed to queries, only accepts published authors, only accepts snail mail (more a practical point for me, with so many agents accepting email these days why inconvenience myself before I need to?), website non-existent or link invalid.

Confirm address, relevant agent name, and submission guidelines.

It all gets added to the spreadsheet before I'm ready to start shortlisting agents to actually query.

So, for those of you who are (or have been) through the querying mill, how do you go about building your agent list?


  1. wow Ian you are so careful with the details, I am exactly the opposite. And it is very informing for a humble aspiring story teller, such as myself, for I have no idea whatsoever what my following step would be. 100 000 words Ian? You;re putting everyone to shame here :). I joined the "critique" community, it does look very intriguing...I must gather some points before submitting my story too. I'd love to know your nick name there to read your stuff :).

  2. A diet for the MS; I like it, lol. I'm not nearly this organized about my querying - though I haven't queried my finished novel in ages. I went to, I think, and started clicking on random agents in my genre, then reviewed their websites/blogs and titles. After a month or so I either query or not, but I keep a word document list of where I've queried, and been rejected. That list is actually pretty short, and as I've said, I stopped querying about two years ago.

    Now I'm just writing short stories, and having more success there since I write for specific publications.

    I think its great that you are so organized though. I envy the skill.


  3. I never queried agents, but I do remember making a big list of publishers that accepted science fiction. Can't remember where I started, but at one point I was just Googling. I did check my list against Preditors and Editors before I began querying.
    Good luck!

  4. Doesn't almost feel like it takes as much time to research all the publishing leads as it takes to write the darn novel? It's an exhausting process. Gah!

    One of my novels just went on a crash diet to lose 2k. That wasn't too painful, just lots of little words cut out here and there.

    Good luck with your dieting efforts. :)

  5. unikorna, my name on CC is Botanist, same as here. I hope you get as much benefit from the forum as I have. There's lots of help and advice on writing and publishing, not just story critiques.

    Donna, I keep a word doc of agents I've queried, too. It's important to keep tabs on who you've sent to, and whether they've responded.

    Alex, I started with Literary Market Place, wading through pages of print and writing out names and contact details by hand for further investigation. That was a long slog! I usually use Google to find good sites that list agents rather than individual agents themselves.

    Jean, the diet is indeed little words here and there. Surprising how they all add up :)

  6. With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My site has a lot of exclusive content I've either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any ways to help reduce content from being stolen? I'd truly appreciate it.
    Here is my web-site ... teset

  7. I like to read agent blogs to really get a feel for whether or not we would click. You can learn a lot about what an agent really wants that way, and also how many books they are actually selling and to what publishers. This is crucial info. It's also a great way to find out what conferences they are attending. Pitching at conferences is way more effective than querying, if you can swing it.

  8. Anonymous, sorry, not noticed a problem with that up to now, so I have nothing to suggest.

    Shell, sales information is an important part of the process, I agree. I have never been to a conference - can afford neither time nor $$ :(

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  10. Good luck to your MS on its diet! I think mine needs fattening up.

    Finding an agent is a massive process. I've only been through this once, with my first novel. And being in the UK, the only source I used was the Writers and Artists Yearbook. Your system sounds a lot more organised than my scraps of paper!

    Agree on the snail mail. Don't they realise it's bad for the planet AND our bank balance? Ink, paper, postage...

  11. Packer: thanks.

    Nick: you're lucky, I always find it easier to add than to subtract :)


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