Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More on Finding an Agent

Someone asked if I’d elaborate a bit more on finding agents’ bios.

Clearly, you can go to the agency’s webpage and a lot of the time find bios for each agent. Sometimes, though, it’s more of an agency’s philosophy rather than individual agent information.

A lot of agents, though, go to conferences each year. If you go to that conference’s page, you’ll usually find a link for something like Conference Speakers or Conference Attendees. Click on it. If you find a list of the agents coming, there will often be a bio and/or picture.

You don’t have to be attending the conference to read the bios or to copy and save the bio to your folder of agents, if the agent interests you. I recommend you date when the bio was posted, since agents change their preferences over time.

Look at the page for the agents attending the 2009 Writers’ League of Texas conference. Sixteen agents, all but two with bios.

Check out the page for the Mad Anthony Conference, where they have links to a couple of agents.

Any conference that’s having agent pitches or agent one-on-ones most likely has bios up.
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  1. Meeting agents and publishers at conferences is the best way to do it!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. Conferences give us a chance to have eye to eye contact. By looking at their conference bios, which admittedly are pretty general, you at least get a current idea of what kind of material they like. If you're planning on going to a conference during the year, it helps you decide which conferences have the agents and editors coming that suit your genre. If you're not scheduling a conference, you still get to collect info for your agent folders.

  3. More good advice. Good point to note the date of the bio also.

  4. What's your take on the effectiveness of face-to-face pitches for getting an agent? I've heard anecdotes from writers, but are there any figures? In my own experience 5 pitches resulted in the full manuscript being requested by 1 agent compared to 80 queries yielding requests for the full by 8 agents. Based on those numbers, pitching at a conference doubled my chances of getting an agent to review the manuscript. However, the cost of one conference exceeded the cost of all 80 queries. Moreover, if those numbers hold up, I'd have had to attend 40 conferences to get the same interest as 80 queries.

  5. I prefer querying by mail. If you're shy, it's easier to impress an agent if you have a track record. But novice writers are better off presenting their work in person. Writers' conferences are great for beginners because you come home all fired up and ready to write the "Great American Novel."


  6. My opinion: face-to-face is great, if you practice, practice, practice. It's like interviewing for a job. But if you're shy, I agree, it's difficult. Again, I think it does get a little easier with practice, however.

  7. As both Jean and Ann said, if you're way shy and would bomb a face-to-face meet with an agent, then it's not for you -- yet. That doesn't mean you can't work at getting more comfortable with the situation. You can join Toastmasters. Or do your own practicing within your critique group, go to meetings and put yourself out there. Force yourself to talk to strangers. And practice your pitch many times. Don't memorize it. If you do and the agent interrupts you with a question, you'll start fumbling trying to get back on track. (I'm sounding like the Speech teacher that I am. :-D)

    Mark, I don't have any stats on the percentages. Doing in-person pitches is a bit tricky. You want to be confident and out-going, but not annoying and pushy. You've got to be able to look the agent in the eye and not focus on your notes. You have to spend the entire weekend, not just those ten minutes, being friendly, smiling, getting to know other writers, learning, and talking. If you've made an impression on an agent, they're going to spot you some other time during the conference.

    Having said that, I know Mark, so I'm sure he made a great impression on the agents he's visited with. My guess is that your request was a bit above average. Agents will often make a lot of requests for partials during conferences, but few go any further than that. All the more reason to really check the conference out before signing up. If there's only one agent coming who reps your genre, it may not be worth it. But on the other hand, if a conference has 16 agents coming, three in your genre, but they're all powerhouse agents who you know from research rarely take on anyone unless they're recommended to them, your chances are not much better. But in either situation, it's a plus that you're able to open your query letter with "We met at the such and such conference...." If you have a contact with an agent or you attend a class or talk he did at the conference or... whatever your connection is... start your query with that.

  8. I have not thought about getting an agent in a long time. I've known so many people who publish now without one that I'm not even sure I will go that route myself. These were both very informative posts, Helen! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your wisdom. I always look forward to reading your blog.


  9. That's a great idea. I've never read any of the conference info since I know I won't be attending one any time soon, but now I'll keep my eyes open.

    Lynnette Labelle

  10. Thanks for the info! Might come in handy someday if I opt to go the agent route.


  11. Hi Jenny, Lynnette, and Lisa. I don't have a conference on my schedule either, but I know eventually I'll go to one. In the meantime, I'm keeping my eyes open and looking to see which ones are "good."

  12. I would dearly love to go to a conference but this is a great idea to check out the bios on a conference flyer.
    The biggest reason I want an agent is because many fantasy houses will not look at a manuscript unless it's from an agent.

  13. Helen, I enjoy reading your blog. One learns as much from the comments, at times,as the blog article.

    One thing reading your blog has shown is the need to do your homework. Familiarize yourself with the paths available out there before walking down them. :-)

  14. Conferences put up the bios online so that attendees can check to see which one they might want to set up a one-on-one with. There's no reason why those of us not going to the conference can't make use of the info! Thanks for stopping by Susan.

  15. Sia, I couldn't agree more with both of your comments! Thank you for being one of those who share with us your comments.


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