Sunday, 16 October 2016

A agent-hunting we shall go...

If you’ve seen the post below, you’ll know that I’ve managed to convince an agent to represent me and my Women’s Fiction/ Romantic Comedy story. 
 I finished it in June and sent out the submissions (the first three chapters and a one page synopsis) in July, then spent the summer holidays trying not to think about it. We’re supposed to wait eight to twelve weeks for responses. Patience is not really my thing, so on my return home I sent out another to an agent who represents one of my must-reads. Really, I sent it just to feel I was being proactive; she’s a long established agent with an extensive list already, the chances were very very slim. She emailed back. She really enjoyed it. It was pacey and funny. She really thought I had something here…. (My heart started belting…) but that said, it wasn’t quite right for her. (That’s an email-load of rollercoaster emotions, right there.) But BUT, she had an agent friend who had just set up her own agency and would I like her to recommend me? Well, YES actually, yes please, that would be lovely, thanks.
   And so my story went to Federica Leonardis, and she really really enjoyed it. We met, we discussed the story and our plans and she made me an offer of representation. Hurrah! Her list is still building and she has more time for me, which as a newbie is exactly what I need. There’s still lots of work to do before the manuscript can go out on submission to editors at publishing houses - it’s definitely a marathon not a sprint- but with an agent I feel I’m on the starting line and can face the hurdles with more confidence and clout.
  But that’s not really what this post is about.  I wanted to go back a bit, to the point where I sent out that first round of submissions. They weren’t to names I picked randomly, I had a full ‘Agents Hitlist’ drawn up, with various levels of approach, and in phases. Three years ago I posted about Agent Hunter, a site that makes compiling a list like this so much easier. In ye olde days you had to trawl through the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, but this is online and has filters, so The Fast.
Agent Hunter has just been updated, and so in exchange for an honest review, I got a free limited membership, which was perfect timing for me.
   I’d recommend this site to anyone who is about to start a submissions cycle. I took a day to bend and flex the site, compiling a list pinpointing agents who represent Women’s Fiction and are also still open to submissions. (Some agents have closed their lists, which is fair enough as too many clients would mean less time to spend on each.) The site is clearly laid out making searches very simple and it allowed me to save my searches in their various permutations, so I could return to them later. You can see images of which agents belong to each agency should you choose to search by agency first. I would have liked to have their names pop up as I held the cursor over the pictures as this would have made it easier to flip between agents within an agency who might both rep a genre, but perhaps that could be a later change. I did use the new ‘favourites’ function to highlight some agents, but then for the life of me couldn’t find a field that listed all my favourites. (That could just be my computer-lemmingness.) I’d still like to have a clear ‘shopping basket’ where I can drop in all the relevant agents, so I have an exportable list at the end of my session.
   The profiles of the agencies have a wealth of information on both the agency and the agents, it links to their websites and in some cases their Twitter feeds. And that part is crucial, because the Agent Hunter site is the first port of call, but it shouldn’t be the only port of call. Every time I homed in on an agent, I’d then take the link to their agency website and carry on my research there, looking at their company profiles and the submission requirements, working out a specific plan of action for that agent. I checked their Twitter feeds to get an idea of what they were like. Ultimately each covering letter could be tailored to the specific agent, with exactly the right information, in the way that they want it.
If you like to work from something spreadsheet-like when it comes to a plan of attack for your submissions cycle, Agent Hunter is absolutely the place to start when building it. Writers' & Artists' Yearbook costs £13.60, whereas subscriptions to Agent Hunter start at £5 for 1 month (£12 for 6 months, £18 for a year). (I researched and planned numerous levels of approach in one go, so I had more batches to send out should I need them.) 
    Of course, the on-going strength of the site will depend on Agent Hunter’s ability to keep on top of the changes, whether new recruitment, agent moves, new agencies (you need to get Martin Leonardis Literary Management on there, guys) or address changes.  But for now, it's an excellent starting point that will comprehensively set up any submitting writer for their cycle. 

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