Querying Agents: The Importance of Research

Well folks, I think it’s official – I am addicted to research. And I don’t just mean the research that generally comes with novel writing (you know, “healing cycle of burns” and such). I’m talking about industry research.

In this modern day of instant gratification and personal/professional transparency, I feel that there is a certain level of expectation when it comes to a professional starting point.

I realize that sounds a little strange, but let me explain. When I say professional starting point, I don’t mean when you first sit down to write your novel. I’m talking about when you make yourself known to whatever industry you’re trying to break into. Whether it’s publishing, music or any other field, you should have a good idea of what you’re stepping into before taking that proverbial plunge.

And that brings me back to research. Like I’ve said before, I am not an expert, apart from military journalism, I really don’t have any publishing cred [as a writer – graphic design is a different story].

Since I’ve started prepping my work for submission, I’ve read so many articles, books and interviews on queries and getting into the industry that I’ve discovered the biggest disservice you can give yourself is to not research the agent and/or publisher that you’re submitting to. Agents sift through so many queries that if you send your YA manuscript to a strictly Adult Romance agent, you’ve not only wasted their time, but you’ve also wasted yours.

Every submission is an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer, so make the most of it by ensuring you’re sending your well-written, polished query to the right agents.

How do you find the right agents?

So many ways to build your to-query list . . .

  1. Sift through this year’s copy of Writer’s Market, an annually published almanac of publishers and literary agents, what they’re look for and their stipulations.
  2. PublishersMarketplace.com, an online database for all things publishers, editors, agents and recent industry sales, ect.
  3. MSWishlist.com, this online database is full of profiles on literary agents, editors, publishers and what they’re looking for in their next project.
  4. Search the hashtag #mswl on Twitter. Agents and other publishing professionals will post what they wish would end up in their slushpile and tag it with #mswl.

Now that you have a list of agents, DO MORE RESEARCH!

I know it probably feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but seriously, the more you know about these prospective business partners the better. Visit their agency’s website, follow them on Twitter, read their interviews and look at their client list.

At the end of the day, the literary agent that [hopefully] represents you is a business partner, so it’s important that you do your research and make sure that you want to work with them before sending off your query.

Happy writing, everybody!

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