Here’s a short update on my attempts to find a literary agent for my first novel, a science fiction work, The Anthanian Imperative–Blue. I’ve sent out sixty-seven query letters to today, mostly as email queries or through the regular mail. A few literary houses have their own web-based form to be filled out by an interested writer, and I’ve filled out six of those so far. But I’m rapidly running out of names to query. From various sources, including online, print, word-of-mouth, and so forth, I’ve collected about a hundred names of potential agencies that handle science fiction. From that, I’ve been able to select the agencies that are actually accepting queries and send off a missive. I’ve still got a few more–I’m hoping to hit at least seventy, possibly seventy-five–but the list is getting shorter and shorter. Many agencies and agents that handle science fiction are not useable for one reason or another right now. Some are closed to submissions and wouldn’t look at a letter even if I did send it, some agencies are open only to writers who have published novel-length sci-fi in the past, and some are handling only children’s and young-adult science fiction or fantasy. Some agents want only queries from those they met at a meeting and said, “Send me something,” and some agencies I’ve been able to find only a limited amount of information about and have some reservation about sending in a letter. Every now and then I run across an agency for whom, in the chat rooms of some of the agent-related websites, the buzz is not good. Again, reservations.
But, it’s been an interesting experience. Somewhat less than half the agents have responded, and that counts those for whom no response is a “No, I’m not interested,” so I’m still waiting for more answers.
The most interesting thing to come out of perusing so many websites has been the variation in the style of the individual agents. Some want only a letter, some want lots of other stuff, like a synopsis, a resume, or one or two or three or four or five chapters. I keep a log of what I’ve sent just to keep everything straight in my mind about what went to whom. Most of the requests are reasonable; in fact, the vast majority are. But there is one suggestion some agents have made that, while it’s logical in any individual case, is impractical in the extreme.
Several agents have suggested that, in writing a query letter, the querier (that is, me) find some personal item or fact or substance that shows how I found out about the agency, not just a name grabbed from a book or website. In other words, get in on the good side of the agent and butter him/her up. Did we meet at a meeting? Did I have my picture taken with him? Read a book or two she’s represented? Did the agent ask me to send something? Was I recommended by someone else, preferably a well-known author? Preferably one of the agent’s own authors? I can understand how that would work. But how do you do that for sixty, seventy, eighty agents? Good advice sometimes has its limits. In any event, the buzz goes on.
I’m going to cut this short. I have to get back to the TV, there’s some sort of game going on. The Stupid Bowl? No, that’s not right. The Insipid Bowl? That doesn’t sound right either. Whatever.