Karen Brichoux

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"Draws the reader into the story and never lets go." --RT Bookclub
"Brichoux reminds the reader how powerfully the landscape of 'home' can define a person." -- High Country News
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"An exceptional novel." --Melissa Senate, author of The Solomon Sisters Wise Up
"A coup. Warm, smart, and original." --Kirkus Reviews


The Agent Hunt: Part III

January 30, 2003

***********FEBRUARY NEWSLETTER***********
Sticks, Stones, and Broken Bones (Or The Agent Hunt): Part III, Research

If you've been following these newsletters, you now have a list of what you are looking for in an agent and what kinds of fees you are willing to pay to keep the agent working on your behalf. Both of the previous newsletters have been theoretical. Now it's time to bring things down to the level of reality.

Every author who is agented went about finding his or her agent differently. The following research method is the one I used.

First, because I wanted to avoid as many potential pitfalls as possible, I decided to start my list with member agents of the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR). As I mentioned last month, the AAR has a code of ethics which helps separate ethical agents from the unethical. While there are many agents who are ethical but who have chosen to not join the AAR or who are so new they have not yet met the AAR requirements for number of books sold, the list of AAR member agents < http://www.aar-online.org/agent_search.cfm > is a good place to start. I went to the AAR website and printed up their entire list of member agents which appeared under the 'literary' category. This is a time (and ink) consuming process.

Second, I checked each agent on my AAR list against my agent guide books. The books I chose to use were the latest versions of the _Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents_, Jeff Hermanís _Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents_, and the _Literary Market Place_ (LMP) (which is available at most public libraries either via an online subscription or hard copy). By cross-checking the names from the AAR list with the guide books, I was able to weed out those agents who were not interested in the type of books I write. This narrowed my list considerably.

Each time I came across an agent on my list who represented the type of books I write, I made a number of notes in the margins of my list. What books had the agent recently sold? For what authors? To what houses? Were types of fees listed in the guides? If so, what fees did the agent charge? What kinds of books would the agent like to see? What kind of initial contact did the agent want? Query letter only? Query and first three chapters? Did the agent accept e-mail queries? If so, what was his or her e-mail address?

After I finished taking these notes, I went online and did further research. If you've only seen a hard copy of the LMP--which goes to press months in advance of the cover date--go to the LMP online database < http://www.literarymarketplace.com > where you can, for free, check to make sure the agentís address on the AAR list is up to date. Agents--especially younger agents in a big agency--move around a lot.

After verifying the address, I did a search for the agents' names on Google < http://www.google.com >. If I were lucky, the agent had a website with further information and a list of clients. But since agents get more than enough queries without having a website, only a minority of them have web presence. Still, a Google search will help you see what types of conferences the agent attends, what names the agent is linked with, what circles he or she travels in.

After the Google search, I searched the agents' names at the Publisher's Weekly website < http://publishersweekly.reviewsnews.com >. This search told me if the agent had made any high-profile deals. Don't be discouraged if an agent's name doesn't appear in this search, because only the news-making deals appear here. Then I did a search via Google Groups, The Rumor Mill, and Preditors and Editors. Links to these sites and others can be found through Writer Beware < http://www.sfwa.org/beware/agents.html#Links >.

Finally, I did a quick search for any authors the agent listed as representing. Fairly or unfairly, I eliminated some agents from my list because I didn't think I fit in with their stable of authors or because I didn't think my books would be well suited to the publishers the agent seemed most familiar with.

An on-going source of information was the archives of industry lists I belonged to. If no information appeared in the archives, I sometimes sent out a general call for information to the list, but I've found that this tends to be pretty ineffective. Whether or not someone met an agent at a conference and thought she seemed professional doesn't tell you much about how that agent can sell books. However, if you are a member of one of these lists and an author should mention something about an agent experience she or he has had, donít be shy. Ask them if they will--confidentially, of course--tell you about their experiences. But remember that you are asking the author to stick his or her professional neck out, so don't be surprised if he or she refuses.

By now, you should have quite a bit of information about the agents on your list. As you've been collecting the information, you have probably had a few agents move to the top of your list of favorites. These will be the first agents you query.

Next month: The query process.

Happy writing!