Agents, How to Research Agents, Pitching, Querying, Research, Writing

How to Research Agents: Querying Strategy and Hitting Send!

Earlier this week I posted on how to create a detailed spreadsheet, and I realize most people aren’t going to get as detailed as me :). But one of the reasons I have so many columns in my spreadsheet is because I consider a number of factors when I decide how I’m going to approach querying. There is no right way to do this. I wish that querying were a science, but it’s not. I have approached it differently with every manuscript. The manuscript I’m polishing for Pitch Wars will be the sixth manuscript I query. Fingers crossed it’s the final one (eternal optimist here!).

Because I revived this series as a result of Pitch Wars, I’m going to angle it a little more that way. First of all, I’d make sure all of the agents (who accept your age/genre) participating in Pitch Wars are on your list. On my spreadsheet, I went through and marked these agents as Round 0 because I have not yet queried this manuscript. That way when I am finished updating my agent list and sort it, all of the PW agents will rise to the top. But, a few words of caution about the agent round in a contest:

  • Just because an agent doesn’t request your manuscript in a contest doesn’t mean he/she isn’t interested. There are A LOT of entries to go through. They may not get to yours. Or, your entry may shine better with a full query/sample. I’ve had agents request from me later when they skipped over my entry in a contest.
  • An agent participating in a contest may not be the best agent at the agency for your MS. I’m not saying you should ignore a request from them in the contest. But don’t assume a no-request from that agent in the contest means you shouldn’t query someone else at the agency.

Once all PW agents are accounted for, it’s time to start organizing the other agents into querying rounds, and this is even a little more tricky if you’re involved in a contest. (For PW, keep in mind you can’t query other agents until after the agent round.) If you have a ton of interest from the contest, you may want to go big and query the top agents on your list in case you have an offer from one of the contest agents. If you don’t have as many requests, you may want to be more cautious and test out your query and pages with smaller rounds. It’s really a matter of your confidence in your manuscript.

If it’s your first manuscript and you’re at all nervous about it, I’d start out with smaller rounds to test the waters–perhaps somewhere around seven queries at a time. If you’re more confident and know your materials are ready, you might want to do larger rounds of ten or fifteen. I’ve seen writers who do even more. Once you’ve decided the number, you can go back to the main question …

Who should you query first?

The million-dollar question! Here are some possibilities, along with pros and cons:

  • Your top-ranked agents
    • Pro: You’ll know right away if the agents you think are the best fit are a match.
    • Con: If your materials aren’t ready, you’ve lost your chance at your top picks. Here’s the good news if you’re a Pitch Wars mentee: You’ve already had a mentor (or two!) vet your materials, so hopefully they’re in great shape. But that doesn’t mean you should assume they’re perfect. There’s always the chance you need to make additional tweaks.
    • Other consideration: Keep in mind there’s no such thing as a dream agent. You might think someone’s a perfect fit based on what you read online, but you won’t know for sure until you have The Call and hear his/her vision for your book, so don’t let it get you down too much if that one agent you think is perfect rejects your query. Also remember there are many amazing agents out there without an online presence who are making deals and working hard for their clients. The right agent for you might be one of those you couldn’t find a lot of information about online and so didn’t rise to the top of your list.
  • Agents with the most requests
    • Pro: They may be more likely to request yours as well. Even if they do eventually reject, perhaps they’ll give you valuable feedback.
    • Con: You might feel worse if they don’t request yours. BUT, always remember: subjectivity.
  • Agents who respond
    • Pro: You will get an answer.
    • Con: None. This one’s a no-brainer for your first round in my opinion, unless you feel super-confident and there’s a no-response agent you just have to query right away.
  • Agents who respond quickly
    • Pro: You’ll know quickly what’s working.
    • Con: Faster rejection.
  • Agents who want a query only
    • Pro: This can tell you that your query’s effective. (You should do this with other writers before querying agents to make sure the query is clear, but agents still react differently than writers since they’re looking at the market as well, so it can be an effective strategy.)
    • Con: You can’t rely too heavily on this as tastes are still subjective. You may still get rejections that have nothing to do with your query needing work. (See my post on what I learned in a year of querying. I have a section on this.) My best advice here is that if you send out a round that is entirely query-only and they all reject, it’s probably your query. If you get at least a couple of requests, the other rejections may be due to tastes.
  • Agents who want a certain amount of pages
    • Pro: This may help you test out your pages, if agents are consistently requesting more.
    • Con: Again with the caution about tastes being subjective. Plus, you can’t be sure whether an agent requested/rejected based on the query.
  • Agents with whom you’ve had contact (met at a conference, requested from you before, etc.)
    • Pro: Having a previous relationship with an agent can get you in the door, although it still comes down to the right fit.
    • Con: It might hurt more if they reject you. Plus, having a previous relationship with an agent could blind you to another agent at the same agency who could be a better fit. Even if an agent has requested from you before, they might not again, as I’ve commented on before.
  • A combination
    • Pro: You don’t burn through all of your top-ranked agents at the beginning of your query list if you discover the MS needs a revision.
    • Con: If you get an offer, you may miss some of your top-ranked agents. Including some slow responders in early rounds may cause longer waits.

So, basically, it all comes down to what you’re comfortable with, and that’s different for everyone. I can’t give you a magic formula. I wish I had one myself!

How do you sort them into rounds?

Once you’ve figured out that all-important factor of how you want to organize your first round, you can sort the spreadsheet in a variety of different ways to plan out the rest of your rounds. Sort by Rank to go with your top-ranked agents first, by [genre/category] requests? in descending order to go with the agents with the most requests first, by Sub note to test a particular submission material, or by Responds? to go with only agents who respond. Generally I don’t sort by that last one–I just scan for it as I’m looking at the other fields. (As a side note, I’ve generally accounted for the Looking for column in my Rank, so any agents who were specifically looking for something that matches my manuscript have a higher rank and would come up there, but I still scan through that column to see if I want to move any agents up to a higher round.)

Once you’ve sorted, just put the round number (1, 2, 3, etc.) and repeat it the number of queries you plan to do in each round (7, 10, 15) until you get through all the agents you plan to query. And, voila, you have your agents set to query! Although nothing has to be set in stone. My list is always flexible. I modify it as contests crop up or if I see an agent tweet about something relevant they’re looking for.

As far as when I move to another round, when I queried my first couple of manuscripts, I waited until I had answers from every agent in a round before I started another. Now when I receive a response from one agent, I send another query. However, it’s still helpful to have these rounds set up because I look back at them to gauge how my query is doing and whether I need to pause and revise anything. It’s up to you what you feel comfortable with.

A Pitch Wars side note: Any of those PW agents who didn’t request from you? If you still want to query them, just sort them into the rounds with the rest.

Once you start querying, what’s the best way to track queries?

If you’re not a spreadsheet-lover like me, you can just track them in QueryTracker, and I do use that resource as well, but I still use my spreadsheet since I go an extra step and estimate out when I should hear back from an agent. While it’s still a game of averages and an agent may reply to me sooner or later than someone else, it keeps me from watching the site daily or refreshing my inbox, waiting for that agent to reply. Believe me, that way lies madness.

In the Query Sent field I just put the date I sent the query. Then, I calculate when I should hear back from the agent by referring to the Response Time field. If the agent lists a specific number of weeks in which he/she will respond, I count it out on my calendar and plug that date into the Should hear back by: field. If it’s an agent who says “six weeks if interested,” then my note in that field will list the date followed by “–close if no response.” If, on the other hand, the agent has instructions to follow up after a certain number of weeks, I include the date followed by “–follow up if no response.” However, I do monitor the agent’s Twitter feed/blog to see if they note that they’re behind. If so, I hold off on following up. Some agents may have a date with no instructions; there’s no action to take but it’s just to give me an idea of when I might hear. Others might have a question mark if the agent doesn’t list an expected response time. This field is really for my own piece of mind so I already have reasonable expectations on when I should receive a response.

When I receive a Query Response, I include the date and then whether it is a form rejection, personalized form rejection, detailed rejection, or request. Or, as mentioned above, if it’s an agent who lists a specific time in which they’ll respond if interested, I close it out.

  • For the first two, I put [date] – form/personalized form rejection, then I move the entire row to a new sheet within the spreadsheet labeled rejections. For me, keeping rejections in the same sheet with active queries is both clutter and sort of depressing.
  • For a detailed rejection, I put [date] – [pasted copy of the agent’s comments]. Once again, I move the row to the rejections sheet in the spreadsheet.
  • For a query past the agent’s stated response time if interested, I put [date] – closed due to no response. Then, you guessed it, I move the row to the rejections sheet.
  • For a request (yay!), I put [date] – partial/full request; [date] – sent. If the agent replies that they received the request, I note that in parenthesis. Not all agents do, though. Then, I have more fun playing with statistics. Remember I mentioned the Agents with Similar Tastes report in QueryTracker in the last post? Well, when I receive a request, I do the following:
    1. Go to the agent’s profile and click on Reports.
    2. Under Select a Report, choose Agents with Similar Tastes (must have a premium membership).
    3. To the right, a new pull-down menu will appear. Under Select a Genre, select the genre/category for your manuscript, and then click View Report.
    4. For each agent listed in the report, make a tally mark in the Note column (third from the left). Does this mean that because these agents have requested the same manuscripts before they’ll both request yours? Not necessarily (who knows what those other manuscripts were??), but it doesn’t hurt to track the information. I’ve been tracking this for five manuscripts now, and I’ve noticed that many of the agents with numerous tallies have eventually turned into requests for subsequent manuscripts, so I keep doing it!

For Partial Response, I use a similar system to the above–the date followed by the type of rejection or request (probably a full at this point!). And for Full Response, again a date and the type of rejection or, dare we hope, an offer! Perhaps you receive a revise and resubmit, but that’s a whole other post I’m not getting into here. If you get an offer, you’re probably done with the spreadsheet :). Well, maybe if you get more than one you’ll still take some notes.

So here are a couple of last-minute tips.

  • You’ve spent the time researching the agents, so pay attention to what they want! Don’t think you’ll be the exception to their guidelines or what they’re looking for. Don’t query more than one agent at the same agency unless they say you can, and don’t query an agent who is closed to queries.
  • Don’t query and tell. No matter what querying strategy you choose, agents want to feel like they’re your first choice. Who doesn’t? So don’t tweet or blog about how many agents you’ve queried or how many submissions you have out. Now, Pitch Wars is a unique situation, so in that case they’ll know the competition, and if you mention PW in your query to non-PW agents, they might check out your entry (although I doubt many would take the time). Just don’t put anything more out there than you have to. This is a time to be demure and keep your lips sealed. If you want to share with a friend, do it privately. (Like in the PW Facebook group :)).
  • Your spreadsheet is a living document. Keep updating it whenever new information crops up about agents who interest you, whether it’s a tip they share about something they’d like to represent or a book you’ve read from their list.

I think that’s it. Any final questions? Any other veteran queriers have tips to add?

Research, Review, Young Adult

YA Review: THE SHADOW CABINET by Maureen Johnson

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I posted a review. It’s not because I haven’t been reading any good books. I have. I just … haven’t been in a review mood? Mostly I’ve been so entrenched in revision mode that reviewing hasn’t broken through that focus–until now.

So. THE SHADOW CABINET is the third book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series, and if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you should! THE NAME OF THE STAR was one of my favorite reads of 2012, although I don’t have a review because I read it before I started this blog. The second book was equally mysterious and chilling, but I still didn’t review (probably because I was waiting for the third), so I’m making a point of reviewing this one. However, if you haven’t read THE NAME OF THE STAR and THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH, you should STOP READING NOW because there will be spoilers for those in the description below and my review.

Still reading? Okay …

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen JohnsonRory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they’ll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.

And here are the five things I loved most:

1. The mystery – So many unanswered questions. What really happened at the end of THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH? Rory has to figure this out and then unravel a trail someone has left behind (trying to stay unspoilery here) in order to save the team. Each of these books has a self-contained mystery, and they’re all well-done.

2. The characters – I love how real these characters are. In particular, what struck me as I was reading is that often characters in this type of book–hero-type characters–will make the right choices all the time, the kind of choices that will save the world. The characters in this book sometimes make more reckless choices that seem right to them at the time but don’t end up being the best choices at all. Unfortunately, that’s often how things happen in real life.

3. The villains – Ms. Johnson introduces two completely new villains in this book, and they make everything the villain in the previous book did suddenly (ok, maybe not suddenly) make sense. The prologue is downright chilling in how cold-blooded these villains are. There are villains you have some empathy for, and there are villains you hope never know your name. Sid and Sadie fall into the latter category.

4. The trippiness – I just made up a word there, I know. There’s a definite seventies theme going on with this book, with the flashbacks forty years before to Sid and Sadie and Jane. I was barely alive in the seventies, so it’s not my time. And yet, I could see how it permeated this story, and I found it interesting. From the weird style of the villains to some craziness that happens toward the end of the book … yeah, I’ll just call it trippiness.

5. That it’s not the end – I went into this book expecting it to be the last one. I figured out at 602 of 661 (I was reading this in the Overdrive app on my phone) that there was no way the overall plot was wrapping up in this book, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Because more Rory! More mysteries! More psycho killers! Wait, that last part makes me sound a little bloodthirsty …

Who else has read this series? Are you anxiously awaiting the final book? Because I checked Maureen Johnson’s website, and she says there will only be one more …

Agents, How to Research Agents, Querying, Reading, Research, Writing

How to Find Books Agents Represent

Last week’s post about middle grade books agents represent was astronomically more popular than I anticipated. I’m so glad many of you found it helpful, and in light of that, I’m adding a permanent page to my blog listing agents with middle grade and young adult books they represent. I’ll give a few more details about that at the end–including a call for any similar lists you might have–but the post also brought up a question. How do you find out what books an agent has represented? So today I’m going to share how I researched them. These tips will apply no matter what category or genre you’re writing.

I’ll preface this by saying that I was researching this information for my agent spreadsheet, so I already had a list of agents. My purpose was to find books they’d represented so I could read them. I highly recommend doing this if you can as it gives you a feel for the agent’s tastes.

Agency website

Oh, how I wish you could just go to an agency website and see a breakdown of agents with books they’ve represented, separated out by category and genre. The more common practice is to give a list of agency clients, sometimes with links, sometimes not. Or the agency might show a bunch of book covers. Often the client list/book cover display doesn’t specify which agent represents that client, which I can sort of understand. Sometimes multiple agents work on a client, or maybe the agency is protecting itself in case an agent leaves. But even if the agency does list the agent who goes with the client, if there are no books listed, you still have to research those clients to find out what kind of books they write. And then you have to verify that the agent represented a particular book. Don’t assume that just because an agent represents a client, he/she represented all of that client’s books. Authors change agents, and it’s very possible earlier books were represented by a different agent.

Agent blogs

Agent blogs are a much better bet. Often they will post a list of their deals or covers of their clients’ books, making it much easier to tell the category and genre than just a client list or even a list of titles.

Publishers Marketplace

Not all agents have PM pages, but if the one you’re researching does, it can be gold. From what I can tell, agents still personalize these themselves, so there’s no guarantee of what information will be included in the sales/client lists, but it’s more likely to include the category than an agency website. If it doesn’t, it often lists the publisher, and you may be able to deduce the reader age that way. As a side note, I don’t have a PM subscription, so I don’t have access to the deal listings. I believe you can get even more information if you do. You also can track deal announcements, although that won’t find you books you can read right away.

QueryTracker/AgentQuery

I’m more of a QueryTracker girl for tracking my submissions, but AgentQuery has better information on the side of researching what books an agent has represented. AQ pulls the information from Publishers Marketplace, complete with category and book description. QT, on the other hand, has a tab listing the agent’s clients, so you still have to click through to see what they write.

Google Books

A simple search for an agent’s name in Google Books will pull up where the agent is mentioned in an acknowledgements page. Be sure to put quotes around the name, or it will pull up any book that has both names somewhere in the book. You’ll also get some agent guides in the search, but if the agent has been working for a while, you’ll get a nice sampling of his/her clients. You might even find some books on which he/she worked as an assistant.

Twitter

You’re most likely to hear agents talking about their clients when they have a book coming out, so this is a great way to discover their current clients. I’ve found a number of books for my TBR pile this way.

Internet Search

I left this for last because it requires more digging to find books agents have represented through a general Internet search. But it can yield links to author pages where they’ve listed their agent, and then to the books they’ve published. Agent interviews also can be a great resource. Often the interviewers ask the agent about recent books/books they have coming out soon, and you can add those to your list.

If you don’t find any books for an agent using the methods above, they’re either too new to have client books out, or you should rethink querying them. If they’re established agents, they should have published clients.

So, in the spirit of continuing to make this process easier for everyone out there, I’m adding a permanent page to my blog listing MG/YA agents and the books they’ve represented. I want your input, too. If you have a list similar to mine, please send it to mfaszold(at)hotmail(dot)com and I will add it to my list. A note: I only want to include books you can verify the agent represented, whether through the acknowledgments in the book itself, a PM listing, the agent and/or author’s website/blog, etc. As I stated above, just because an agent represents a particular author doesn’t mean they represented all of that writer’s books. I’d hate to list something that’s incorrect and have a writer query one of these agents citing a book they didn’t represent. So, I’m trusting you here :). I’ll continue to update the list as I read and as others send me theirs.

Agents, Middle Grade, Querying, Reading, Research

A Glimpse at My Agent Spreadsheet: Middle Grade Books I’ve Read

Note: This post was so popular I have since added a post on How to Find Books Agents Represent and a page listing MG/YA Agents and the Books They Represent.

I was surprised when I started researching agents that it was so hard to find a list of their clients. As someone getting ready to query, I wanted to read their clients’ books, both to get a feel for what they liked and to be able to reference them when I queried. So I added a “Books I’ve Read” column to my agent spreadsheet and have been tracking it ever since. It occurred to me that others might benefit from this information, so I’m going to share it today.

A few notes: These are all books I’ve read and could verify the agent at the time. I’ve organized them by agency since some agents work together to represent an author. I can’t guarantee that the agents still represent these authors. There are at least a couple I know have changed agents, so their more recent books might be represented by the new one. If I’ve reviewed the book, there’s a link in case you want to know more about it. I read a number of these before I started reviewing, so if there isn’t a review, it’s not a reflection of how much I enjoyed the book. This also isn’t a complete list of all the MG books I’ve read. Often it’s impossible to figure out who the agent is, and some of my favorites were represented by agents who left the industry :(. Anyway, on to the list …

Adams Literary (Tracey and Josh Adams, Quinlan Lee)

  • MIDNIGHT FOR CHARLIE BONE by Jenny Nimmo
  • AMONG THE HIDDEN by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR’S SON by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
  • CIRCLE OF SECRETS and WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Andrea Brown Literary Agency

  • SUGAR AND ICE by Kate Messner (Jennifer Laughran)
  • THE HARD KIND OF PROMISE by Gina Willner-Pardo (Jennifer Laughran)
  • ADVENTURES OF A CAT-WHISKERED GIRL by Daniel Pinkwater (Jennifer Laughran)
  • KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES by Shannon Messenger (Laura Rennert)
  • THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA by Tom Angleberger (Caryn Wiseman)
  • THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY and DESTINY, REWRITTEN by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (Jennifer Rofe)

Bookstop Literary Agency (Minju Chang)

  • THE SQUIRE’S TALE by Gerald Morris
  • HOME AND OTHER BIG, FAT LIES by Jill Wolfson

Curtis Brown Ltd.

  • THE 39 CLUES: STORM WARNING by Linda Sue Park (Ginger Knowlton)
  • SAMMY KEYES AND THE HOTEL THIEF, SAMMY KEYES AND THE NIGHT OF SKULLS by Wendelin Van Draanen (Ginger Knowlton)
  • JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE by Wendy Mass (Ginger Knowlton)
  • LOVE, AUBREY and EIGHT KEYS by Suzanne LaFleur (Elizabeth Harding)
  • ON THE RUN series by Gordon Korman (Elizabeth Harding)

DeFiore and Company (Meredith Kaffel)

  • EDISON’S GOLD by Geoff Watson
  • DARKWOOD by M.E. Breen
  • FLIRT CLUB by Cathleen Daly

Dunham Literary Inc. (Jennie Dunham)

Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner (Edward Necarsulmer IV)

  • MISSING ON SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN by Elise Broach
  • THE WITCH’S GUIDE TO COOKING WITH CHILDREN by Keith McGowan

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (Michael Bourret)

Eden Street, LLC (Liza Pulitzer-Voges)

  • THE GENIUS FILES by Dan Gutman

Erin Murphy Literary Agency (Ammi-Joan Paquette)

Faye Bender Literary Agency (Faye Bender)

Flannery Literary (Jennifer Flannery)

  • HATCHET by Gary Paulson

Folio Literary Management (Emily Van Beek, although I believe these were at her previous agency)

  • SHUG by Jenny Han
  • THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt

Foreword Literary (Laurie McLean)

  • UNCLE PIRATE by Douglas Rees

Foundry Literary + Media (Stephen Barbara)

  • THIEF OF DREAMS by Todd Strasser
  • THE BIG SPLASH by Jack D. Ferraiolo
  • LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver

The Gernert Company (Sarah Burnes)

The Greenhouse Literary Agency (Sarah Davies)

  • JUST ADD MAGIC by Cindy Callaghan (I believe she’s now represented by Mandy Hubbard)
  • PRINCESS FOR HIRE, THE ROYAL TREATMENT and A FAREWELL TO CHARMS by Lindsey Leavitt

Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency (Carrie Hannigan)

  • WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU OJ by Erica S. Perl
  • RASCAL: A DOG AND HIS BOY by Ken Wells

Harvey Klinger Inc. (Sara Crowe)

  • IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES by Lisa Schroeder
  • THE REINVENTION OF BESSICA LEFTER by Kristen Tracy

ICM Partners (Tina Wexler)

  • ANY WHICH WALL By Laurel Snyder
  • HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL by Donna Gephart
  • BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu

Inkwell Management (Catherine Drayton)

  • JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW by Nathan Bransford

Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (Alice Tasman)

  • SLOB by Ellen Potter

Jill Grinberg Literary Management (Cheryl Pientka and Jill Grinberg)

The Knight Agency (Melissa Jeglinski)

KT Literary (Kate Schafer Testerman)

  • POWERLESS and THE DEAD GENTLEMAN by Matthew Cody
  • OPERATION REDWOOD by S. Terrell French
  • THE UNNAMEABLES and SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS by Ellen Booraem

Laura Dail Agency (Laura Dail)

  • DRIZZLE by Kathleen Van Cleve

Laura Langlie Agency (Laura Langlie)

  • THE PRINCESS DIARIES (complete series) by Meg Cabot

Levine Greenberg Literary Agency (Kerry Sparks)

Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency (Caitlin Blasdell)

  • THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas
  • KID VS. SQUID by Greg van Eekhout

The McVeigh Agency (Mark McVeigh)

  • THE DRAGONS OF SPRATT, OHIO by Linda Zinnen
  • SIMON BLOOM, THE GRAVITY KEEPER by Michael Reisman (worked as publisher)

Nancy Gallt Literary Agency

  • NIGHTSHADE CITY by Hilary Wagner (Marietta Zacker)
  • CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne DuPrau (Nancy Gallt)

Nelson Literary Agency (Kristin Nelson)

  • SPELLBINDER by Helen Stringer
  • THE SHIFTER series by Janice Hardy

New Leaf Literary and Media Representation (Suzie Townsend)

Pippin Properties (Holly McGhee)

  • SHUG by Jenny Han
  • THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt

Regal Literary Inc. (Michelle Andelman)

  • PETER NIMBLE & HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier
  • RUMP by Liesl Shurtliff

Stimola Literary Studio Inc. (Rosemary Stimola)

The Strothman Agency (Lauren MacLeod)

  • REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS and REAL MERMAIDS DON’T HOLD THEIR BREATH by Hélène Boudreau

Susan Schulman Literary Agency (Susan Schulman)

  • HOLES by Louis Sachar

Upstart Crow Literary (Ted Malawer)

  • VIOLET RAINES ALMOST GOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING by Danette Haworth

Waxman Leavell Literary (Holly Root)

  • THE RISE OF RENEGADE X by Chelsea Campbell

Wolf Literary Services LLC (Kirsten Wolf)

  • THE PRICKER BOY by Rheade Scott Whinnem

Writers House

  • SAVVY by Ingrid Law (Dan Lazar)
  • THE LAST INVISIBLE BOY by Evan Kuhlman (Dan Lazar)
  • BILLY BONES: TALES FROM THE SECRETS CLOSET by Christopher Lincoln (Dan Lazar)
  • ALVIN HO by Lenore Look (Susan Cohen)
  • THE BRIXTON BROTHERS by Mac Barnett (Steven Malk)
  • THE FOURTH STALL & THE FOURTH STALL PART II by Chris Rylander (Steven Malk)
  • VANISHED by Sheela Chari (Steven Malk)
  • THE MELTING OF MAGGIE BEAN by Tricia Rayburn (Rebecca Sherman)
  • SCONES & SENSIBILITY by Lindsay Eland (Rebecca Sherman)

I hope this was helpful! I know I would have appreciated a list like this when I first started out. These days I just pick up books as they catch my interest and add them to my agent list after the fact. Happy reading!

Before the Draft, Research, Writing

Before the Draft: Research

It’s always interesting to me to read about other writers’ processes for getting ready to draft. Ever since I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2011, I’m firmly in the fast draft camp. I don’t necessarily finish a draft in a month, but I have set word goals every day, and I don’t revise anything until I’ve typed “The End.” In order to do that, I must have everything I need all lined up before I start drafting. Since I’m in that stage now, I’m going to do a “Before the Draft” series, starting with how I research.

Ah, research. Some people might find it tedious, but I’m fascinated by the things I learn. I start out with an idea, but I usually don’t know how to execute it until I start researching. And the research isn’t always the same. How much and what kind of research depends on the story. I’ll break it down by the novels I’ve completed and then list what I’ve done so far/plan to do for my work-in-progress.

THE MODERN CAVEBOY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING BATS, BULLIES AND BILLIONAIRES (A boy living in an underground city escapes through caves)

Meramec Caverns
Meramec Caverns
  • Trade magazines – I scoured caving magazines for descriptions of various expeditions to make sure I had the terminology correct, as well as descriptions.
  • YouTube – I viewed countless caving videos to get a feel for what cavers experienced and also to see it.
  • Meramec Caverns – I dragged my family to Meramec Caverns for a first-hand look at some Missouri caves, since the story is set in my home state.
  • Middle grade novels – Since this was my first foray into writing MG, I read numerous books in the category, focusing on boy main characters to gain a sense of the voice.

DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN (A prodigy violinist is sucked into the music)

  • Non-fiction books on prodigies/renowned violinists – Even though I’ve played the violin for 25 years, I was never a prodigy. I didn’t know how a prodigy would feel, what others would expect of her, etc. I needed these resources to ground me in what a prodigy’s life would be like.
  • Fiction – I read a few books featuring prodigies for the same reason as above.
  • Internet searches – The best search I did when researching DUET was on the greatest violinists of all time. It led me to the story of Niccolo Paganini, rumored to have made a deal with the devil to play so well. That story became the basis for my major plot point.
  • YouTube – I just about memorized videos of the musical pieces I included so that I could describe each swell and accent of the music.

    Bates Motel
    The Bates Motel at Universal Studios
  • Universal Studios – Ok, so this wasn’t originally research, but after we went there, I knew it was a perfect fit for Miranda’s trip into the “Psycho” theme. I like to keep trip journals of vacations in case I decide to use a location in a future book. I write down my impressions, descriptions, interesting facts I learn. I don’t always make this happen when the kids are along, but it’s come in useful more than once.
  • Young adult novels – When I decided to age DUET up to YA, I read a number of YA books to immerse myself in the different issues and voice nuances.

THE DEXELON TWINCIDENT (Twin girls–one of them training to be a black belt–separated at birth by alien abduction)

  • Personal interview – I grew up with a mom and brother who did Tae Kwon Do, plus my son has started, so I know a bit about martial arts. I’ve watched classes countless times, but I still needed a personal interview to describe a black belt test. Lucky for me, my mom is a fourth-degree black belt, so I had the perfect source handy.
  • Non-fiction books – I used the text by the founder of Tae Kwon Do, complete with form descriptions and photos of positions.
  • Science fiction novels – I read a number of sci-fi books at all age levels for ideas about the other planet and how things might work between the two worlds.
  • Internet searches – I mainly used the internet for research on twins, and something I came across on a twin site gave me the idea for the title.

Current WIP (secret for now)

  • Trade magazines – Once again I’ve referenced trade magazines, in this case to get a better feel for the setting and what happens there.
  • Promotional videos – I’ve scoured the internet for videos promoting the type of organization my character will get involved in.
  • Documentary – I’ve watched a documentary, again to get a feel for the setting and what might happen there.
  • Existing stories – I’ve read a few novels and plan to study a couple of movies with similar settings to see what’s already been done.
  • Play – I went to see a play that will have a strong influence on the novel.

I’m not finished researching the WIP. I’m sure I’ll end up incorporating some of the other tactics I have in the past. How do you research? Do you tap into any other resources I didn’t mention?

Other posts in this series:
Before the Draft: Procrastination
Before the Draft: Character Development
Before the Draft: Outlining in Scrivener