Reposted on October 25, 2010 to include lots of new information and links

So you’ve finally written your masterpiece and you’re ready to submit.  How are you going to find the perfect editor or agent for your paranormal, dystopian, steampunk, urban fantasy novel?

If I learned one thing at the Big Sur in the Rockies conference, it’s that a large part of the acquisitions process for both editors and agents is a “gut feel.”  They not only think your story will sell, but they love it themselves.  That’s why you do yourself a big disservice by submitting it to an editor/agent that can’t stand paranormal, dystopian, steampunk, urban fantasy novels.  Tastes can vary widely even among editors and agents within the same publishing house/agency.  But how do we find out whose taste is whose?

Research.  All of the editors and agents at the Big Sur workshop agreed that writers hurt everyone – including other aspiring writers – when they blindly send manuscripts to editors and agents without regard to their guidelines and preferences.  Sorting through hundreds of submissions takes away valuable time and often causes them to close the doors on unsolicited manuscripts.  So let’s do the research and take the time to submit only to editors/agents we think will be truly interested in our work.  With all of the information available online, there is really no excuse to skip this all-important step.  Here are six ways to research publishers, editors and agents.

1.    Company websites – Start by searching the websites of the publishers and/or agents you think might be a fit for your book.  Publishers put their booklists, submission guidelines (if they take unsolicited submissions), and sometimes a list of their editors on their sites.  Most agency websites state very clearly what types of books they represent and how to submit, often down to specific agents.  Take the Andrea Brown Literary Agency as an example.  Their website includes a list of their nine agents, the types of manuscripts each agent is looking for and her representative deals.  Why send a picture book to one of the agents that only represents MG or YA when just a few clicks will point you to one of their agents who does?  They are trying to help us target our submissions. Think Jerry Maguire and help them help us!

2.    Social Media – This includes everything from Facebook, Twitter, (see #3), MySpace, blogs, industry networking sites, etc.  Most big publishing houses and literary agencies have a presence on these sites, as do individual editors and agents. You can pick up a great deal of insider information by following them.  I’m continually amazed, too, by the number of editors and agents who give of their time by providing tips and feedback to writers via their blogs.  Some even host contests where you can “win” a critique or a chance to submit to a house that’s otherwise closed to unsolicited submissions.  Besides the biggies like Facebook and Twitter, here are a few social networking sites that connect readers, authors, illustrators, editors and agents, plus a couple of agent/editor blogs that are very helpful (see my blogroll for more).

•    JacketFlap
•    Children’s Book Insider
•    LibraryThing
•    Goodreads
•    Kidlit.com
•    Nathan Bransford

3.    Twitter – If you commit to participating in just one social media site, make it Twitter, which is an absolute gold mine of information.  Many agents and

Comic courtesy of http://www.inkygirl.com

editors and TONS of writers utilize Twitter.  Following key people in your genre will lead you to other websites, blogs and industry announcements, including who is editing which books and why.  Even better, you’ll make “friends.”  I am in awe of how much information I’ve gleaned and how many awesome people I’ve “met” since I joined Twitter.  Are you a Twitter newbie?  Check out this Twitter Guide for Writers from Inkygirl and this post from Elizabeth Craig on how writers can use Twitter. Here are a few other reasons to love Twitter:
•    Tweetchats – live chats where the tweets are focused on a particular topic.  Good ones for children’s writers are #pblitchat (picture books), #kidlitchat (all kidlit genres) and #yalitchat (for young adult writers)
•    Tweetups – Real life, in-person gathering of people who follow each other on Twitter.  I went to my first one at the SCBWI conference in New York.  It’s a great way to meet people and make contacts.
•    Lists – You can create lists on Twitter to categorize people you follow.  I have a kidlit list, and agent list, and editor list and so on.  This way, you can quickly filter tweets by topic.  Even better, most “tweeps” make their own lists public so you can follow their lists too.

4.    Join industry organizations and attend events – Writing is a mostly solitary pursuit, so joining writing associations and groups can help get you out there networking and meeting other people in the business, including editors and agents.  Since joining SCBWI, for example, I’ve attended regional and national conferences, writing workshops, and “schmoozes.”  I’ve had the chance to get my work critiqued by some big-name agents and editors at these events.  Meeting them in person helps me remember what kind of books they like.  I also read their monthly newsletters and the annual “Edited by…” list they make available to members.  All of these events, tools and resources have accelerated my growth as a writer.

5.    Use Market Guides – Even with the Internet, having a few good old-fashioned market guidebooks at your fingertips is essential.  Here are a few to consider:
•    Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market
•    Guide to Literary Agents
•    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books
•    Writer’s Market (includes all publishing, not just children’s)

6.    Find out who edits or represents books that you like or that are like yours – This one is a little trickier, but it is often possible to find out who edits which books by Googling, “Who edited X by So and So?”  Sometimes, too, you can find this information on the author’s website.  Often they thank their agent and/or editor.  If you think that editor or agent would like your manuscript, you can now say why in a query letter.  Here are a few great sources for this information, although some, like Publisher’s Marketplace, charge a monthly fee.

  • Literary Rambles — Casey McCormick’s blog has a MUST READ Agent Spotlight series.  Always check to see if she’s covered the agent(s) you are submitting to.  Casey combs the web to find as much material on each agent as she can, and it’s FREE.
  • Publisher’s Marketplace — For $20/month you can find out who agents represent, which editors have published certain books, who represents specific authors, etc.  They also have daily e-newsletters that you can sign up for covering recent deals in all genres.
  • QueryTracker.net — Here you can look up agents and editors, see how many queries they have gotten and what their responses look like (assuming the agent/editor reports them).  You can also find out what genres they represent, submission guidelines and client information.  You can also track queries sent at the site.  The basic service is free.
  • AgentQuery.com — Comprehensive searchable database of literary agents in all genres.  You can search by agent, genre, or by agency.  The site also has great resources on writing query letters.  Best of all, it’s free!
  • AbsoluteWrite.com — Besides providing a treasure trove of resources for all types of writers, the AR Forums provide lots of scoop on agents and editors based on writers’ experiences.  There is a whole “Beware” forum to help authors identify and avoid pitfalls in their searches and relationships.
  • Publisher’s Weekly — They have a section completely devoted to children’s publishing.

So let us go forth and first do the research, then submit to a targeted list.  Good luck and happy submitting!

Done your research and now you’re ready to query?  Go visit Angela Ackerman at The Bookshelf Muse for tips on “Personalizing” Queries using the info you’ve gleaned from your research.

Any other resources you can’t live without?  Leave them in the comments!

Categories: Authors, Children's Books, Publishing, Social Media, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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13 Comments

  1. Oh what a perfect post for my post on ‘Personalizing Queries”! I’m going to add a link on my post to here so people can read up more on how to research!

    Thanks you for this!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. Thanks Julie. You da best! 🙂

  3. The one resource I can’t live without is Book Markets for Children’s Writers published by Writer’s Institute Publications. It has no adult, no illustrators, no magazines, no poetry. Strictly children’s markets (from PB to YA). Gives stats of how many books pubbed in previous year, with how many were unsolicited, new to publisher, new authors, etc. Gives sample titles and contact info. In fact, I’m actually going to be giving away two copies in a contest, soon.

    I just read Angela’s post yesterday. How cool is that? Thanks both of you for the great info. Also, just watched awesome video on CBI on how to get an agent. Very informative. http://cbiclubhouse.com/2010/10/the-insiders-method-of-getting-a-literary-agent/

  4. Thanks to you and Angela, this is perfect for me right now. I know you focus on children’s books. I am focusing on memoirs. Thanks so much again. I shall print up the notes and FB the info .

  5. Another awesome post! Thanks, Julie. Your links are golden, and I just tweeted!

  6. Christie – I saw that video too and it was great. Thanks for providing the link. I don’t have the book you mentioned, so I’ll definitely have to check that out.

    GutsyWriter – so glad you found me and vice versa – love your blog

    Julie – thanks, as always for your encouraging comments

  7. Heather Kephart

    Hi, Julie! Another fantastic, well-researched and helpful post. It’s obvious that you are incredibly immersed in the culture of kidlit, and studying what it takes to get published. I’m so glad you share your gems with us!

  8. Hi Julie,

    Great post!

    You asked for any other resources we’ve used in the comments, so I wanted to add the Association of Author Representatives website, http://aaronline.org/

    I also used AgentQuery which you’ve already listed and found both it and the AAR website useful.

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