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This blog was featured on 02/24/2018
The Pleasures of Agency Submissions: Research, Research, Research
Contributor
Written by
Sakki selznick
February 2018
Publishing
Contributor
Written by
Sakki selznick
February 2018
Publishing

I've begun to submit my novel, THE COLOR OF SAFETY, to literary agents, and I'm enjoying the process. This is because for me, its all about research. And I love research.

When I find a book I love, something that is similar to my own, it's fascinating to read other books represented by the same agent, to try to feel if there's a template, an area of interest, or style, and even to understand how widely flung their tastes might be.

This is also a wonderful way to stumble across books that I might not otherwise have picked up. It's almost as though the agent that I am working as become a trusted literary friend, referring me to the very books that I should be reading right now.

Then there's the human aspect of the research. Agents, like the rest of us, have lives pasts, ancestors, history. Their parents held different jobs, sometimes in different countries. They have spent time developing interests, and in many cases, passions. As the managing editor of a small press put it to our wonderful master class, "You should be out there stalking these editors and agents before you submit your work to them."

We have so many tools these days, so many ways to learn about people we do not know. Of course, there are interviews in literary places, but even more fun, I find, are old articles about community activism, "How We Mets," in the New York Times, blogs, and twitter feed. In one case, I found two thought-provoking academic pieces by an agent's assistant, (who is likely to become a terrific agent herself), academic writing that was fresh, interesting and funny.

Through this research, those who seemed Powerful Other have become people to me. Fascinating people. I find that far from wanting to get "an" agent, I care deeply about getting this particular agent. I want to have them in my corner for very specific reasons, but I also want to have lunch with them someday, and get to know them more.

And if any particular agent doesn't work out, well, I'll be very disappointed--I always give myself permission to be disappointed by a loss or a failure--but I'll still be richer for all I've read and learned.

What's the submission process like for you? What other tips do you have for submitting a novel to agents? Mine is literary historical fiction. What's yours?

(Yes, I know this is Martha Gelhorn. I just love the photo.)

* This post was originally published in January 2016.

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Comments
  • Lord knows, we all need inspiration. And a cheering squad and a very thick towel for rejection days. 

    Soldier on!

  • Thank you for sharing your approach to finding an agent.  I found your post very inspiring. ~:0)

  • I wish you luck, Wanda, both on your knee replacement recovery and on your querying process. The one sounds perfect to create time and focus for the other.

     And yes, oh, goodness, yes, it is so much easier with the ubiquity of information on the internet.

    Quite honestly, the best agent research I do is to read, read, read, what I love to read, which is much like my book, and then look for who agented that work and see if I like others represented by that agent. Good thing I have book velcro--I only have to look at them and they stick to me. 

  • I have just completed my first novel, and it is in the editing process. It is a young adult novel about three baseball players, all of whom are trying to "make it" into Major League Baseball. Now, I have not ever tried to become a big-league ball player; however, back in the 1960s, when I was attending journalism school, I had wanted to become a sportswriter. I spoke to a number of MLB players back then, and I decided that I did not have "what it took" to fight the rampant sexism that existed in sports (and still does), so I turned my writing to other things. 

    My novel is based on some circumstances surrounding someone from my home town who was always the star baseball player. He was all-New England pitcher of the year for his entire high school career. The teachers cut him a lot of slack, and girls were always fawning over him. I followed his career until he ran afoul of the law after having been drafted by a MLB team. Everything is really fiction, but I used that as a cornerstone for my book.

    I have begun my research into agents who might like to consider a novel such as this one, but, until I have a finished (or nearly finished) product, I am not going to approach anyone seriously. I just had knee replacement surgery last week, so I'm spending my convalescing time doing research, and imagining what it might have been like to find agents when we didn't have the Internet to use for such research work!