Thursday, October 30, 2008

So What About Those Lists of Agents?

I was recently asked by an author about the validity of those lists of agents that are frequently found on websites. Should an author use those sources to find agents or is there a better way.

I had to think about this one for a bit. Some of the sites the author used in the example seemed to be pretty legitimate sites so I was tempted to say sure, but then I thought a bit more and found myself back to the same thing I say all of the time - Do your own research.

The thing about these sites is that they do provide a list in one single location. There are just so many agents out there and keeping track of them is tough. This is especially true when you have some style of writing that might not be that standard. Just doing a Yahoo, or Google search simply is not going to work that well.

But the issue with the lists is pretty simple. Some are maintained by the individual who created the site. The time it takes to track down information (as many of you have found so far) is intense and sometimes those searches are not that accurate. They base their information on what they find, or even what the hear via word of mouth. Some simply go to the agency site and copy down the information verbatim and paste it on their site. Not a bad thought - unless something changes.

Many of these sites also rely on information they get from an agency directly. I frequently get emails asking to provide the webmaster with my current submission policies. I love this method, but again, agencies change and these sites just do not keep up with the trends.

Finally, some of these lists are just composed of discussion boards and this is simply dangerous. In a lot of cases, this is nothing more than the Blind Leading The Blind. I have seen information on discussion boards stating that Greyhaus Literary Agency accepts genres including poetry and non-fiction. Nope.

Now what about those books? Again, there are limitations here. Remember these books are printed a year in advance. They are composed during that prior year so essentially, the information is already at least a year or two out of date. Along the same lines, this information comes from basic information from the organization that puts out the book and may not include all of the specific details of what they want.

So, should you throw these sources out? No way! Use it as a starting point but from there, go directly to the site and do your own research. Find out the exact information. Find out if they are even accepting submissions anymore? Make sure the agent is still there. Make sure the agency hasn't moved.

1 comment:

  1. And given this prime opening, would this not be exactly the reason one might decide to spend a great deal less money than it would cost to go to a conference, (where the agent can only react to one's idea, and still has no reason at all to assume one can now actually write) and pay one of the services that claims to have up to date information on who might be looking for whatever?
    Think of the time alone not wasted in wading through old sites. Yowser. The only reason I have not done this already is because the agent's wife had a new book being released in late fall. It is already selling very well, although with the increasing complaint that it is " a romance being promoted as a historical."
    And the need to begin paying winter heat bills.
    Either way, there is still the matter of waiting up to a year to hear anything. Life continues to be imoerfect, yes> Gotta be another way.