Monday, September 29, 2014

Hunting for Agents

I've been trying out a new service called Agent Hunter (www.agenthunter.co.uk). It's a subscription service provided by the same people who organise the excellent Festival of Writing at York, amongst other things. The festival is a great opportunity to meet agents (I know, I've been), so these people certainly have all the right contacts.

Looking for an agent isn't easy. If you're searching online a good starting point is to visit the Association of Authors Agent (http://agentsassoc.co.uk/members-directory) and then look at the agencies' individual websites. At least you know you're looking at reputable agents (who don't charge a reading fee, for example).

But you still have to browse the agents' websites to find out whether any agents at that particular agency are interested in the genre, or subject matter, your manuscript falls into.

This is where Agent Hunter comes in. It allows you to filter a search by genre, returning the individual agents who are interested in considering the type of material you write.

If you know you write in a similar style, or genre, to another author, you can search this database for that writer's agent (although this is dependent upon the agent declaring this information in the first place). I did try this with a couple of authors, and while I found this worked most times I did note that some individual agents listed authors represented by the agency they work for, rather than just the authors they themselves represent, but it was still useful. (And far more easier than trawling through the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook looking for those authors.)

Agent Hunter also offers some personal information about the individual agents (provided by the agent, so some are more detailed than others), which can be useful when trying to find a shared interest.  That doesn't mean that if you stumble across an agent who supports the same football or netball team that you do they will fall in love with your manuscript, but it might be worth mentioning any common interests in your covering letter/email. Anything that makes your approach more memorable (for the right reasons) has to be beneficial.

The database also states whether the agent is:

1. Keen to build their client list,
2. Open to new clients or,
3. List largely complete.

Obviously, it makes sense to target agents who are actively seeking to build their list. Those who say they're open to new clients are not actively seeking new clients, but they won't turn the right person away. Those whose lists are largely complete clearly have enough work to do already!

When I cross-referenced this with a couple of agents, I found one whose Agent Hunter entry said they were actively looking to build their list, whilst on their own website they said they were not looking to take on new clients at the moment. As with all these things, a database is only as good as the information it recieves. You might think the agent's website would be more up to date, however when I scrutinised the agent's news page on their website, the last entry was made in May. So it's difficult to determine whose information is the most up to date: the agent's own website, or the Agent Hunter database.

What is really useful is the Twitter names and blog list that agents have are detailed here too, which means you can follow and find out more about an agent from their own online presence, and really get to know them better, before you make an initial approach. Whatever you do, don't approach an agent by tweet, but follow their Twitter feed for any useful snippets of information. You never know what you might learn.

If you want to look around the database you can register for free, and this will give you access to basic information. If you subscribe, you get full access to all of the information. Subscription costs are currently:

1. £5 for one month's access,
2. £8 for six month's access and,
3. £12 for one year.

If you're looking for an agent, then this service could prove useful. It's cheaper than subscribing to the Writers' & Artists' online database (which doesn't give as much information about agents, although it gives you access to a world of other information), and unlike the W&A database gibes you options to sign up for shorter periods than a year. Indeed, if you feel you're ready to start searching intently, the a one month subscription may be all you need to find you agent. If not, £1 a month for a year's access won't break the bank.

It'll be interesting to see how frequently the database is updated. And while you're there, you might want to search the publisher database, which lists over 430 publishers (and you can fine tune your search to only return those publishers who accept unagented submissions).

For further information visit www.agenthunter.co.uk

Good luck!

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