Columns > Published on December 26th, 2012

Ask the Agent: More On Writer/Agent Etiquette, How to Approach Agents With Multiple Genres & More

Navigating the rough terrain of today’s publishing industry shouldn’t be a solo event. This week in Ask the Agent, I’ll explore and dissect three of the industry’s mysteries, straight from the shoulder.


Question from Amanda

My question: If a writer receives [an offer of] representation from one agent while she's working on a Revise and Resubmit for another agent, should she notify the R&R agent that she received an offer?

Yes. Absolutely yes. Yes! When an agent takes the time (precious time) to give you an R&R, please pay them the courtesy of letting them know you are considering working with another agent. Obviously you need to choose the agent who is right for you. You don’t need to go with an agent just because they have given you an R&R. But you need to let them know what’s going on with other agents. Who knows what it accomplishes, if anything. But an agent who has given you an R&R has been very courteous. Treat them with the same regard.

Pro tip: R&R means something. It often means that agent is very interested in representing you.

Question from James

What is the best place to find a list of agents and their preferred material?

Unfortunately, there is no one-stop-shop for this sort of thing. As I’ve talked about on numerous occasions… finding the right agent for your material involves a ridiculous amount of heavy-duty research.

Start with websites such as: AbsoluteWrite.com, AgentQuery.com, QueryTracker.com, GuidetoLiteraryAgents.com/blog, and Literaryrambles.com.

These sites will get you started. You’ll come away from these sites with a large list of agents for you to research further. Basically you do a wide search on these sites and then work on narrowing your list.

To narrow your list, use Google like your plane is going down. Take each individual agent name and Google them. Read interviews they have given (make sure they are recent interviews in order to get current information), check out their blogs and twitter accounts (basically do a little stalking), and most importantly, read their agency website information. They will most always say what they are looking for, what they are not looking for, and what they wish with all their hearts they could get.

During this process, you will end up paring your list down to a very specific set of agents perfect for you and your manuscript. I always suggest using an excel spreadsheet to list agents, their contact information, their preferences, and their submissions guidelines.

Pro tip: You can be a spaghetti querier—query every agent and hope that one sticks. And maybe one will. But you’ll see more specific feedback, better results, and move up higher in the slush if you take the time to do the research.

Question from Stephanie

I was wondering if you could talk about how you and/or agents in general handle authors who really want to write for multiple audiences/genres. At what point should a writer bring this up with a potential agent? Does it help if the writer has thought out already some ideas of how the different projects could connect?

It depends on the agent. Some agents are very strict about the genre(s)/audiences they represent and will not deviate. The reason they do this is because they know a certain market very well, they know all the editors for that market and they choose not to work in any other market should the chance arise.

There are other agents who generally represent a certain market/genre(s), but if their client writes something outside of the agent's chosen territory, the agent will do some extra research, learn new markets, meet new editors and make exceptions.

If a writer were querying a manuscript outside of their typical genre, it would be smart to mention in the query letter that they also often write in ______ & ______ genres. However, if a writer thinks that possibly in the future they might write something outside of the agent’s chosen genre(s), they should have that discussion with the agent once the agent shows significant interest in their manuscript.

Often times, I’ve made the call to offer representation and this is when the potential client will mention to me that they have a (insert genre here) manuscript they’re working on and I will make my decision accordingly.

Pro tip: As always, candidness is always the best policy.

Thank your for all the wonderful questions this week. "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch" -Garrison Keillor


Have a question about the publishing industry? I would love to discuss the specifics of researching and querying agents, finding the right agent, proper publishing etiquette, how to go from idea to completed manuscript, marketing yourself, social media for writers, and anything else you can think of! I am now taking questions for Issue 14 of Ask the Agent. Issue 14 answers will be posted Monday, January 7th.

About the author

Bree Ogden is a literary agent at Red Sofa Literary and a comics/TV columnist and reviewer at Bloody Disgusting.

When she's not agenting, compulsively watching horror films, reading comics, hiding out at her local science center, or killing off her bee colonies, she serves as the managing editor of the macabre children's magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree, which she co-founded in 2011 with artist Rebekah Joy Plett.

Bree teaches query craft and graphic novel scripting at LitReactor as well as serves as the Assistant Class Director. Unless you are an exciting new piece of taxidermy, she'll probably never let you in her room. You can find her at agentbree.wordpress.com.

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