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the stationed agents
the third annual agent blog roundup
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)
12.3.08
writing

To start, a big fat disclaimer: I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on in publishing right now. Nobody should. The economy is having ripple effects everywhere, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt set everyone screaming by announcing they weren’t acquiring books for a while (though it’s not entirely true), and bookstores are panicking in new and interesting ways beyond their usual panicking. Even the people who know don’t know what’s coming. So. If you’re a novelist who hopes to one day see your books on the shelf, what do you do?

Do you hold off on trying to find an agent until things settle down? Do you take the leap into self-publishing instead? If you ask me, I say no. I say, do the same thing you’ve been doing. First and foremost, write the best book you can. Right behind that, learn everything you can. If you’re starting from zero, the best tool for learning about publishing (and therefore getting published) is the same tool it’s been for the past couple of years.

Hence, my third annual roundup of agent blogs.

The Best

There are three agent blogs I read every day without fail. (Yes, even now that I have my own agent.) They are frequently updated, informative on a bunch of publishing topics, and also importantly, a lot of fun.

BookEnds is technically a group blog for a whole agency, but Jessica Faust does almost all the updates, and she's doing a great job. Recent posts have discussed everything from query letters to contracts, and it isn't just Jessica's opinion you get, but the opinions of a lively and vocal peanut gallery. If you want to feel like you're not alone -- and that genres like romance are as competitive, fine-tuned, and complex as any other kind of writing -- this is one to bookmark. Also has guest posts from agency authors that are more informative and interesting than just "buy this book!" appearances you'll see elsewhere.

Kristin Nelson at Pub Rants ("No Irish Pub involved--unless you want one to be!") is another helpful voice with frequent updates and a welcoming tone. If you want a crash course, Kristin's blog has an extensive index of previous posts that can educate you on what a successful query looks like, what an agent does, what makes back cover copy properly compelling, a whole host of stuff. (A particularly informative set: posts tagged with "career suicide".) The nicest of them all.

Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown Ltd. is a hoot and a half, and while his opinion posts are plenty great, he's also becoming known as a contest-runner extraordinaire. He is also the only literary agent blogger, at least the only one I read, to regularly offer his opinion on "The Hills". Possibly this is because he's based in California. Or maybe it's just because he's awesome. Like Kristin, he's got a great set of neatly organized posts that can teach you a ton. His index will walk you through formatting a query, writing a synopsis, putting together a nonfiction proposal -- near about anything. Also noteworthy for tell-it-like-it-is posts like yesterday's please don't try to get rich this way gem.

The Next

If you've got time -- and in some cases, thick skin -- here are the next few agent blogs you should add to your bookmark collection.

Janet Reid of FinePrint Lit is the snarkiest, sharpest, and most deadpan of the agents blogging. No, all agents don't think that all authors are idiots, but some agents think that some authors are, and to be fair, they're right. If you are not an idiot, which I'm sure you're not, don't do the things that Janet points out are telltale signs of idiocy. And while yeah, it's kinda harsh for her to reject anyone who uses the phrase "fiction novel"... well, I've been known to boycott businesses whose advertising puts an apostrophe in the possessive its, so I can't exactly point fingers here. And she has a second blog that hasn't been updated in ages, but is hugely helpful in learning to write queries: Query Shark.

Colleen Lindsay, aka the Swivet, is also an agent with FinePrint, and also approaches her blogging with a maximum of snark. Her blog is partly personal, partly professional, so it's engaging reading even if she's not talking about agenting on a specific day. Her blog is newer than the others, and more likely to link out to other blogs and articles, so it's a good clearinghouse for beginning-stage questions, not to mention the best, most levelheaded Chill out about HMH analysis I've seen so far.

Jennifer Jackson at Donald Maass updates a little less frequently than some of the other agents listed, and many of these updates are focused on her clients' new releases, but all in all she's a great resource (especially for SF/F writers). Plus you have to love anyone who subtly tucks Princess Bride references into the occasional post, and frequently lists the stats on how many of her queries yield requests for partials. Yeah, that last bit can be demoralizing, but it also helps to set your expectations.

The Rest

This is where things have really changed. Fact is, there are tons of agent blogs now. When I did my first round-up I was fairly confident I’d seen what there was to see. Now, there are dozens of agency sites with blogs, and I can’t possibly catch them all. So here are just a few more worth checking out.

KT Literary's Ask Daphne
Jonathan Lyons
the Scott Waxman Agency (mostly written by the cool and charming Holly Root)

One of these days I'll also do a roundup on author blogs and editor blogs, but for now, these should keep you busy. The difference between the agent search environment three years ago and now is really tremendous. The difference between now and 10 years ago -- it's another world entirely.

Publishing changes by the minute, and it's nice to see that some of these changes are, well, good.


ABOUT JAEL MCHENRY

Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry

IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...

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part i: approaching the launch
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published: 4.4.12


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by jael mchenry
topic: writing
published: 12.6.10





COMMENTS

sandra thompson
12.6.08 @ 10:51a

I really enjoyed some of these linked blogs. Thanks, Jael!



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