The truth is this: it's simply no good for anyone to spew manuscripts aimlessly into the world. Agents and publishers end up with unwieldy slush piles and authors end up with carbon copy rejections that inevitably dent their self-esteem. At the very least, I hope my current process yields some constructive criticism. Just to share, here is my current check list for agent suitability:
- What genres do they represent and what are their current needs? If the answer to this question isn't clear from the agent's blog or website, I send a brief email to inquire. I don't send a query because they take too long to write well. Agents can smell form letters like my dog can smell horse dung.
- What books inspire them? Did they grow up reading the same books I loved? What are their current favourites? Who do they currently represent? If they grew up hiding comic books in their math book and despised Blubber, there's a good chance they won't like my book.
- How do they write? In the past year I've come to love a good blog. Because of the more casual nature of blogs, you can get a real sense of a person. Are they respectful? Do they have a sense of humour? How do they negotiate on behalf of their clients? What is their involvement in the revision process? I've come to respect the advice of many agents whose blogs I follow though may never submit to.
The Association of Authors' Representatives
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
I've also discovered Cynsations, a wonderful blog by fellow SCBWI member, Cynthia Leitich Smith who has interviewed countless agents and authors in the children's book industry. Great work, Cynthia!
So that's it, my advice, for what it's worth. Care to share any of your own?