I’m sure most of you have a method of researching agents that you’d like to query. Here’s mine:
Level One: Use Query Tracker and Agent Query to compile a fat list of agents who represent my genre/genres (I dabble in Middle Grade and Young Adult).
Level Two: Go to agency websites and also Google for individual agent blogs. Check again for interest in genre, present clients, and current wish lists.
Level Three: Scour the internet for interviews and go to their agency’s thread over at the Absolute Write website (awesome resource, by the way--you need to sign up to use the Search option, but it's free). Follow their Twitter account. Check to see if they’re listed on Casey McCormick’s blog, Literary Rambles (she's got TONS of background information about children's agents).
Level Four: Reading over past Miss Snark Secret Agent Contests. This is something I’ve been doing recently, and it only works for a limited list of agents. Miss Snark’s First Victim (hosted by the incredible and anonymous Authoress) holds Secret Agent contests almost every month, and it’s a wonderful way to really see what an agent’s tastes are. You can read an agent’s comments on all twenty-or-so entries, and then see who they choose as their winners.
This has been extremely enlightening for me, because I can see who leans more towards humor, who leans more toward descriptive/lyrical language, etc. They occasionally make comments about what turns them off, what’s not working for them, and what they do/don’t like to see in dialogue.
I’ve made it into this contest once, and while the critiques I got pretty much said that my excerpt wasn’t the best crayon in the box (which it definitely wasn’t—I really appreciated every person who took the time to comment), I realized that I could learn a lot by reading the agent’s comments about all the entries, not just mine. These are things you can’t learn in a blog interview. The fact that you can look at specific examples is fantastic.
If you go to her website and scroll down on the right, you’ll see the list of participating agents. Then you’ll need to look through the archives to find the right posts. Below is a list of agents who’ve participated. Many of them represent Middle Grade and Young Adult, and are open to queries.
MSFV Secret Agent "Hall of Fame"
• Holly Root (July, 2008)
• Barbara Poelle (September, 2008)
• Michelle Brower (October, 2008)
• Colleen Lindsay (November, 2008)
• Sarah Davies (January, 2009)
• Kristin Nelson (February, 2009)
• Josh Getzler (March, 2009)
• Kate Schafer Testerman (April, 2009)
• Jenny Rappaport (May, 2009)
• Lauren MacLeod (July, 2009)
• Emmanuelle Alspaugh Morgen (August, 2009)
• Ginger Clark (September, 2009)
• Rachelle Gardner (October, 2009)
• Laura Bradford (November, 2009)
• Ammi-Joan Paquette (January, 2010)
• Nathan Bransford (February, 2010)
• Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (March, 2010)
• Jennifer Laughran (April, 2010)
• Kathleen Ortiz (May, 2010)
• Danielle Chiotti (July, 2010)
• Cameron McClure (August, 2010)
• Suzie Townsend (September, 2010)
• Michelle Wolfson (October, 2010)
• Weronika Janczuk (November, 2010)
Feel free to email me if you’re confused about how to access the entries they chose as winners and the comments (warning: it involves a healthy amount of clicking).
**Note—the Secret Agent contests are always open to public critique, and if you’re going to use them for research, it would be a nice thing to critique some entries in next year’s S.A. contests (and feel free to enter them too!).
**Extra note: Authoress has added a Donate button to her website. She does a lot for the writing community, so if you participate in contests/use her website, it would be a nice thing to contribute.