Simple research is so often overlooked when writers are approaching agents and publishers. The fact is, there is some research to do before knowing which publisher is a good fit for you. Instead of reaching out on a whim, we’ll break down why and how to research them.
Now, many, many publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, hence the reason why a lot of people get agents. Publishers won’t often take unsolicited manuscripts so you should check out the guidelines that they have for submission. Even more than that, you want to find out what are they interested in so you don’t waste their (or your) time. You spent enough time on your manuscript that you want it to fit the person you’re sending it to. To give your manuscript the best shot possible, do just a little bit of research. To keep yourself organised, start a spreadsheet with some of the details. You might find yourself spending a lot of time researching out of interest.
AgentQuery.com is a fantastic resource because it allows many different search types. As long as the agent has been updating their information, you will know what they are most interested in, whether or not they are taking submissions and what they have taken on before. This is a huge clue as to what they like personally. If they like reading sci-fi and you’ve written romance it may not be a match made in heaven. However, you just don’t know. There are a lot of agents out there that have quite a few genres that they are they going towards, so the best thing to do is have a look on the website and see if it feels like they are a good fit. Often times, agents are really explicit there and that’s a wonderful thing because you don’t want to approach somebody who wants to slam the door in your face. So take heed of what they write there.
Another place for you to find great information is the agent’s or the publisher’s website. They have as much information on there as you are likely to get anywhere. On publishers websites they have a whole section of their submission guidelines and then they get very clear about what they are accepting (if anything) directly from writers. At times, a particular publisher might accept a wide range of genres but only be looking for (or accepting) a specific one. Have a look at the books they are actively marketing and the types of stories they seem to be including on their list lately.
The thing about competitive analysis is that you want to look at what is popular right now. When paranormal took off, publishers and agents wanted more of that. And when erotic fiction had caught fire a few years ago, they wanted a lot of that. Now that these genres have died down a little bit, only specific publishers are looking for them. Having a look on a publisher’s or agent’s website can help you gauge this.
If they have a blog on their website, read it. The best thing about blogs is the fact that when they are writing often, very personal, day to day stuff can be a gold mine of information for you. If they had a ton of submissions lately in a particular genre they might be tired of those types of work. They might not have updated their submissions there, but you can see that they are not looking for XYZ anymore, so don’t approach them. Likewise, they might say they are looking for something else. Social media is also a great place to find what publishers and agents are looking for.
At the top of writersdigest.com, find blogs and navigate to guide, then to literary agents. This website, in particular, is phenomenal for information. You can read success stories which are great to boost morale and learn about their paths to publication or representation. This website also outlines new agents getting into the game. Often times, new agents are the most passionate and they are actively building their lists. When they share what they are looking for, approach them if they are a good fit for you. Spend some time on writersdigest.com to boost your own energy around your project and the possibility for your manuscript, but also to find a, agent that’s a good fit for you.
Google is great for finding articles about agents or publishers that you might not find elsewhere. For example, if you’ve got a manuscript that bridges two genres, Google might be a great way for you to find somebody who’s going to be excited by what you’ve got. Google is the best place to find random interviews on different websites.
Or hey, go on a road trip and go to another Writer’s Festival. Go to as many sessions as you can for free and network. Don’t be afraid to go up to a publisher, agent or an author that you’ve seen on the panel afterwards and tell them you appreciate what they had to say. Get a conversation going. Oftentimes, if you share that you’re a writer and you’re asking about them (not simply telling them what you’re doing) that’s a really big clue so I’ll have another video about that, but if you approach a Writers Festival and talk to people within the industry and ask them what they like, what likes or not, refer to something that they talked about that you agree with or you want to hear more about. Talk about them. This is also a great way to collect contact information for your future work. You might find yourself making great connections on that day and then later when you approach them. If it’s not the right fit, that’s okay. Be polite any time you have direct contact with an agent or a publisher. Whatever you do, don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you might want to approach an agent or publisher again, or when your project is exactly what they are looking for.
Think of doing this research like trying to set up your best friend on a blind date. While it’s not a blind date for you, it’s a blind date for your manuscript so you want to make sure that the person you are setting it up with is a good fit. Do a little bit of extra work before you submit your manuscript.