, ,

Last week I wrote about the importance of research even when writing fantasy, the kind of research that adds credibility, plausibility, and logic while giving the reader the “feel” of your tale, regardless of genre. The post started many lively discussions on several writer “boards” and blogs throughout the internet; some agreed with the observations, some did not, and that’s as it should be.

However, there is another type of research, which if discounted as meaningless will destroy your chance of success, or at the very least is like being blind-folded, spun around and around until dizzy, and given a bow with one arrow and told to hit a target a hundred yards distant: Market Research.

Market research can be tedious, and in some cases bewildering, especially when researching agents for a book length manuscript.

Some agents want a one page single-spaced query, a two-page synopsis, and the first ten pages of the novel; some do not require a synopsis and want the first fifty pages; some want . . . . You get the picture—each agent has different wants and needs to go along with their unique perspective and buying history. There is little a writer can do aside from following an agent’s requirements (each vastly different than the last) in the hope “something” will strike a chord. Beware: not researching the requirements will not get a first glance, so don’t short-change yourself by eliminating the necessary research. You worked too hard on your book, so give it the best chance of having an agent at least read what you sent.

There are many ways to research agents to increase the odds of success. Start with Writer’s Digest’s Writer’s Market and Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino; another good reference tool is Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents.

Once you have chosen a half dozen potential agents (perhaps many more), visit each of their web sites to research the books they have purchased. Read blurbs about the books (better yet, the books themselves) to get a sense of the style the agent leans toward. As mentioned earlier, make notes as to each agent’s individual requirements, and follow them to the letter.

Take into account how long an agent has been in the “biz” and how long at a particular agency. Well established agents with well established writer clients may have fewer tendencies to work with newer writers, whereas an agent building their client list will probably be more inclined to accept the unproven. Of course, an agent’s inexperience may be a factor, but their hunger to succeed in the marketplace could outweigh any negative sides of the ledger.

As to markets for short fiction (and to avoid too much redundancy) a previous post: After the Writing, Then What?

With all the necessary research (logistics and markets), when does a writer find time to write? Whenever they can.

Writing is first, research is second, regardless. Go tackle the prose, wrestle with it, and give yourself the best shot at success—nothing impresses like skillful writing.

See you on the next page,