Straight from the Agent’s Mouth

To find out what literary agents and acquisitions editors are really looking for, read their blogs. Or rather, their LiveJournals, in many cases. LiveJournal and Blogger/Blogspot seem the platforms of choice. Blogger is both simple and free, though it lacks the ability to tag or categorize posts, making it hard to search by topic. I’m not sure what the particular appeal of LiveJournal is.

No matter where and how they’re published, these blogs are full of insights and inside tips on what the agents want—and what they don’t want. They also provide glimpses into the publishing industry that you won’t get elsewhere. If you’re an author in search of a publisher, check them out. They’ll open your eyes, save you from serious mistakes, and give you some good laughs at the same time.

Anna Louise Genoese (editor at Tor Books):

Maybe it’s something about LiveJournal that inspires all the dining and drinking chat in addition to the gems about the publishing industry. Maybe it’s something about the publishing industry—agents and editors do attend a lot of conferences and have a lot of lunchtime meetings. In any case, it’s well worth sifting through the irrelevancies for gems like the Publishing P&L, which has garnered a massive 289 comments so far, mostly from people with dropped jaws who might have harbored some illusions that there were profits in publishing.

Evil Editor:

Evil doesn’t divulge his name or workplace, but he reposts some real howlers of queries and invites readers to ask questions and submit their own queries to be critiqued. Those queries end up as “Face Lift” posts: first the original query, with comments, and then Evil Editor’s revised version. This sort of enlightened self-interest seems far from Evil to me. As of May 5, 2006, there are 13 of these “Face Lift” posts and answers to several questions.

Agent Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants:

The subtitle of this blog is “a very nice literary agent indulges in polite rants about queries, writers, and the publishing industry.” Agent Kristin’s dislikes include middle initials and being labeled a “Chick Lit” specialist. Her likes include successes for the authors she’s representing. Each post starts with a status (mood) update and the song currently playing on her iPod. (You mean people use MP3 players for music?)

Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary Agency, Et in Arcadia Ego:

Start with the Anatomy of the Submissions Process, where you’ll find a lot of other agents chiming in along the lines of “me, too.”

Nadia Corner of Firebrand Literary, Agent Obscura:

In “How to Get Rejected” Nadia Corner reveals that using Agent Wizard puts you on the fast track to the round file. So if you were considering one of those automated submission tools—don’t.

Miss Snark, the Literary Agent:

If you only read one agent’s blog, it should be this one. Merciless to anyone who falls into the “nitwit” category, Miss Snark provides hilarious commentary and helpful tips in between trips to the gin pail. (Her readers can be fairly witty, too.) You never have to wonder where you stand with her, and she makes it very clear what not to send her. Now if you only knew who she was…

Terry Whalin (fiction acquisitions editor, Howard Books), The Writing Life:

Now a fiction acquisitions editor for the Howard Books imprint of Simon and Schuster, Terry Whalin is also the author of more than 60 nonfiction books, including Book Proposals that $ell—which probably won’t do anyone submitting queries to him much good, since new fiction authors need completed manuscripts rather than proposals. Terry started “The Writing Life” in December 2004, with the injunction “If you have no publishing experience, then you need to make a conscious effort to get some publishing credits.” He does tend to plug his own books and services, but still offers a lot of useful information.

As blogging gains in popularity, you can expect to see more and more agents and editors online—though how they find time to blog in between handling all those queries, proposals, and manuscripts, I can’t imagine.

Originally written for Women’s Radio.