for new writersIn the interests of not reinventing the wheel, I've pretty much assumed that anyone using this agent list knows what they're about. I assume that you know what I mean when I say "query letter" or "synopsis", that you're familiar with standard manuscript format, that you know what an SASE is and why one must be included with every submission. If you don't know what I'm talking about, there's plenty of places to learn. Articles on writing query letters can be found on Robert Sawyer's site, Holly Lisle's site, and many other places across the web. There's a good article on synopsis writing at Fictionwriters and there's a transcript of a workshop S.L. Viehl ran on synopsis-writing at Forward Motion. Holly Lisle has an article on manuscript formatting, and SFWA has a whole slew of them. Familiarize yourself with the industry standards before you even bother looking at this list.
In addition, however, I assume that anyone using my list is familar with the basic protocols of dealing with agents and editors. I assume that you know not to send your material to everyone on this list, even if you've written a 500,000 word epic fantasy and they say they don't read fantasy and hate long novels. I assume you will not send your entire manuscript to an agent who specifies they only want a query letter; that you will read the submission guidelines on the agent's website and follow them; that you will not use pink paper or staple pages together to find out how far the agent has read in your manuscript; that you will not see your query letter as an opportunity to whine, beg, threaten, cajole, bribe, bully, guilt, browbeat, or frighten an agency into taking you on.
Don't be clever. Be professional. Like veterans of the subway-front beggar's gauntlet, agents have seen just about every trick that you can think up to get their attention, and they already know better than to take pity on you or be frightened of you - because there's hundreds more just like you with their hands out, wanting a free ride. Be a beggar, and you will be ignored.
We can all be as emotional and artistic and flighty as we want and need to be when we're writing the novels, but when it comes to submitting, novels become a business. And the artistic temprament has no place in business. Writing may be your calling, but if you want to be published then it must also be your profession. Be professional.
should I submit to the agents first, or the publishers first?Anyone who's spent time on a writer's bulletin board or subscribed to a listserve has seen this question come up - it's one of those ones that rears its head every few months, along with "What's the best POV to write in?" and "Can I write my novel in present tense?" And, like the POV or present tense, it's a question that causes veterans of the boards to flinch slightly and utter involuntary little whimpering noises. No one knows the answer to these questions, and everyone has an opinion.
My personal opinion - and the reasoning behind it - goes something like this:
Agents prefer to deal with writers who have already been published or, at the least, have an offer from a publishing house in hand. In fact, many will not even accept new clients who haven't been previously published.
Publishing houses prefer to work with writers through an agent. They see getting an agent as a sort of litmus test for quality, and give top priority to agented works. The slush pile is the last place they want to look for new talent; in fact, many have done away with the slush entirely and will only accept submissions through an agent.
This is what is known in the business as a Catch-22, or, more colloqually, "a complete bitch."
Personal experience suggests that agents and publishing houses are equally likely to turn me down. However, if I query an agent and am rejected, I can come back and say, "Hi, you turned me down, but now that I've got an offer from a publishing house would you reconsider?" and the agent will probably be quite happy to. If, on the other hand, I query a publishing house and am rejected, I cannot come back and say, "I've got an agent now, would you read that manuscript again?" Never mind the greater care with which an agented manuscript is read, never mind that the original submission was through the despised slush - a publishing house is not reading the same book twice.
I query the agents first.
caveats of the listThis list was written with my particular prejudices at the forefront. As such:
And now, without further ado....