Monday, March 18, 2013

Wordcraft -- Tracking the right agent for your work

My daughter and I were rummaging through a second-hand store, cherishing a couple of free hours, when I found one of the rabbit fur jackets she had longed for back in the days when she was a teenager.

“Remember this?” I asked. “All your friends had them but I wouldn’t get you one? Want me to buy it for you now?”

Giving me her best “you’ve got to be kidding” look, she said, “No, and I’m glad I didn’t have one then.”

Last month I defended Duotrope Digest’s new policy requiring subscribers to pay for searching its database of writing markets. (See “Much ado about Duotrope,” February 25, 2013.) This may have left the impression that I enjoy throwing away my hard-earned dollars and pounds on services other sites offer without fees.

As my daughter can attest, I am, in fact, a tightwad. To further prove my thriftiness, I’ll share one of my favorite free sites for writers -- QueryTracker.

Writing friend Jill Wilson pointed me toward QueryTracker when we were both in the novel writing program at Southern Methodist University, trying to find literary agents for our work. I had subscribed to Publisher’s Marketplace. PM does some great work, really, but charges I’m embarrassed to say how much for it.

Duotrope and its free alternatives are great at helping find publishers for short works. But although they list some publishers who accept book manuscripts without agents, many traditional houses refuse to look at unagented material. QueryTracker also lists  publishers. But its main function is to search for literary agents.

Yes, you can buy books listing agents. Or hope your library has one that it’s been updated recently. The most helpful are written by agents about their fellow agents. They can offer a lot of good information. But they’re not free.

QueryTracker will search for agents by the genres they represent and provides their contact information and preferred methods of contact, professional affiliations, websites and clients. It also lets you keep a spreadsheet of your queries, much as Duotrope’s submissions tracker does for short works. You can leave comments about an agent and save a copy of your query letter, all without paying a dime.

Want to target agents who represent your favorite authors? QueryTracker will tell you who agents whom. Sure, sometimes writers get nice and list their agents in their books or websites. Sometimes not. Now you can concentrate on who really represents the kind of work you like to read. 

If you have a book length manuscript, take at look,
I don’t always promote contests, but this one’s special -- East Dallas retirement home C.C. Young’s 2013 art and writing contest. The theme is “Spirit is Ageless.” If you’re at least age 55, enter this one for the love. Entries must be received between April 8 - 11. For specifics, call 214-841-2831 or email

Also, SMU has a few places left for this Saturday's (March 23) writing workshop with BK Loren.  See

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