You’ve found the appropriate agents for your work. Congratulations, but you’re not done. You’ve also got to find the agents that are good for you, especially if you can only query one within an agency.
How, you ask? You’ve looked at agents professionally and they all seem the same. Okay. Look at them personally. Read their blog/website/twitter if they have one and see which agent appeals to you most.
If they participate in #tenqueries, #querytip, #MSWL or others, read through the tweets. You’ll get a better idea of what they’re burned out on and what drives them.
Only query agents you REALLY want to work with. It’s okay to not query someone, despite how stellar the agent seems.
Sift through writing forums and see what other people have to say. Bear in mind, some anecdotes might be based on grudges and axes to grind, but when multiple people say the same thing, it’s worth knowing.
How does the agent… agent? How well does the agent agent? Are they approachable? Do they give any other sort of guidance? Do they push social media when you’d rather stay anonymous? Do they give feedback and let the author decide, or do they demand changes before shopping the book? (Keep in mind that agents rely on their reputation with publishers and won’t submit pieces they don’t believe in.)
Check out interviews. You’ll learn something new that makes them stand out.
Some agents will ignore you and hope you “get the picture.” Other agents believe in replying to all queries. A select few don’t reply personally, but will alert writers that they’re up to such and such date on twitter/facebook/blog. If you don’t feel comfortable with not getting a response, move on. If you’d hate to pass up the opportunity, query away.
Is this their only career? Some agents are teachers, professors and even doctors. A lot of agents are writers, themselves. Your job is to decide if this is a conflict of interest and if your book will suffer.
Some writers narrow the field based on query response times. Some agents take 6+ months to respond, some agents take 2 weeks. Decide if you’d rather wait 7 months before sending out another query, or 1 month. Long waits can be excruciating, but it stops you from querying other agents with a potentially bad query. A lot of writers drastically change their query after x number of rejections. On the other hand, quick responses help you evaluate the quality of your query much faster.
Some writers find out how long it takes the agent to start reading a requested manuscript. Some agents take 4 months to respond, but will read your book within two. Some agents take a month to respond, but might take up to a year (or more) to read your manuscript. Again, sift through forums because many authors post this information—especially in success stories.
Just because an agent takes a while to read or respond doesn’t mean they aren’t worth their weight in gold. Oftentimes, it means the opposite. Or, they’re inundated in queries after an agent highlight.
If you’ve got multiple offers, it is, however, prudent to do your research and decide which dream agent will respond, read, edit and shop your book in the most agreeable fashion. In a business where time means income, this is often overlooked (and regretted) by excited writers.
Who you choose is completely personal, but make sure it’s something you can live with.