I'm officially querying again and so far, so good. My only real complaint is that it takes awhile to get responses, and since I'm not generally known for my patience, I've resorted to even more obsessive-compulsive gmail refreshing than usual. Stay tuned though, I'm sure I'll have plenty of complaints later.
Yesterday I spent some time on QueryTracker.net looking for agents to query. This is a good task for me, as it feels sort of like time-wasting and yet is a necessary part of the book-writing process. It's certainly easier than actually writing a novel, and anything that feels like progress in my quest to get published that doesn't actually require the gut-wrenching task of writing is okay by me.
Should I not refer to writing as gut-wrenching? Perhaps not. Except for me it often is.
Anyway, back to QueryTracker. My search yesterday was broader than I'd done in the past and thus included many agents I hadn't heard of before. As part of my research, I went to their websites, read the QueryTracker comments, and generally did my homework to decide whether I wanted to add them to my list.
Since I started writing Diary of Bedlam nearly four years ago, I've learned quite a lot about what agents are looking for when they sort through queries. So much of it is subjective, but there are a few things, like following of submission guidelines and professionalism, that are expected across the board. But yesterday, I realized that as a writer, there are a few basic (and possibly superficial) things that I'm looking for as well.
First impressions definitely count.
1) If an agent uses a hotmail address, he/she is probably not the agent for me. Heck, at this point, I'd have second thoughts about doing business with anyone who still uses hotmail for business purposes.
2) If an agent still has the equivalent of an AOL circa 1997 website, I'll probably skip sending them a query. I certainly have nothing against AOL–heck, I met my husband via that service in 1996, but a professional web presence counts a lot. I'm not saying an agency has to spend loads of money on a fancy website, but I draw the line at websites using Comic Sans as a primary font.
3) I hesitate to mention this last one and I'm certain there will be people who disagree with me, but at this point, I'm skipping agents who do not accept queries by email. I understand they have their reasons for it and there are a few top-notch agencies who only accept queries by post that I'll probably end up querying, but for now email makes more sense to me.
I have other criteria, of course, but these are the things that stop me in my tracks almost immediately. As writers, we are all looking for the best agent to represent our work, and to me, the first two items mentioned speak to an agency's ability to represent me in the way I expect to be represented.
What do you think? Am I being too picky?