"Query agents who handle work like yours" is BAD advice

Dear Miss Snark,
Many agent blogs say it's a good idea to query agents of books similar to your own project. My manuscript is historical humour, which isn't exactly the biggest genre out there. I drew up a list of authors working in a similar vein, but I haven't been able to track down their agents with my google-fu. Searching for "author name" "literary agent" or similar terms gets me hundreds of pages and no helpful results. Author's webpages don't tend to list the information: probably to avoid being inundated with hundreds of copycat queries. Barring author dedications, is there a way to find which agent represents a specific author?

This is advice that sounds good in theory, and sux in practicality.

You don't have time to read enough books to find out if they are "like yours" before querying agents anyway. And besides, I don't want books that are just like other people on my list. I want something fresh and new.

And some books that are "like yours" may be represented by people who don't like the books at all but inherited them from colleagues, or the author changed genre.

What you do instead is figure out your category and query agents who represent novels in that category. Don't make this any harder than it is, and don't go crazy trying to find the perfect match. Query widely. Write well. Forget all that cross referencing, colored pens, power point presentations and ....oh wait, that's not you, that's me. Never mind.

The reason the advice "query agents who represent books like yours" sux is not cause it's hard to find out who reps what cause you can find those by looking at Publishers Marketplace or in the rights lists of publishers catalogs, and usually on agent's websites.


Anonymous said...

Why not query agents who simply sell historical fiction? I'm sure plenty of them will like your humour even if they don't say they sell humour fiction specifically.

Anonymous said...


Tell me you've tried Agentquery.com?

You should be able to search on the name of the book or the author in question and find your answer in seconds.

ryan field said...

I think it's more about querying agents who represent things you actually like to read.

KimPossible said...

I found my agent's name on the website of an author who writes in the same genre I do. While my book is not "like hers", I really enjoy her books. I decided the agent who loved her books enough to represent them had at least one thing in common with me--we both loved those books. Maybe we'd both love MY books, too. Turned out we did.

Instead of querying agents who rep books "like yours" try querying agents who rep books you love.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Honestly, I think that's what is meant by "query agents who handle work like yours."

It means don't send your romance to someone who handles cookbooks. Don't send your YA fantasy to someone who never deals with YA or fantasy.

It's not bad advice, it's just being taken the wrong way -- way too literally.

Eileen said...

Also if you look in the similar book many writer types thank their agents in the acknowledgements section.

dan said...


Miss Snark, I think you actually just helped me in a big, easily referenced way.

I'm not at the point yet where I'm looking for agents (I'm about 50% done with a novel's Draft III, for what that's worth) but I've been looking into it, and I was getting my proverbial panties in a twist cos I don't know any books "like" mine. Not that mine is so startlingly original--it just doesn't fit into any category less broad than "literary" or "commercial" fiction and is not the sort of book that comes out ten times a year.

Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Dwight (or anyone who knows)--Where is that search feature on Agent Query? I know how to search for genre--but how do I search for who agented a specific book or author? I don't see that...