Tuesday, February 06, 2007

February: Database

This month's biz post is about creating a database of industry info for contact purposes. This is your index to everyone else in the business, something you need for queries, proposals and other types of submissions. It's also a great way to create your own who's who and get to know your colleagues.

What you put into this database can be custom-tailored to your needs, but you'll probably need to maintain contact lists for agents, editors, publishers, and other writers. Optional databases would be lists of who is approachable, whose marriage is in trouble, who's a quote slut, who could turn a chunk of coal into a diamond by sitting on it, etc.

Agents: There are all sorts of indexes and books you can buy on agents, but I find most of them are outdated within a year of publication. I recommend using The Association of Author's Representatives web site, because the agents are required to follow the AAR's canon of ethics, plus it's free. Here's a sample listing from their database:

Last Name: Anderson
First Name: Kathleen
Company: Anderson Literary Management, Inc.
Address 1: 12 W. 19th Street
Address 2:
City: New York
State: New York
Zip: 10011
Country: USA
URL: http://www.andersonliterary.com
Submission Guidlines: by mail: fiction: 50 pages plus bio and query
nonfiction: narrative proposal including overview and resume
by email: all email queries should be addressed to terry@andersongrinberg.com. queries sent to other addresses will be forwarded there.

Email address for queries: terry@andersongrinberg.com
Literary: TRUE
Dramatic: TRUE
Adults: TRUE
Children: TRUE
Photo: Not Available
Accepting e-mail queries: yes
Genre: African American Studies, Americana/Regional, Anthropology, Archeology, Asian Studies, Behavioral Services, Biography, Children's Books, Essays, Fiction, Fiction/African-American, Fiction/Asian-American, Fiction/Gay & Lesbian, Fiction/International, Fiction/Latino or Hispanic, Fiction/Literary, Fiction/Short Stories, Fiction/Thrillers, Fiction/Women's, Geography/Geology, Government/Political Science, Health/Nutrition, Historical Fiction, History, Human Relations, Humor, Journalism, Memoir, Native American Studies, Natural History, Non-fiction (general), Non-Fiction/Narrative, Philosophy, Politics, Pop-Culture, Psychology/Psychiatry, Religion, Science (general), Social Sciences/Sociology, Travel, Women's Studies, Young Adult Fiction
Accepting New Clients: TRUE

A lot of good, specific information there for Ms. Anderson. You may also want to start tracking how quickly agents respond to queries, what sort of feedback you receive from them, who their other clients are. We'd all like to know if they're easily swayed by gifts of gourmet chocolate, dinners at French restaurants, begging and pleading, tears, threats of suicide and the like, so feel free to share that information.

Editors: You'll find a few sites out there like this one that provide free lists of editor contacts, but remember that editors move around (Jennifer Heddle, for example, is listed as Roc's editor; she's actually working over at Pocket now. Ace editor Anne Sowards is doing most of the editing for Roc these days.) I recommend going to the publisher's web site and checking to see if they have a contact info and/or submission guidelines page. For example, Kensington Books has an excellent contact page; scroll down to see their submission guidelines and editorial staff listed by name with their specialty and e-mail addy.

Do not keep databases of editors whom you have surreptitiously photographed while they were intoxicated and trying to hit on the GoH in front of his wife. What happens at the con, stays at the con. Plus we'd like to use the pics for the Editors Gone Wild newsletter.

Publishers: We've talked before about who the major publishers are, but they all have different divisions, lines, categories and imprints. There are also plenty of smaller publishers, houses and presses out there. Because we write by genre, the most logical way to classify publishers is by the genre they publish (and many will publish much more than one.)

Writer's Digest puts out a doorstop-size Writer's Market every year if you want to invest in a copy; the information becomes quickly outdated, though (why else would they print a new edition every year?) It's rather pricey, so I recommend getting it from the library. One of my old tricks was to go to the bookstore and write down the names of imprints on the spines of books that were shelved in the genre I was interested in, then come home and look up their web site.

Some writers have already compiled genre publisher list and made them available them online (like the Passionate Pen's list of romance publishers or Overbooked.org's Crime Fiction publisher links.) Verify the contact info if you're not sure how up-to-date these lists are.

By the way, PBW's Database of Publisher Horror Stories As Told By Other Writers does not exist. It's an urban myth, like Bigfoot. Really.

Other writers: I think we all keep contact lists of writer friends, but you may want to create one for writers in your genre for things like making quote requests, meeting at cons, networking on promo, getting recommendations on specific editors/publishers and so forth. Most pro writers have a web site or weblog with an e-mail addy listed or a contact e-mail form you can fill out to request one. Don't feel snubbed if you don't get a response; some writers are a bit leery about giving out their contact info, or are so flooded with e-mail that they might not have the time/opportunity to respond.

Then there are writers whom you shouldn't contact because they're complete jackasses or raving maniacs, but you have to compile that list personally -- just like the rest of us did.

There are plenty of database, organizer and contact freewares out there, but I'd go with our blog pal Simon Haynes's Sonar submission tracking program to manage your agent, editor and publisher information. I also recommend regularly backing up your databases and, if you're as paranoid as I am, printing out a hard copy for your files at least once a year.

Other biz posts:
January: Plan


  1. Again, thank you for posting these helpful articles once a month. You have no idea how much encouragement and direction they give.

  2. I'm slow to post, but that's only because I'm taking notes. ^_^

    I used to buy Writer's Market pre-internet, but now I do look up guidelines on the net. Like you said, you can take note of the spine imprints in the bookstore. It's a lot cheaper, and convenient. Some of the info in Writer's Market is pretty general, and sometimes editor changeovers go unmentioned.


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