One of the perils of having your email address on your blog is you get spam. There's the usual stuff from people like (the-very-real-sounding-they-just-must-exist) Mrs Fatima Hamilton or Mr Aubrey Smithe or (simply) Mrs Stella, all taking the time to email ME! from their various deathbeds because they like the look of my profile and want to give me a couple of million dollars. Soz guys, but I just couldn't take it from you.
Occasionally you got a more tailored bit of spam - someone who wants to advertise you or to be advertised by you - they've noticed your blog has a good amount of followers and they want in, they want to write a guest post about something, but that something would be totally out of place on your blog, like 'Higher Education' (had that one recently). Anyway you obviously don't go for these offers, they're not in-keeping with the spirit of the blog.
So when I received an email recently from a place called 'Agent Hunter', asking me to write a blog about their site and services, I scanned it expecting it to be sent to Junk any minute. Only there were a few signs that this wasn't spammy, making me read it with a bit more attention.
Firstly, the sender (I didn't know at this point but he's Harry Bingham, an established and best-selling writer, as well as one of the folks behind the Writers' Workshop) referred to the fact that I'm a short story writer, and mentioned my placings at Bridport and The Guardian. He reckoned I'm in an okay position, if I had the material ready, to be approaching agents myself. The crux of the email was if I wanted to, he'd give me a year's free subscription to Agent Hunter, in return for me writing an honest blog post about the site. He also shortened 'because' to 'cos', so he felt extra human.
So, realising this was a good email, I replied and took Harry up on the offer. He signed me up for Agent Hunter, and I've been getting to know the site for the last week or so, and here's what I've found.
The premise is pretty simple - Agent Hunter is a database of all UK literary agents, agencies, and publishers. Think of it as a digitised version of The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook but with more detailed information - agent biographies, their likes/dislikes, along with the important stuff like how long they've been an agent, how many clients they have and who they are, if they're looking to expand their list, and how to contact them.
As well as comprehensive listings, there's a search facility which is very good, allowing you to narrow the hundreds of listed agents down to your preferences - by genre, experience, number of clients, keywords. Or you can search by agent name if you have someone in mind, or by writer to find out who represents them. You can then save and name any searches you run for whenever you need to come back to them.
The database has been compiled along with the assistance of agents/publishers, all invited to give information about themselves and advice on how to approach them. Some have given more info than others, but even the basic details are comprehensive. The site is run by people who really know the industry so that's reassuring, and because it's online it should be up to date (though, sensibly, if you're submitting to a particular agent check their own website/agency guidelines too).
The only thing I think it's missing, and it's not a biggie cos it's get-round-able, is a button which lets you 'bookmark' a single agent. (It's get-round-able by running a search on that agent and saving the search with their name. So, yeah, no biggie.)
It costs £12 for a year's subscription to Agent Hunter. Really worth the money. AND - when you sign up, you're not charged for 7 days - meaning you can have a look and see if it's worth the fee, and if you don't think it is, you can cancel your subscription without being charged.
If you're looking for an agent now it makes complete sense to sign up, or if, like me - you'd like to be looking for an agent soon - it's a great window in to that world, a way of having a snoop around, and it's there - ready when you are - to help you get to grips with everything, all in one place.