I was delighted to be asked by The Writers’ Workshop to review the recently launched Agent Hunter site, especially as I’m currently on the lookout for an agent or publisher for a contemporary romance and shortly will be for a women’s commercial fiction book. The Writers’ Workshop is a leading literary consultancy for first-time writers set up by successful author Harry Bingham, who writes crime in the main but who also wrote the Writers and Artists Yearbook Guide to Getting Published, which I own and is excellent, as well as How to Write.
For those who don’t know about Agent Hunter, I’ll put it simply; it’s a brand-spanking-new database which lists UK publisher and agent contact details for (aspiring) authors. But it’s not just links to agent and publisher websites and postal addresses, no, it’s much more than that. It’s what they want or don’t want, what they like/dislike, whether they are on the lookout for new clients or not and it also includes a great search facility that can be used to filter agents/publishers in or out depending on your needs (see further info below).
It sounded like a great idea to me, and an online listing of this nature is a relatively new concept in the UK (there are a few sites like Preditors and Editors and Absolute Write Water Cooler, both US sites I believe, but they offer other services as well and are a different animal). I must confess that I’ve bought the Writers and Artists Yearbook every year for the last three, and have spent many a happy hour turning its pages and highlighting agent details, so I was interested to see what an online tool could offer instead.
The Writers Workshop said I could review Agent Hunter honestly, and in the spirit of constructive criticism being something that I value above shoes and handbags, I am offering my own. Here goes…
- Registering is super-duper easy and only involves having an email address to hand and making up a password. Click on the verification email and get your confirmation and you’re away.
- The homepage is slick and professional, you can definitely tell this site is not run by a bunch of amateurs. However, it feels a bit busy and being brutally honest I’m not sure about the colours. The green in the main header at the top of the page and some of the other headings and the lilac on the white background was a bit hard on the eyes. I also feel like the font is too small (under the headings e.g. Complete, Sortable, Useful etc) But that’s just my personal views and other people may have no issues with any of this whatsoever.
- I had a bit of a look around before I logged in, to see what Joe Public could view (not subscribers) and I think the site gives a great flavour of what’s on offer. Some of the FAQ bits are very useful.
- ‘Start Your Search’ tab. Again I was not crazy about some of the colours – the mustard yellow on the buttons especially, or the white text against the lilac background on the buttons under the ‘Search Tips’ tab. I found them hard to read (I am bracing myself for a deluge of people telling me I have rubbish eyesight, but honestly, I am wearing my trendy glasses today).
- Signing in, which is quick and mega-easy, takes me to the My Account page – which is very clear. It tells me when my subscription starts and ends and whether an auto-renew tool is switched on (if it is, you will get an email reminding you that your subscription is about to expire, in order to renew in plenty of time). The prompts tell me that to start exploring the best thing to do is ‘Start a Search,’ and I hastily obey!
- On the search page I can choose from three options – agents, agencies or publishers. I choose agents as a starting point. In the first instance they are listed alphabetically, however there is a search tool on the left hand side of the page which you can use to filter in/out/whittle down the choices to make the list relevant to your needs. This is excellent! (You can also use the top search box to search for an agent by name if you’re looking for someone in particular).
- I make some choices in the (mainly) drop-down boxes based on the MS that is currently being revised – The Lost Weekend – which is contemporary romance. I have an idea that this one might be better off as a submission straight to publishers but I give it a whirl anyway.
- First of all I choose from Genre (general romance and women’s fiction, but there are many more).
- Further search/filter options are; agent experience, client list, number of clients, who they represent (client names), search by likes and dislikes, opportunities to meet (whether they attend conferences etc), if they are on twitter, if they have a blog, the size of agency, whether they accept email submissions, and if they are a member of the AAA (Association of Authors’ Agents) or not.
- The result is 59 records listed alphabetically by first name. I start to trawl through them, but first…
- One of the best things about this site is that you can press on ‘Save this Search’ to store the results and come back to it later on (a bit like when you use jobs sites to search for jobs and can build a shortlist of jobs you wish to apply to).
- So I save the search and label it The Lost Weekend. The list has saved to the My Account page when I check it. Success!
- On the whole, the list returned (I only got a third of the way through before being interrupted by one of my darling children) holds good quality information and collates it into one area. Some agents have shared a lot more info than others but that’s okay because links to websites are included so I can go to those to get more info if I want or need it.
- I love the fact that when you go into the details about an agent there is also an agency tab so that you can get an overview of the agency they work in/run.
- I also like the interesting links facility where you can follow through to articles/blogs etc for that agent or agency.
- A few hitches… The first agent I look at says quite clearly that they do not accept email submissions and the second agent also states no postal or email subs, yet I pressed ‘yes’ on the ‘accepting email submissions’ drop-down menu so something doesn’t add up there. Also, I’d suggest that the ‘back to list of agents’ prompt (to go back to the main list from an individual agent’s profile) needs to be a lot bigger (I felt like it was hiding from me at the very bottom of the page in small font) and perhaps there should be a button at the top of the page as well as the bottom.
- I was also surprised that (according to the ‘FAQ about Publishers’ section) the advice is that if you have written a novel then a literary agent is essential. My understanding is that some publishers accept fiction manuscripts directly. In terms of romantic fiction I can think of Choc Lit, Harlequin, Sapphire Star Publishing off the top of my head. I therefore wonder if the listing needs to be more flexible? And whether some independents have fallen down a gap or don’t qualify to be included for some reason (I did a search for Choc Lit and it returned nothing).
- Other than that I really can’t fault the site. Not that they’re really faults – just observations! Overall, Agent Hunter is intuitive and easy to use and very importantly, quick. It draws all the info that an aspiring author looking for publication needs, together into one place.
- There is a ‘try before you buy’ opportunity which is great if anyone out there wants to have a look for themselves before committing to an annual subscription. In their own words, ‘Once you’ve got an account, you can start to use the system: browsing agents, sorting through the database, seeing who’s who. You can search as often as you like, for free. The only catch is that some of the data will be blurred out, so although you’ll be able to get a feel for the system, you won’t have access to all its goodies.’ They won’t charge you anything for 7 days and you’re free to cancel the subscription within that 7 day period without paying a penny.
- However, I’d say that the annual subscription fee of £12 is a very fair price and I would recommend the site. I intend to keep on using it!
So in anwer to the question I pose in the title of this post; is Agent Hunter an aspiring author’s Mecca? Well, I love it – aside from a few tweaks that I would make – and I would gladly spend more time there, worshipping at it’s feet. And I really feel that after only an hour and a half on the site I have hardly scratched the surface, so I’ll be returning soon.
I’ll let you decide for yourself…
Here’s the link to the site so that you can check it out http://www.agenthunter.co.uk
Here is The Writers’ Workshop link as well http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/About-us.html
I hope people have found this review useful – I’d love it if you shared your thoughts and experiences of Agent Hunter in the comments box below when you’ve had a chance to take a look at it.
Until then, Happy Writing.