Who They Are? - agents, publishers, editors.
What they want? - hm mm...I think they want to do well at their work, make names for their clients and find gems that others have overlooked. Maybe they just want to be left alone because they are far too busy already. Some of them want to garden, or collect antique bicycles. For my purpose I hope they want good novels with compelling stories. Oh oh, I'm starting to sound like them. They want reasonable writers with staggering novels of genius. Do the two go hand-in-hand? Hard to say. How about staggering writers of genius with reasonable novels?
How to Win them Over? - send them well-written query packages with no more than they ask for and be patient. Send them good writing samples and synopses that show you aren't dicking around. Get their names straight and be polite. Follow all the rules or give them damn good reasons for not doing so.
How do I know this? I've been reading Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents (Canadian publishers included!). 2010. Had it for a bit. Can't get the next one just yet. I really really like this book. It is just plain fun to read as well as being highly informative. Figures I'd notice the fun part first, but honestly, reading that some agent in Vermont is a cheese-maker on the side - I love that! I've been dipping into this book since I got it about a year ago. But not too much because I wasn't ready. Now I am.
Here's one of the things. I would like an agent for True. Not so sure about The Rock Walker - might be able to get a publisher without one initially. But for True. There are 30 literary agencies in Canada. Yes, 30. And a fair number of them are academic and not interested in novels. I'd say there is about seven who might be up for what I do. Might be. Now, before you gasp in astonishment - there are only a few more than 200 in Herman's Guide from the States. He includes a Canadian section on publishers but not on agents. I have a list of agents from The Association of Canadian Publishers.
I have chosen four Canadian agencies to approach starting in February. One has an agent that expressed some interest in my first novel but after requesting a partial (and then another partial) decided that my writing wasn't strong enough. I think it is now and I liked the communications we had - yes, even the final refusal. She was straight-forward and respectful. I know authors who work with her agency - I know authors in every agency that I'm approaching. Not so that I would ask for a referral but I know them and their work and it seems like they are happy with their agents.
I will also begin to send out my package to a few American agents. I would prefer a Canadian agency as my story has a connection to Canadian landscapes and aboriginal peoples. But for me, that is like saying that I would have liked to have a pelvic affiliate (husband, partner, boyfriend) who is a millionaire and a Buddhist. Well yeah - but only if he is also Ron who is neither. Right now. In other words, in the immortal words of dating sites - 'broaden your parameters for a better result'. Okey-dokey.
As to what is in the package - it will be different for each agent. Some agencies want the first ten pages, some the first four. Some want a good long synopsis - some a one-pager. I think all the ones I've chosen accept email submissions. I hope so. But if not - I'll get out the nice paper and make sure my ink is topped up. I know how to make things look nice and I know those things count. My editor is cleaning up any copy I send out -double checking my punctuation and all of that. Together we'll make sure every bit of it is tight and bright.
Oh - and thanks to Miriam Forster from Dancing with Dragons, who tipped me off to a great device - it is a hero's journey type cheat-sheet for checking on your narrative structure. I used it to create a synopsis and it worked a treat! It is from The Dark Salon - Alexandra Sokoloff - a great site!
So there you are my dearios - keep up the writing, the dreaming and the scheming.