Sunday, March 10, 2013

Secret Agent? Not any more!

Sometimes, something new comes along and everyone slaps their foreheads and says, 'Of course! What a brilliant idea. Why didn't anyone think of this before? It's a complete game-changer.'

In this digital age, it seems astonishing that, until now, every author seeking an agent or publisher has gone out and ... bought a book. Now, I'm sure I don't have to say that I have nothing against books (as if!) but, in this case, it doesn't seem like the ideal tool for the twenty-first century.

The book in question is, of course, the Writers' and Artists' Year Book. It comes out annually and consists of alphabetical listings with little more than contact details. Canny authors know to cross-reference the information with that on agents' websites. Even cannier ones might think to do a Google search, seeing if there's anything else out there on the web about an individual agent. They'll hope to glean hints and titbits that might be useful when it comes to pitching a novel. If they're lucky, they just might be able to find out how long an agent has been in the bizz, maybe find an author they represent, that kind of thing. If Canny Author is really on the ball, they might search Twitter ...

Fine, huh? Time-consuming. Random. Fiddly. But fine. It's what we've always done.

It's not great though when you come to think about it.

Well, the clever folk at Writers' Workshop did come to think about it and have come up with an alternative that is truly breathtaking. Welcome to - drum roll, please - 

a searchable database of every literary agent, agency and significant publisher in the UK. 

I could tell you about the functionality. I could go on about the numbers of ways you can search the database. I could mention that, for a £12 annual subscription (less than a copy of WAYB, by the way), you'll be amazed that no one has thought of this before.

But you know what? In the great tradition of show, not tell, I'm not going to tell you any of that. Instead, I'm going to suggest you get there and have a look for yourself. Wander round and see what's on offer. If you want to know some of the thinking that went into producing this new resource, check out this post on Word Cloud.

I'll defend Real Books until my dying day but, when it comes to an unwieldy and restricted reference tome like WAYB, I reckon Agent Hunter is the face of the future. Anyone disagree?