I have been working on and off on an updated look for my website http://www.jenniferjackson.org/. Unfortunately, my luck with CSS is elusive and erratic so it may be a while before I get the format to do what I want it to do. However, on the off-chance that I get lucky and it all falls into place this weekend sometime, I was wondering… What is it that a writer wants to see and/or finds most valuable when they go to an agent website? Even if I get the prettiest CSS in the world, it won’t do me much good without decent content. So, if anyone has any thoughts on that front, I’d love to hear them so I can consider whether that needs more work as well. Thanks.
CSS hates me
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As I glance over your site, the suggestions I can think of offhand might be either a link to this journal (depending on how high a profile you’d like to give it) or perhaps a short collection of links off to your postings that you’ve made to Romancing the Blog? Certainly both this journal and those postings have been beneficial to me as an aspiring writer. 🙂
Re: your CSS woes… I don’t know if your personal tech-awareness level would let you find this helpful, but this is a CSS validator on w3.org. I find their site very helpful to me in my own fiddlings with CSS and HTML, and I’ve had good luck with their HTML validator in helping me find problems with websites. Hope that might help!
I’ve been of two minds about linking to my LJ from the site. Originally when I started this journal I only had a few close friends reading it, and though it was some about my job – similar to many – it also had a quotient of other things as well. But over the last year or so, that has shifted markedly. So, this wasn’t meant to be a professional space entirely, but jenniferjackson.org was. Anyway, I’m still thinking about it.
Thanks for the pointer to the CSS validator. I think I’ve actually used that one in the past. My problem stems more from my inability to get the page to take on the vision in my head than from a coding issue. I’ll get it eventually, I’m sure. I usually do.
Totally fair reasoning there. Should I ever get to the point where I will be ready to open a professional site of my own, I expect I’ll have a similar dilemma. 🙂
And you are very welcome, re: the link! I’m all about the sympathy–web and layout design is not my strong suit. The code I can get with no problems, it’s just having to do all the tweaks necessary to get the appearance the way I want it. Good luck!
What is it that a writer wants to see and/or finds most valuable when they go to an agent website?
Favorite places to spring for lunches? 🙂
Personal taste, actual. The books and stories that get YOU excited, or have gotten you excited in the past. For instance, I know of a particular shark in an Italian suit that is one of the old skool, hardcore agents… but he really, really, really loves sf and fantasy. Knowing that makes me more apt to send something to him.
And, natch, client list. (Or, in writer parlance, “potential blurbs”!)
Forgive me. It is way past my bedtime.
“We are currently accepting electronic submissions.”
Sorry…. can’t help you there. Our official website says that writers can email queries. However, it also notes that we will only respond to those if interested. I personally still prefer to get queries by snailmail — one last remnant of the old-fashioned in me, I guess, and I don’t read partials or manuscripts online. Or books for that matter. I like the feel and substance of paper in my hands. In any case, I’m only changing the look of my webpage, not the policies of the agency.
Understandable; I’d probably feel the same way if I were on the other side of the transom.
When I did the big agent search and info gather two years ago, you had one of the best sites. At least for an agent that represents sci-fi/fantasy. (I don’t know about any of the others.)
The toughest thing for a new writer is figuring out who represents who. You’ve got that covered, along with the basics like submission guidelines. I couldn’t really ask for more, personally.
(I’m still not sure who represents a couple of my favorite writers. Of course, I’m not exactly working hard to figure it out.)
I loved what you just did here–shared with us the books for authors that you represent that are up and coming (or recently out)…that was very nice and I know you no doubt got lots of sells from that just from those of us who read your lj regularly. I’m planning on buying quite a few of those I might not have picked up otherwise.
I’m not sure I have a useful answer, but it’s an excellent question.
What would I care about in the abstract…the obvious I guess.
Who does she represent? (ie, anyone like me/having a career I’d like to have)
What’s her deal flow look like? (ie, can she sell?)
Awards and recognitions her writers have won? (does she help grow cool careers)
Secondary rights success? (foreign, movie, etc.)
There’s obvious confidentiality issues to some or most of that, but from a writer’s perspective, those are sort of the agent equivalent of the EPA MPG sticker in a new car window, yanno?
What do I look for on an agent’s site?
#1 – Submission guidelines (if I’ve already decided to submit)
#2 – Genres represented (if I’m still trying to decide if this is for me)
#3 – Specific likes/dislikes; authors represented; books sold (this helps me understand a little more about the agent’s tastes…if I loathe some of the authors/books that she loves, we’re probably not a good match)
#4 – Snippets of info to help me understand the agent as a person — what did he/she study in school; how’d he/she get into the agenting game; what pets does he/she have
This is basically exactly what I would say, but to it I would add that what you’re NOT looking for is sometimes just as informative. “I’m not interested in erotic romance” is just as helpful as knowing you rep romance at all, and saves everyone’s time.
Specifics are good. “I love a good sci-fi romance” is a lot more helpful than “I represent sci fi, romance, …” Authors and books represented is also really helpful.
I think you pretty much have what you need to have on your website, submission guidelines, clients, etc. What I did have to do is look at http://www.maassagency.com/ to figure out who the other agents are and what their and your personal preferences (scifi, fantasy etc) are. But then it is your personal website, not the Agency’s website we are talking about.
The idea about books you enjoyed (of non-clients) as proposed above sounded intriguing to me, but there again, it depends on where you draw the line between private and professional.
In general your website IS nicely extensive.
I’d be happy to assist you with any css issues/questions you may have. Are you doing css-p (positioning) or just using it for styles and colors?
It’s the positioning that always seems to hang me up. Especially once I bring mutliple browsers into play. I actually haven’t gotten as far as playing with a new color scheme yet.
The browsers behave a little differently but not too much. Usually just a pixel off in measurements in my experience.
Layouts are SO tricky because of all the browser incompatibilities. My CSS fu is strong, but life is too short. The CSS-Discuss wiki has links to lots of prefab layouts that have been vetted. I generally grab one of those and bend it to my will rather than start from scratch.
One of the handiest tools I ever found for CSS coding is for the Firefox browser. It’s the Web Developer extension (availabe on the mozilla site), and allows you to do live editing on the css. It downloads the page’s current CSS into a sidebar, and, as you edit it, shows the changes on the page. If you like it, you can save and re-upload with a minimum of fuss. I have used it through several web redesigns now and wouldn’t code without it.
Also, check out: http://www.positioniseverything.net/
They have a lovely site that will get you past most positioning problems you run across.
the obvious, of course, is not only the books you rep, but the genres and sub-genres you most prefer…and some kind of search engine that will allow authors to look through your clientele by either genre or name. Good luck.
Search engine? I suppose that would be good, but if the list were really so long as to need a search aid, wouldn’t that imply that the agent is too busy to devote much time to the client?
That’s a good thought…hmmm. I guess it was spurred by the fact that I continually have trouble finding the books I’m most interested in when searching an agent’s website, but I also wonder about how busy they are…good point!
WARNING: I’m an outsider to the entire process. My question came from curiosity, NOT from experience. Don’t take it too much to heart without checking with someone who actually knows of what they blather.
it’s a good thought, though…and I’m inexperienced also, in the sense that I don’t yet have an agent 🙂
I’d put in another vote for sub-genres. It’s one thing to say “I like science fiction, fantasy, horror” but each of those have substantial sub-genres. For instance, I write urban fantasy; there are agents who say they like fantasy but when I look at their current titles sold, it’s hard to tell whether the reason they’re only selling/representing high fantasy is because they prefer it, they’re much more critical of urban fantasy, or because they just plain don’t think elves should ever carry guns. So to say, “I like romantic-suspense”, or “I like steampunk science fiction”, or “I like high fantasy with a lot of mythic overtones” is much clearer, and more useful to me, than simply “I like suspense, science fiction, fantasy.”
After all, I’d think the point of a good webpage is to be clearer than you can in Writer’s Market or Publishers Marketplace, where there might be more limitations. It’s your site; this, I think, would give you more time/room to explain in more detail what you like/want.
And, of course, the things that make you grit your teeth and move along. (Now I’m thinking of PubRants, with the running count of “stories with lead characters named Kate” and “stories with lead characters named Rowen or Raven”. Heh.)
No doubt…all those are very helpful, I think, to reduce the slush and make it easier for each author to target 🙂
Here are the things that I would want to see on any agent website. (You’ve got most of them covered.)
1. Submission guidelines
2. Client list
3. Genres loved
4. Are there any openings on the client list
5. Personal philosophy about writing/books/agenting/READING! 🙂
off topic LJ comment
Hey Jennifer —
Did you get an email from me last night? Given that we’ve been having slight errors in email communication, I thought I’d follow up here — it’s kind of timely.