NOTE: This post assumes that you, as the writer, want to snag an agent. By passing the agents or self-publishing will be covered on a later date.
Is there is such a thing?
Yes, but it takes steel nerves and a bit of luck to successfully bypass the querying process in order to land an agent.
Two of those I heard about that bring results are, agent’s blogs and conventions.
Many agents have personal blogs in which they often invite their readers to comment and even submit samples of their work. Most of these serve as free writer workshops. I chance for writers to show their work to professionals (and fellow writers) who then critique the work. Most of the time you get helpful suggestions on what works and what doesn’t. But at times, if you impress said agent, they might decide to contact you and ask to see more of your work.
However, there is no guarantee, at any time, that any agent will do this, for any reason. It depends on the agent and the nature of the blog. So best take what you can get (advice and critiques) and use them to improve your work. DO NOT badger said agent with endless questions about said work or if they are even considering it. Remember, being an agent is their day job, blogging is something they do on their personal time, just like everyone who is not a professional blogger.
Conventions are a great place to meet agents, editors and fellow writers. Of course you need to thread carefully around these folks. You are one of hundreds, if not thousands of people with pitches for the next Harry Potter, or Twilight. A respectful, professional (don’ forget the soap and go easy on the drinks) and confident attitude will go along way. Instead of engaging these folks as a used car salesman, do it as a researcher. Ask questions about the industry, the market, what are they looking for, upcoming market trends, etc. You can get a lot of info that can then go into your querying. Leaving a good impression can go a long way when you then contact that agent later on (but remain professional in all communications, this is a professional relationship, even if you payed the man’s tab at the hotel bar).
There might be other avenues you can explore, but remember, professionalism, respect and decorum at all times. And let your work speak for itself.
And now some soulful tunes from Conjure/Sinead O’Connor-Tears from the Moon: