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How do I Find a Literary Agent?

Garry Crystal
Garry Crystal

If you have a book or manuscript that you wish to publish, then finding a literary agent may be the first step. Many people say that it’s easier to approach a publisher directly rather than trying to find a literary agent. This is true, but an agent does a lot more than just presenting your work to the publishers.

First of all, how can you be sure that you really need a literary agent? If you do not have a thorough knowledge of the publishing market or how best to sell yourself and your work, then you will probably need an agent. If you do not know how to get the best deal for your book or the appropriate publishers to approach, you will need an agent. Also, if you don't have the time to spend on sales and accounts from your work, get an agent.

Stacks of published books.
Stacks of published books.

There are literally thousands of literary agents, many of whom have worked as editors in the publishing business. People usually chose to be literary agents because they love books, but they also have to make a reasonable living. When finding a literary agent, remember that they are professionals and your approach to them should also be professional.

Literary agents can shop book ideas to a variety of publishers.
Literary agents can shop book ideas to a variety of publishers.

When contacting a literary agent or agency, make sure that they handle the type of work you are presenting to them. Many agents and agencies specialize in certain areas. Some only handle fiction books, and some deal with work specifically for television and film. However, many larger agencies have many editors to handle different specialized areas.

Numerous writers’ books include listings for literary agents. These books provide the names, phone numbers, and email information of agents. More importantly, they usually state the type of books that each literary agent deals in.

It should be a simple matter to phone an agency and ask the name of the agent or editor to submit your work to. Also, ask if there are submission guidelines, such as cover letters or sample chapters. Make sure that your work is typed neatly. The cover letter should only provide information that is relevant to your work.

A literary agent has the expertise to tell within a few minutes from the cover letter and submission whether the book will be any good or not. Adding lines such as, My family and friends all think my book is great, will not impress a literary agent. Explain in your letter why you wrote the book and what audience you think it will attract.

If you have any professional writing credentials, state them in your cover letter. Provide a resume if it is of any relevance to your work. Always remember to send a postage paid, self addressed envelope for the return of your work.

If a literary agent agrees to meet with you, treat the meeting as an informal job interview. The agent will want to assess your interpersonal skills. Publicity and marketing will be far easier for the agent if you are good at selling yourself and your work.

If your work is rejected by the literary agent or agency, try another agency. Shop around and do not be disheartened by rejections. The agent may not feel that your work is suitable for his or her particular agency. Do not pester agents for reasons or explanations as to why your work was rejected. The writing business is extremely competitive, and you will be up against many professionals.

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    • Stacks of published books.
      By: Africa Studio
      Stacks of published books.
    • Literary agents can shop book ideas to a variety of publishers.
      By: Andrzej Tokarski
      Literary agents can shop book ideas to a variety of publishers.