Finding literary agents isn’t easy. First, I’m going to assume that you have written a book and that this book has been sent through a gauntlet of editors until it’s been revised and is as clean and polished as you can make it. After that, I’m going to assume that you’ve asked a couple of writers (preferably not good friends”) to beta-read the book and have used their feedback to refine and improve your book even more. Finally, I’m going to assume that your book has been proofread and examined until even the strictest Grammar Nazi/Writing Critic would be hard pressed to find something wrong.
Now you can start finding literary agents!
The very first thing you need to remember is that you must thoroughly research each agent before you submit anything to them. Scammers and con artists are rampant on the internet posing as literary agents or publishers. There are also a slew of amateur “agents” who have no clue what they’re doing. The scammer’s only interest is in separating a writer from their hard-earned money. While the amateur agents don’t have the professional publishing contacts, or knowledge, to sell your book. Signing with one of them means you’ll simply waste valuable time and money.
Beginning the Search
- If your book is fiction, and fits neatly into a genre take a notebook to your local bookstores and look up all the books on the shelves in that bookstore that are remotely like yours. Try to narrow down your search so it’s as close as possible to the kind of novel you’ve written.
- Look inside the books you take off the shelves. Note down the title, author, and publisher or imprint in your notebook.
- Then look at the Author Notes or Acknowledgments section. You’re looking for a note where the author thanks his or her literary agent. Many authors do this. When you find it, note the agent’s name and agency.
Doing this kind of searching in books in a couple of bookstores will generate a rather large list of agents or agencies.
Finding a Literary Agent – Expand Your Search
- Get a copy of Writers Market on Amazon or go online at WritersMarket.Com.
- Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents is another resource.
- Some more good online sources to use to cross-check information are AgentQuery and Query Tracker. They’re free and they vet the agents they list.
Be warned: many online listings don’t bother to check whether the agents are real or not.
- You can also do a web search on the agent’s name (never just type “literary agent” into a search engine you’ll get a list of scammers). Most agents have websites these days. Learn how to evaluate an agent’s website so you can tell whether the agent is legit or a scam. A good clue is a track record of sales to recognizable publishers.
- Another good resource is the Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Checkboard at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. There are hundreds of discussion threads there on literary agents, many of which include hard-to-find information and warnings about nonstandard business practice.
Like I said at the beginning, finding a literary agent isn’t easy. Remember, you are collecting info on these agents to try and get a feel for what they like and what their literary tastes are. This kind of research also ensures you don’t waste your time querying agents that have gone out of business, died, have zero sales, etc.
You’re also looking for the agent’s preferred submission guidelines.
IMPORTANT TIP: Pay attention to these guidelines and send the agent exactly what he or she asks to see. More on this in a later post.
Keep a log of the agents you plan to submit to. Your log can be as big as you like, but it’s a good idea to prioritize, and start your submission process with the agents you’d most like to represent you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave leave a comment here…