Finding literary agents

Literary agents handle the business aspect of publishing. If self-publishing is not for you and getting published is becoming hard – you can seek a literary agent to negotiate an ideal contract with a publisher.

So, how do you find a literary agent?

Doing the preliminary research

As with anything, hunting for the right literary agent starts with proper research. This involves searching both, online and offline, and preparing a list of service providers.

You’ll also find agencies with a workforce of multiple literary agents that work with different authors. These agencies might cost more but can be better in tackling more nuanced projects or when you simply need more expertise.

Choose a literary agent with the right experience. A literary agent who has helped authors in similar categories is likely to negotiate a better contract for you.

For example, if you’re publishing a romantic tragedy then it’s better to search for a literary agent that specializes in that market particularly and not a comedy.

Skimming through listings

The more you look through the listings, the more suitable candidates you’ll be able to find.

Once you have a list of ideal candidates, it’s better to do deeper background checks on them. A couple of key factors to learn for all these shortlisted literary agents:

  1. What commission do they charge?
  2. What books have they helped get published in the past?

Once you have enough information to make a decision, it’s now time to get in touch and tell them about your project. Hopefully, they will be able to lend some interesting insights that help you in improving the manuscript for publishers or perhaps improving it in a creative way.

How do you get in touch? That’s the third and final step to finding the right literary agent.

Form suitable queries

Even if you think you’ve found the perfect literary agent or agency, don’t give all the information away in your first communication. Form a compact query letter instead.

The query letter (not necessarily a letter – can be an email or even a pitch over a phone call) has to be brief. Think of it as a one-page pitch or proposal that includes all the relevant details.

Critical pieces of information to discuss here include:

  • Who’s the book for? In other words, who is the target audience?
  • Who are you? What’s your previous writing experience?
  • What’s the book or novel about?
  • Which publishers would you prefer, if any?

The query letter should ideally pique the agent’s interest. They might be interested in reading the full manuscript. Once you’ve discussed the financials and are okay with them, now might be a good time to send the final manuscript to them.

A word of caution: As literary agencies are first a business and then a source of guidance, it’s not rare that you’ll find literary agents asking for a manuscript pretty soon – perhaps sometimes even without going through your brief completely. Researching so that you find the right match (steps one and two) is extremely important to avoid sending your manuscript to agents that might not be the best fit for your book or novel.

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