Once your book is (almost) finished and you are beginning exploring publishing options, you may be wondering how to go about finding a literary agent. These professionals are quite literally the gatekeepers of the publishing industry — and unless you are already a famous published author, considering self-publishing, or willing to work with an obscure indie publishing house, you are going to need a literary agent to achieve your goals.
Your literary agent can help you fine-tune your manuscript, get a foot in the door with editors, and negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you land the best possible book deal. So how exactly do you go about finding a literary agent, especially if you are a debut author who lacks industry connections?
The process can be nerve-wrecking and long, because you don’t simply choose your literary agent — they have to choose you and your book, too. The internet makes finding the right literary agent significantly easier, but if you are hoping to sign with a reputable agent and get your book published, you will have to do your research.
Before you even think about querying with literary agents, make sure that:
- Your manuscript is, for all intents and purposes, finished. You will have worked with beta readers and critique partners, and your book should ideally have gone through the process of professional editing.
- You familiarize yourself with the process of querying — today, you can learn what you can truly expect from many already published authors who share their successes (and their fails!) to make it easier for you.
- You have a strong synopsis and an excellent query letter that clearly explains what your book is about and why it deserves to be published.
- You understand what literary agents do in detail.
Once you are ready you can, as an aspiring author, absolutely begin researching your top picks online. Reedsy and QueryTracker.net are both excellent places to start for new authors. Countless websites dedicated to helping authors get published have compiled their own very long lists of literary agencies and individual agents, as well.
Each literary agent has their own niche, and there is no point in approaching literary agents who do not work within your genre. You need to decide whether you would like to try to sign with a seasoned book agent with many years of experience, or would be comfortable working with a newer literary agent who may have more time to dedicate to getting your manuscript placed. Authors will also need to decide what type of agent they need, and learn about literary agent red flags. Unscrupulous agents, who may demand payment before you reach a book deal and are unlikely to get you where you want to be, are known as “schmagents”, and you want to steer well clear of them.
Once you have narrowed your potential options down, you can look at potential agents’ track record in the industry, explore reviews from other clients, and get a feel for the agent’s personality through their website and social media. Since you will be working very closely with your literary agent, it is important that you can at the very least develop a solid working relationship. Your journey toward becoming a publisher author will be much more pleasant if you also actively like your literary agent.
At this point, before you send query letters, make sure that the agents you are considering are currently accepting new clients. Read their instructions carefully, make sure to follow them, and personalize your pitch. This way, you’ll be maximizing your chances of offers and signing with the literary agent of your dreams!