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How to Find a Literary Agent: Improve Your Chances for Gaining Literary Representation

  • By Dee Power
  • Published 12/8/2009
  • Writing

First of all, study the elements of a good query letter. Make your letter succinct and positive, but not obnoxious. The letter should stress that you understand the market for your book and how to address that market. Include your credentials and writing credits. Learn what types of manuscripts individual agents are looking for and send yours out to the agents that match up the best with your topic or genre. Polish, polish, polish your pitch to the agent. Use every available networking opportunity to meet people in the publishing industry. Don’t take negative responses personally; keep in mind that many times you are not being rejected, simply ignored. Don’t give up. Perseverance is the critical, but often unheralded, element of publishing success. Finding An Agent We asked over 60 literary agents: Where do agents find clients? 39% Referral from one of their other clients 33% Direct contact by the writer 9% Referral from editors and publishers 8% Referral from other authors not their clients 5% Referrals from other agents 3% Attendance at writers conferences 3% Other

It is no surprise that referrals from the agents’ current clients were the top method cited. Publishing is a relationship-ba

sed industry, and contacts are extremely important. A recommendation from someone whose opinion an agent trusts is always valued and receives prompt attention. Several top-selling authors’ careers were launched when another bestselling author took them under their wing and introduced them to agents or publishers. The process of finding a publisher or an agent is similar. Research, research, and more research. Develop a list of 10 to 20 agencies/publishers who are a good fit with your book. Don’t bother contacting an agent who doesn’t represent fiction for your novel. If a publisher only publishes cookbooks don’t send your how-to business book. Use common sense. Your list can be developed by searching through the online databases listed below or the hard copy books. Many agents insist that you query them on an exclusive basis, meaning you contact them one at a time and wait for that one agent to decline before approaching another agent. That can waste a tremendous amount of time; the agent can take months to get back to you. Publishing houses don’t seem to mind that more than one is considering the same manuscript, and interestingly agents contact a group of publishers at a time. Agents will pit one publishing house against another when they auction a title.

So go ahead and contact a group of agents, individually of course.



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