Finding a Literary Agent 101

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a-howardBy Ana Howard

Developmental Book Editor | Book Editing Associates

A common question I’m asked by debut authors is, “How do I find an agent?” In today’s market, it’s almost essential to find representation, particularly if you’ve written adult fiction and want to publish it with a large traditional publisher. I find that even with the proliferation of self-publishing options, many authors are still seeking publication through the old, tried-and-true means. Having an agent makes that dream much more likely to come true.

Personal introductions and face-to-face meetings with agents at writing events are two of the best methods to find your agent, but few authors have the means to explore that option. For most of us, we have had to find an agent on our own. Thankfully, there are more avenues to explore than ever before.

The first step I recommend is to utilize online resources. Websites such as AgentQuery.com and PublishersMarketplace.com help you search for the right match in an agent. But always visit the individual agent’s website before submitting, and follow the guidelines explicitly. Learn as much as you can about the agent and his or her tastes before sending your query.

The next step is to use social media to your advantage. A great deal of good information and tips are passed along on social media sites these days. Ones that can be very helpful are Writer’s Digest’s and Chuck Sambochino’s tweets about agents who are new to the business and looking to build their client lists, and it also includes established agents looking for new clients.

Next, look up individual agents and agencies on Preditors and Editors at pred-ed.com. Don’t bother with any agency that charges a reading fee or asks you for any money up front. If an agent recommends editing for your book and recommends a certain editor or themselves for a fee, be wary. Fee requirements and cookie-cutter-style editing are ways that unscrupulous people in the business prey on newcomers anxious to find an agent.

And finally, make sure your manuscript is in stellar condition before submitting.  Utilize readers and have your book edited by a professional, independent editor to increase your chances of success.

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