Tips on Finding A Literary Agent in 2021

literary agent
6 Min Read

You’ve written your first exceptional masterpiece and you feel it is time to share your debut with the world, starting with an agent who can help you get your book in the hands of millions of readers out there!

But how do you do that? Before you start cold-calling every literary agent, the first step is to be your biggest advocate. This involves investing the time to carefully look into agents and their agencies, wishlists, and submission protocols.

In this article, we tackle the steps on how to land the best book agent deal. Before starting this journey, first confirm that your book is 100% ready for publishing. 

Our LivingWriter staff is always dedicated to improving your writing experience, ensuring you complete your debut successfully. 

As soon as you are ready, let’s begin!

1. List All Literary Agents in Your Niche

Remember most agents are business people who are on the lookout for new authors to represent. Just as you are dying to find the perfect agent, they are also eager for their ideal client to contact them.

Because it is your job to reach out to them, you should find out who these agents are and what is the best way to contact them.

When putting together your shortlist, you can search agent databases like Query Tracker or Agent Query. The Publishers Marketplace is another great resource to try but it comes with a fee. 

Another excellent way to find an agent is to look into your favorite author’s agents. Many of them list their agents in their acknowledgments so you can bet you’ll find one or two agents to list.

2. Research and Assess Each Agent

Here are a few pointers to help you get started on your thorough research:

  • Ensure the agent works with authors in your genre.
  • Evaluate whether they’re taking new submissions.
  • Look into client reviews.
  • Confirm they aren’t scam artists.
  • Assess whether you would work well with them.

Caitlin Jans, the founding editor of Authors Publish has a few things to say concerning assessing a literary agent: “First, I always research the agent outside of the website using the Absolute Write Water Cooler Forum. It is an awesome platform for vetting agents and publishers. The forums are active and very dependable-authors share their experiences with an agent, whether good or bad. 

It is very critical to ensure that the agency isn’t listed on the Writer Beware’s Thumbs Down Agencies section. Writer Beware is a volunteer company that is dedicated to representing authors, including sharing a list of dishonest agents, so don’t miss to check that out.”

Always avoid agents who ask for upfront fees! They may disguise it as fees to cover editing costs or for professional development but we can’t stress this enough- any agent who asks for payment before offering services is not genuine.

After thorough research, if you find an agent who fits all your criteria, add them to your final agents´ shortlist and proceed to the next step. 

3. Send a Customized Enquiry Letter

No doubt that these agents are faced with a pile of letters every day from writers looking for representation. Unfortunately, a significant portion of these query letters is sent to the dumpster. 

Instead of thinking, “OMG! How do I stand a chance amidst thousands of those representation requests?”  Rather look at it from a positive lens- these agents are also looking for their next great author to work with. 

That said, focus on making your query letter the best it can be because it is the first point of contact with the agent of your dreams. 

With these pointers, you will craft a super-sweet and convincing inquiry letter:

1. Go through the Agent’s Submission Regulations

Some agents might require you to send a sample chapter with the query letter while others might not. Others might want you to write the word “QUERY” at the top of your submission. 

Apart from guaranteeing that they get what they want in your submission, agents use guidelines to spot lazy candidates who don’t read instructions. This is also a clever shortlisting method that saves their precious time of having to peruse submissions that don’t follow basic guidelines. 

2. Personalize Your Query Letter

Because you are reaching out to many agents, it may be tempting to make a customary inquiry letter for all of them. However, beware agents can sniff a copy and paste query letter from a mile away. Creating a personalized query letter shows that you care. 

3. Get Your Enquiry Letter Reviewed 

For a top-notch query letter, consider having a professional touch-up. There’s no substitution for a professional editor’s insight when you’re trying to create a unique query letter. 

4. Always Follow Up If You Don’t Get Feedback 

Agents are always up and down and may forget to respond to emails. It can happen to anyone, not just agents. 

If you don’t hear from them, it’s not rude to send a follow-up email to ask whether they still have you in mind. The agent will often be grateful you followed them up, unless you inquired impolitely (hopefully you won’t).

Remember to go through the submission guidelines again. Many agents often mention how many weeks you’ll need to wait before you get a response. And if they don’t, four to six weeks is the ideal time to do so.

5. Don’t Just Go For the First Agent

Let’s say several agents like your proposal and call you in for a discussion on how they’ll cheerfully represent you. Though exciting, don’t hastily consider signing that contract until you are sure that they are the right fit for you. 

It’s okay to vet multiple agents, so you don’t have to feel guilty about disclosing this. An agent will not be put off by the fact that you are evaluating your options. Besides, if your book is that good, other agents will want to represent you.

You can also choose to end your contract with an agent if things aren’t going well but remember that as a new author, you wouldn’t want to be recognized as that person who changes agents like clothes. It’ll make other agents think that you are intolerable. 

Remain polite and candid when you’re querying an agent and take your time. After all, you only get one chance to do it right! 

Also, brace yourself for setbacks. Finding an ideal literary agent isn’t a bed of roses. But if you are patient and resilient, you’ll certainly find the best agent to be your long-term business partner in no time! 

With LivingWriter, you can easily share a chapter of your book or the whole manuscript with your agent with just the click of a button. We cater to your every writing need.

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