Shopping a book around to literary agents can be a harrowing and time consuming process; especially when you don’t know where to start. If you don’t go the self-publishing route, you’ll need to find a publisher to help you produce and market your book. Literary agents are the ones who can make those conversations happen.
What is A Literary Agent?
These are professionals that act on behalf of authors to represent them for publishing companies. At first glance, a person like this may seem like an unnecessary middle man however literary agents play a crucial role in the traditional publishing process.
Needless to say, publishing companies are busy. They don’t have the time or the resources to investigate every manuscript sent their way. That is why they work with literary agents to find authors who have already been vetted and manuscripts that they know are worth looking at.
A good agent will have contacts in the publishing industry, knowledge of the process, and strategies for getting publishers to bid on your manuscript (or at least for telling you what things need to look like in order for that to happen).
Finding a Literary Agent
Finding a good agent isn’t as easy as looking one up on LinkedIn. You have to look in the right places or you may end up with someone who doesn’t have your best interest in mind (or worse yet doesn’t know what they are doing). Here is a list we’ve compiled from other sources on the web. It should help you get going in the right direction.
This is considered one of the best places to research and find a literary agent. The site has agent profiles and a pretty robust database that authors can search. Look for agents based on genre, category, keyword and other criteria. This saves a ton of time as not all agents work with all writers. You have to find one that works with your genre.
This is a smaller community with about 1,000 agent profiles. The site also has some good resources like information on how to write a query letter, common scams to watch out for and the ability to make a profile on the site.
This is a free service (just like the others) that helps authors find agents. The site is a little easier to use and navigate than Agent Query. Authors can also upgrade to a premium membership for 25 dollars per year and get access to other tools like agent data. This allows authors to use advanced search filters and premium reports among other features.
Writer’s Market is like a literary agent finding website with a twist. You can find agents here but you can also find other channels through which to sell your work. For example authors can sell scripts, non-fiction articles and other content. Of course if your main goal is to find an agent this will be of no use but it doesn’t hurt to make some money on the side.
Things to Look Out For and Common Questions
Up-front fees: Reputable agents work on a commission-based compensation arrangement. Typical payouts can be around 15% of domestic income and 20% of foreign income (brokered by that agent). If an agent is claiming that you have to pay an up-front fee to work with them, do not take the bait. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are not a good agent but that practice is not standard.
Don’t be impatient: If you are lucky enough to find an agent to work with you, don’t get impatient. It can take a long time for agents to shop your manuscript to different publishers and you may spend a lot of time waiting.
Avoid Agents who take anyone: A good agent represents authors in particular genres. Agents who have developed notable careers in certain categories tend to stick to those. If you meet someone who is willing to represent you and your genre doesn’t matter to them that should be a red flag.