Finding a Literary Agent

I am on a mission

Having completed my novel I am now at the painfully delicious stage of deciding what to do with it. There are various options open to me but I am concentrating on finding an agent for the moment.


What does an agent do?

There are many, many agents out there. But why would you want one? One really useful website, sums it up neatly on their ‘About Literary Agents’ page:

“A literary agent is exactly that—an agent for literary works. Literary agents represent books. They do not represent stage plays, screenplays, or television scripts. You find those agents in Hollywood, and that’s a whole ’nother website. Yes, it’s true that books become movies (usually bad, bad, very bad movies), but that’s because your literary agent, who sold the publishing rights to a major publishers, also successfully sold the movies rights to a major Hollywood studio. Again, whole ’nother website. 
What’s important to know is that literary agents function as the middleman between you—unknown unpublished writer of a brilliant first book—and the Major New York Publishers. Literary agents have the contacts in the New York publishing world (and beyond) to get your book sold. Literary agents negotiate publishing contracts, sell subrights like foreign rights and media and electronic rights, and just plain manage your financial and business affairs so you can focus on your literary business of writing. is a fantastic resource for all writers and I recommend you spend extended amounts of time reading up on how to write queries, find an agent and avoid common mistakes. And remember – no reputable agent will charge you an upfront fee. They make their money by receiving a commission on selling your work to publishers. also have information on how to spot a potential scammer. After all the hard work of writing a book you don’t want to lose out, so make sure you know what to look for.


How do you find one?

When I was researching I found the author Ben Woods’ website. He has written a sci-fi book called “The Developers”. During his quest for an agent he kept a record of all the agents he contacted and what the response (if any) was like. This is really useful because it helps to:


  1. Underline that finding an agent is a serious business that needs to be approached in a professional manner
  2. Show the incredible variety of response times you can expect
  3. Highlight agents you might want to contact/steer clear of


Now, agents are human (yes – really!) and anyone can have a off day, so I would use this list as a starting point, not a template. But Ben should be applauded for sharing this because it is an insight into the efforts required to find an agent. To find the right agent you need persistence and research skills. 


Agents who blog

There are many agents who actually go the extra mile and share hints and tips about how you can maximise your chances of finding the right agent. Rather than give a long list here I suggest you go and read ‘Pub Rants’ by Agent Kristen. This blog is choc-full of practical advice, tips, hints and insights into how Agents go about their business. There is a listing of other agents who blog on her site, so there is plenty to sink your teeth into.


And now?

I have a list, I’m reviewing and finessing my query letter, and making sure I have everything in place so I can start the next phase. And I also have another plan. In addition to finding an agent I will be marketing my book in another way. More details soon, but it’s exciting! And if you have any resources you would like to share please let me know.

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