Finding a Literary Agent

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not hard to find a literary agent. They’re everywhere! So let’s talk about how to find a literary agent for a novel, nonfiction, a memoir, a screenplay—for any written work.

The challenge is to find a literary agent who will read and then represent your work.

Literary agents play two functions in the publishing process.

They serve as gatekeepers for the major houses, because they stake their reputations on every submission. So the publishers view literary agents as the equivalent of the “admissions office” – they are the screeners who determine what publishers see.

Then they serve as your negotiator, seeking to cut the best possible deal from the publisher who will work with you.

Literary agents are not your nanny, parent, or hand-holder, as too many writers believe! They are business people who love books and if you stick to the two professional roles they play – gatekeeper and negotiator – things will be best.

You don’t have to look far to find a literary agent. Lists of literary agents abound online and in bookstores.

Of course, you’ll never find a literary agent if you’re using contact outdated information. You always want to make sure your information is current – that the agent is still with the agency where he or she is listed, and that the agent reads what you like to write.

The first step in how to find a literary agent is identifying the genres or types of books a given agent prefers.

Some literary agents only do certain genres – women’s fiction; nonfiction; diet books; current events.

Few literary agents are true generalists who represent everything. So you’re wise to find the literary agents who represent what you like to write.

Curious how to find a children’s book literary agent? Search for that specific term or related terms…but don’t assume that a nonfiction literary agent will be interested in children’s fiction. Don’t waste your time…or theirs.

The best way to find a literary agent is to skip the lists and instead go to the bookstore and look at the Acknowledgments section of books in your genre. Authors often thank their literary agents – especially if they got them a great deal, offered wise counsel, or both.

So find the contact information for those literary agents and write, “Dear So-and-so, I saw that Tom Smith acknowledged you for your role in selling his book, Secrets of Toledo. My book is in a similar vein…” or something like that.

This transforms your submission to the literary agent into a “warm call” instead of a “cold call.”

It is easier to find a nonfiction literary agent than a fiction literary agent, because nonfiction is so much easier to promote and sell.

But unless you have a large following in social media, appear frequently on TV, make a lot of keynote speeches, or are a celebrity, you may find it tough to get representation for any kind of book.

Today, publishers are far more interested in your marketing plan than in the quality of your content.

Publishers don’t want to help you build your brand. They want to benefit from the hard work you’ve done building your brand first – and then they’ll pay attention.

That’s why companies like BusinessGhost exist – to create opportunities for individuals who deserve to be published but don’t have a national platform or literary agent to get their books into the world.

Again, it’s not hard to find a literary agent, because they aren’t exactly hiding! The hard part is getting them to pay attention to your book. Today, the stigma of independent publishing is rapidly disappearing. If you haven’t had success finding a literary agent, think about using someone like us to bring out your book. You won’t be disappointed.