Writing and publishing a book is a dream for many writers, and today, it is easier than ever to prepare a manuscript and get your thoughts on paper. Getting the initial words on the page is only the first step. There are many good reasons why you might want to consider finding a literary agent as your next step to getting published and found by your audience. This article will explore how to find a literary agent for your book so you can get started on your publishing adventure.
Do I need a literary agent?
The first question you probably have is whether you should have a literary agent or whether you should self-publish and do it alone. In the publishing world, both options are certainly viable alternatives. Self-publishing might seem like the best choice at first glance due to cost, but initial cost should not be the first thing you think about. The world of publishing is a long game, and a well-written, professionally-published book can be a source of long-term passive income.
You might wonder what a literary agent does. A literary agent is like your personal sales team who represents your book to acquiring editors of publishing houses. One of the main advantages is that a good literary agent has established contacts in the industry, and these relationships can help you get your book on their desk and out of the slush pile. Also, a literary agent knows the editor’s tastes, likes, and dislikes. They know the types of books that they are looking for to add to their list of offerings.
A literary agent is likely to know exactly where to send your manuscript to give it the best chance of being published. This can save you many hours of sending out your work to publishers and collecting a stack of rejection letters along the way. A literary agent also acts as a buffer between you and your editor so that disagreements do not sour the relationship. These are advantages that you do not have if you represent yourself.
Self-publishing is another story altogether. You not only have to be a savvy writer, but you also need to be a marketing guru. Getting published by a publishing house means having a ready-made audience and loyal following that is eager for new material. When self-publishing, you might have to do quite a bit of experimentation before you get it right and start building an audience. Many authors like writing, but they do not necessarily like the marketing and sales part, which is another excellent reason to hire a literary agent.
How to find a literary agent for your book
If self-publishing is not for you, and you want to take advantage of the expertise and experience of a literary agent, the next question is where to look. Finding a literary agent is similar to a job search. You could just send out enough query letters and hope for the best. Just as with a job search, this strategy hardly ever yields positive results. The best approach is to develop a solid strategy for your search.
Here are a few tips for finding the right literary agent in as little time as possible.
Identify your place
What is your genre and subgenre? It is not just enough to know that your book is an action novel; you have to know exactly what type of action story it is. Is it a spy novel, a fantasy novel, or a historical action novel? Know the product you have to offer and where it fits within the industry.
Narrow your search
The next step is finding a literary agent who specializes in your genre and subgenre. Only targeting those that are a good match will shave time and effort off your search. The best way to begin is by looking for agents who have sold books just like yours in tone, theme, situation, or characters. A small, targeted list of agents will be much more effective than sending queries out to 100 who are not interested in the type of work you do.
Find the publisher’s marketplace
This is not the same as the writer’s Marketplace, but it is a place for business insiders. Publisher’s Marketplace is $25 per month to join, but unless you are a prolific writer, you will only need it for a short time. This is an excellent place to start your search, and they have tools like query trackers available. This is a good place to begin finding names and contact information.
Narrow your list
The best approach is to use a brainstorming strategy and make an initial list of potential agents. Then, dig a little deeper to identify the ones where you think you have the best chance. Remember, the key is to match those that are the closest to your book and style. Looking at what they have published in the past will give you a good clue and help you create a list with maximum potential.
Finding the best match
Again, you need to consider the type of book that you have written. Literary agents usually deal with fiction, children’s picture books, memoirs, autobiographies, and reading for pleasure. If your work is nonfiction, a cookbook, educational, academic, or something similar, you might not need a literary agent, but there are certainly many advantages to having one.
One of the most important factors to understand is that literary agents are specialists. Few will represent works of all types. This is because the publishing industry itself is highly niche-driven. Readers tend to know exactly what they like and exactly what they do not.
You want to find an agent who has experience and connections with your target audience. You can easily find this information on the agent’s website. Taking a critical look at past published work they have represented is a good place to start.
Your query letter
The next step in how to find a literary agent for your book, once you have a shortlist of potentials, is to begin writing query letters. If you want a book deal, you need to personalize your queries. It makes your job and the job of your potential literary agent easier if you can state clearly why you are pitching to them, and why you think your work is a good fit. This will get their attention and allow you to present yourself as a professional.
You have to approach query letters like a marketer. Gone are the days when advertisers sent out general messages to the mass market. Now, the name of the game is a personalized marketing approach, and the same applies to finding a literary agent and publisher for your book. One of the most important tips is to make sure you read and follow their submission guidelines precisely. If you do not, it is the best way to assure you will never receive a response.
You need to follow these steps to make yourself more attractive to the agent, but you also need to do your due diligence when selecting one, too. You need to make sure that publishers already know their name, and that it is in a positive way. Do not be shy about asking for the agent’s past sales record. One thing to ask is whether they are a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR). If they are not, it might be a red flag to look elsewhere.
What to expect once you have an agent
As you can see, finding a literary agent for your book is not an easy task. If you have found one, congratulations! Finding an agent to represent your book takes hard work and effort, but your job is not finished. You need to be prepared for what to expect from this relationship. Remember that your relationship with a literary agent is a two-way street and both of you have expectations.
It’s important to remember that if publishers are not jumping on your literary agent’s offers, it is not necessarily a bad reflection on your agent, or your work. As you know, the publishing world is a high-competition field. However, you should expect that the agent should have a conversation with you about any reasons for rejection that they do receive. You should be willing to take this as feedback, not criticism. This will help you improve your query or pitch in the future, and you can use it as a stepping-stone to up your game.
Now, you know a little more about how to find a literary agent for your book. A literary agent should be your mentor, business manager, and offer positive support. They are there to celebrate your successes and to prop you up when things do not go your way. Whether your book becomes a best-seller or not, the lessons and knowledge that you gain from this relationship can go a long way in furthering your career as an author.