Types of Literary Agents

Literary agents specialize in many kinds of books. Usually, their areas of interest are listed in the guidebooks and on their Web sites. You can also pick up books with topics that are similar to yours and look for the names of agents in the acknowledgment sections, where authors generally thank their agents. Even if you find an agent with the same specialty as your book, that agent might not be right for you-or you might not be right for him or her. How can you tell?

When an agent could be right for you: When you approach the agent who just sold the hottest diet book with your time-tested diet book that is based on your long-running newspaper column called “Eating Right.” It also doesn’t hurt that you’re a certified nutritionist who lectures frequently. Since the agent has experience with diet books plus the connections and knowledge of what diet books editors and publishers are buying, you just might have contacted the right agent.

Why that agent might not be right: When you contact that agent about your diet book, the bar might be set so high that you don’t have a chance. Since his or her recent success, that agent may have ascended to another level, representing only high-profile chefs and foodies with the most established national platforms.

Different Types of Agents — Some agents represent a variety of authors who write about many different fields. Some literary agencies have agents who specialize in different areas. If an agent or an agency doesn’t handle your type of book, he or she usually can refer you to someone who does. And their recommendations can make a difference. Start thinking of yourself in terms of your specialty areas. Are you a parenting writer, a memoir writer, a true-crime writer, a business writer, or a gardening writer? The more precisely you describe what you do, the more effectively you will be able to communicate with agents or people who can connect you with agents. Agents who specialize usually have terrific contacts with editors and publishers in their areas of interest. They are familiar with all of their books, the competition, their current lists, and their wish lists.

By Rick Frishman
Reprinted from “Rick Frishman’s Author 101 Newsletter”
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