Having an agent can make it easier to sell your manuscript to a major publisher and, in some cases, is an absolute necessity. But how can you find an agent for your books? More importantly, how can you find the right agent?
There are a number of good directories where you can find listings of literary agents, including Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. A guide such as this can be useful for finding contact information for agents and learning how they like to be approached. However, finding a literary agent is not as simple as picking a name from a list. You need to find the agent who is the best match for you and your book.
Agents do not represent every kind of book. Some specialize in mysteries, others in business books, romance, cookbooks or other types of fiction and non-fiction. By specializing, they have relationships with editors at the publishing houses that publish their kind of book.
A good place to start looking for an agent is on your own bookshelves. Most authors like to read the same type of books they write, so you may have a collection of books that would appeal to the same audience as your book. If not, you can start your research at your local book store.
Pick up a few books that are similar to yours and look for an Acknowledgments page. That is where authors thank the people who helped them write and publish the book. One of those people will probably be…you guessed it, their agent. Write down the names you find of agents and the books and authors they represented.
Next, go to the agent’s website to see what you can learn about the agent and her other clients. When you approach the literary agent, you can show that you are familiar with their work by mentioning some of your favorites among the books and authors they have represented.
Refer to your agent directory to learn more about the agents you have identified as possibly being a good fit for your book. Pay attention to how they want to be contacted. Some may want a query letter, others a proposal and some may want to see the entire manuscript.
Of course, personal contact can be very effective, so you may look for opportunities to meet the agent in person. Many agents attend writers’ conferences and other events where they will meet with authors. When you see that one of the agents you would like to represent you will be at a conference, make plans to attend and get an appointment with the agent to pitch your book.
Taking the time to research literary agents will help you to find the agent who can best represent you and your book.