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Finding a Literary Agent

So, you’ve finished your book and you’re ready to mail it out to publishing companies. But, remember that most (if not all) publishing companies you’re interested in will require that you have a literary agent first. Don’t worry though! I’m going to break it down for you in this blog and give you some helpful tips on how to get the best literary agent for you.

1-Check your manuscript first

Before you begin to submit your work, make sure that your manuscript is in the best shape possible. What I mean is, you want to make sure you’ve done as much drafting, editing, and re-writing as possible before even considering to submit. You may think that even if your writing isn’t that great but your story is wonderful and innovative, consider the possibility that that may be the point that makes or breaks your chance to land a great literary agent.

One way to avoid this would be to take a step away from your story for a month or two. Being too close to your project and staring at it for hours on end can make it especially difficult to see its flaws. When you take the time to step away from your work, it can help you see things in a different light when you do go back to the pages. You may see flaws or plot holes that you never saw before.

Once you do that final edit, you’re ready to search for a literary agent.

2- Know where to submit depending on your type of writing

One of the best ways to find where to submit your manuscript is to use other authors as a starting point. Find books similar to yours and figure out which literary agents they submitted to. Keep a look-out for those authors who may have literary agents still accepting submissions. If your work is on par with those authors, you’ll have a better chance of them picking up your work, as opposed to submitting to random agents.

In an article on the Writer’s Digest website, Chuck Sambuchino suggests that you create a list of literary agents that you’d like to submit to, ranking from best match to least suitable match.

3- Resources

If you need more help finding ways to narrow down your list of agents, there are plenty of resources online (and off) that can help you. For instance, there is this wonderful book called Guide to Literary Agents that comes out every year, kind of like the Writer’s Market. This would be a great resource, as it will let you know what agents are seeking authors, and what type of manuscripts they are looking for.

It would also be beneficial to seek out events specifically tailored to helping writers land an agent. For example, there is an event every year in July called Pitch Wars where you can submit your completed manuscript to be reviewed by a group of literary agents and/or published authors. They go through the stories and if you’re lucky, they will select yours to work with. This means that they make suggestions, help you with plot holes and the like, for two full months! That’s a ton of help and would definitely be worth looking into.

There are plenty of similar events out there, just do your research and see what’s best for you!

4-Know how to submit-guidelines

If you go the old-fashioned route and just want to submit to agents, it is very important that you submit according to their guidelines. Similarly to the different teachers you’ve had in your past, there are agents with very specific requirements for their submissions. If you screw up on the submission, you may very well have screwed up your chance to land that agent.

Some items they may require can include: A query letter, a log line, a list of previous publications (if any) and possibly a brief synopsis of your story.

Hopefully you know what most of those are. If not, the internet is full of great examples for all of these, and a little research will help you prepare for your submissions. I personally didn’t know what a logline was until I read it as a suggestion on Sambuchino’s article. It turns out that this is a one or two sentence summary of your plot. The point is to make it as succinct as possible and interesting to grab the attention of your potential agents.

5- Beware

There are plenty of “agents” out there that will take advantage of you. A literary agent should NEVER ask for money before your manuscript is accepted and making a profit through a publishing company. The deal with agents is to have them help you get published, and then they profit, just as you begin to profit.

As always, don’t trust everything you see on the internet. Be wary of where you submit your manuscripts, and it may not be a bad idea to have it copyrighted before sending it out. In summary, make your manuscript the best it can be, find the best agents for you and your book, gather all of the necessary paperwork they ask for, and submit! If you’re not to the point of submitting your work, I hope you were still able to find some helpful information in this blog. Happy writing and submitting, everyone!

Good resources:

Pitch Wars main page

Writer’s Digest article

Advice on finding a literary agent

More advice

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