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Finding A Literary Agent

The primary question every unpublished writer always has is “How do I get an agent?” This may not be the ideal query, however.  “Getting” an agent is a vague concept, akin to seeking to “get” a boyfriend or girlfriend. What you really want, though, is to enjoy a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship with someone that enriches your life, both emotionally and financially.

Your relationship with an agent is an important and specific partnership—one that sometimes includes elements of creative collaboration, bottom-line negotiation, and savvy business decisions. You don’t have to get an agent; an agent has to “get” you. In fact, he has to get not just you, but your work, as well. In addition, you want to partner with someone you can work with over time. After all, you’re launching a career, not just trying to sell one piece of writing.

Make It Personal

When seeking representation, always strive for some type of personal connection or referral. Having anyone on your side helps tremendously. Ideally, this is someone directly in publishing, but it could also be a successful author who praises your work, or perhaps another expert. Really reach out and ask everyone you know—from teachers to acquaintances to folks you meet at networking events—if they can help get your work read by the right people.

Target Your Efforts

In theory, any agent can sell anything. Yet, different agents have different areas of expertise, as well as established relationships that can make all the difference in the world. A mass mailing to every agent you can find an address for almost never produces results. If an agent doesn’t have a single romance novelist on her list of writers, she’s not likely to read your freshly penned bodice ripper.

Utilize industry publications and resources to hone in on your target audience. Examine the Writer’s Market website and its annual printed digests for valuable insight into the freelance market and writing industry. Thoroughly read Authors Guild bulletins. Scan Publishers Weekly to see who is selling what and to whom. Become as informed as you can.

Query Wisely

When you write a query letter, put your research into play by letting the agent know exactly why you’re contacting him or her and how you think your respective skills are compatible. You don’t want to go overboard comparing your work to the agency’s other clients, but you might say you recognize the agent’s expertise in this genre and feel your work would be different and a powerful addition to their list because [insert your really good reason here].

Be Patient

Like high school sweethearts who happily marry for 50 years, you might just find your perfect agent match right out of the gate. It’s more likely, though, that you’ll need to play the proverbial field a bit before finding that right partner. However it works out, if you stay confident, remain informed, and focus on targeted individuals, you’ll ultimately find a match that will lead you toward literary and financial success.