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What Is a Literary Agent?
A literary agent is a person who represents the business interests of writers and their written works. Agents work with new writers and bestselling authors alike, acting as business-minded intermediaries between creatives and book publishing houses, as well as theatrical or film producers. Literary agents serve their client list, representing their professional careers and marketing them to the right people.
What Are the Benefits of Working With a Literary Agent?
Literary agents know how the publishing industry works and have in-depth knowledge of the publishing world. They also have connections to publishing houses, providing their client list with access to both major houses and independent publishers. Agents know what kind of books editors like, what booksellers want, and where their writers’ work will be best suited.
For instance, they know which indie publisher is looking for children’s books, or which big New York publisher is hunting for a collection of young adult short stories. A literary agent knows everything you need in order to get published and works to support and champion your writing.
How to Find a Literary Agent
There are plenty of agents out there, but many of them won’t be the right agent for you. During your agent search, try to look for ones that have experience in your preferred genre—and don’t just say yes to the first agent who offers. If you’re a fiction writer penning sci-fi thrillers, you’ll want an agent who has a track record in that market, not an agent who specializes in historical fiction or gothic romance. Here are some ways you can find a literary agent of your own:
- Do research. Before you reach out to any literary agencies, research them thoroughly and create a wish list of the ones you think would be the best fit for you. If your goal is to write commercial fiction, you need a literary agent who’s well-versed in that particular market. If you want to create graphic novels, then you need an agent who has the necessary connections in that space to lead you to success. You’re going to spend a lot of time communicating with the person you choose to represent your professional writing career, so it’s best to get a feel for everything that’s out there and make sure the agent you trust with your first book is an agent you can trust with your next book.
- Check agent listings. There are a number of websites with databases containing lists of agents and community resources geared towards helping new authors find representation (or experienced authors find a new agent). Some sites let you sort by genre or keywords like narrative nonfiction, literary fiction, picture books, or science fiction to help you narrow down the search to find an agent in the right field.
- Start querying. If the professional contact information of the person you’d like to be your agent is available, send them a query letter. A query letter is a condensed version of a book proposal: a brief, one-page letter containing all of the relevant information pertaining to who you are, what your novel is about, and who its target audience is. A good query letter is your ticket to capture an agent’s attention—so keep it short and enticing; it’s your best chance at standing out. Once you’ve hooked their interest, an agent may request to read your full manuscript. If they like what they read, they may make an offer of representation, which means you’re that much closer to having your work out there.
- Try self-publishing. It might be a long shot, but publishing your own work either in book form or online can also attract an agent’s attention. If you attract the right audience, you may end up building yourself a fanbase, which can also amplify your presence in the modern literary scene.
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