How to find a literary agent

If the ink is dry on the page and your book is ready to step out into the cold, cold world of publishing, you’ll need to consider which publishing path to take. For some paths, a literary agent is a helpful and/or necessary ally. Finding the right literary agent and sending that perfect query is a daunting task. Fortunately, this is the first in a series of three blog posts that will hopefully offer a little insight into the process. (The other two deal with researching literary agents and writing a query.)

The first step is to find the literary agent you want to query. There are quite a few resources out there, online and in print, that can help you narrow down your options.

1024px-Boger,_Sigurdur_OlafssonLarge databases and books:

The advantage of a large database of literary agents is that it’s large. The downside is that these resources tend to not give you too much specific information about each agent. But that’s okay when you’re doing your initial sweep and gathering names. Just keep in mind, you’ll need to do a little more research on every likely sounding name you find before you send that query.

The 2015 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino is a big, fat book full of information about literary agencies. The book is pretty current, and will let you know whether agencies are accepting queries and what genres they represent.

AgentQuery is an online database that has much of the same information as the Guide to Literary Agents. It offers a little more flexibility as you can filter agents by genre and search by keywords like “LGBT” or “true crime.”

The Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) also keeps an online database. All of the agents here will be members of the AAR, and you can search by genre here as well.

Blogs and wish listsPhone_book

Wish lists and blogs with literary agent interviews can give you a better picture of what an agent is looking for and what they might be like to work with. Although they cover a smaller range of agents than a database, they offer a lot more detail.

#MSWL is a hashtag on Twitter where agents tweet what they’d like to see in a manuscript. You can go to Twitter and thumb through the tweets or you can visit this handy website, where they’ve collected wish lists from a number of agents. On the website, all the responses are tagged by genre and also by keywords such as “coming of age,” or “dark.”

Writer’s Digest has a series called New Literary Agent Alerts, that posts a brief article about literary agents who’ve just started their careers. These agents are actively looking to build their client list, which means they’re eager to pull something great out of the slush pile.

Literary Rambles and Literary Rejections are two great blogs that have done dozens of interviews with literary agents. Literary Rambles has a focus on YA, but many of the agents they talk to also represent adult fiction. And Literary Rejections keeps a database of literary agencies as well as a long list of interviews.

Once you’ve got a list of agents to query, who all represent your genre and are currently open to submissions, you’ll want to do a little research, about what they’ve represented, what they’re looking for, and whether or not they’re trustworthy. I’ll cover that in more detail next week.

Are you planning to query a literary agent or is your publishing path completely different? Leave a comment and let me know how you’re navigating the publishing industry.


Photos by: Sigurður Ólafsson/norden.org [CC BY 2.5 dk], via Wikimedia Commons

How can I recycle this (http://www.recyclethis.co.uk) (phone_book) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Featured image by Christos Kyrou (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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