How to research a literary agent

Now that you’ve read the first post in this series about querying literary agents and gone through the databases I mentioned, it’s time to take that list of likely names and get to know each one better. Here are a few places to start…

  • Agency website: The literary agent’s agency website is the place to start and finish your search. It will tell you what genres each agent represents, as well as whether or not they’re open to queries. Some websites will also give you a list of books the agency has published, so you can get a sense of if your book would be a good fit.
  • Social media: Not every agent has a social media presence, nor is it

    Social media is a great place to research literary agents.

    necessary to have one in order to be a good agent. However, if agents you’d like to query are present on a site like Twitter, you might get the opportunity to learn more about them, including their agenting style and the kinds of things they’re looking for. Remember, don’t query agents on social media. It’s tacky, and more likely to get you blocked than published.
  • Manuscript wish list: If the agent you’re after has made a wish list on this website (which I touched on briefly in the last post), you can find it by searching their name. While the wish list will give you some idea of what each agent is looking for, remember that it’s not a comprehensive list. If your manuscript fits someone’s wishes, that’s wonderful, but even if it doesn’t, they might still love it, as long as it’s in a genre they represent.
  • Google: Make sure to Google agents you’re interested in. There are a number of blogs out there that frequently interview or have articles about literary agents. These blogs can also help you get a sense of what the agent is like, if they’re looking for something special, and if you’d be a good fit.

*A note: A web presence doesn’t make or break an agent. If the agent you’re looking into hasn’t done many interviews or posted a wish list, they may still be a great agent, and there’s only one way to find out if they’re interested in what you’re writing.

Next, you’ll want to make sure the agent you’re querying is reputable. Being a literary agent isn’t like being a doctor. There’s no formal school or test, which means anyone can hang out a sign and say they’re an agent. Unfortunately there are some scam artists out there, and some well meaning people who just don’t have the qualifications or experience to act as effective agents. Here are a few ways to get a sense of if you’re looking at a legitimate literary agent.

  • Google their name (or agency name) and “Absolute Write”: The Absolute Write Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Checks forum is one of the best places to get information about the publishing industry. If there’s a thread in the forum about the agent or agency, it will pop up in this search and you can check it to see if something sounds fishy.
  • Visit Preditors and Editors: This website maintains a list of literary agents, publishers, contests, and other publishing-related businesses. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s pretty thorough, and it can tell you if there’s a red flag for a certain agent or agency.
  • Check to see if they charge fees: If they do, stay away. A real literary agent only makes money when you do.

If you’ve looked into an agent and they seem to be a good fit, the final step is to visit their agency website again. This time, you’ll need to check out their submission guidelines, and follow them exactly. When you’re ready to write that query, check out this post.

Photo by BuzzFarmers from Providence & Tampa (On the phone. Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Featured image by Patrice78500 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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