So You Want a Literary Agent?

Many writers (I dare say ALL) will eventually want to publisher their work.

agentimageAlthough self-publishing is popular, some will be looking for an agent to work on their behalf to make a deal with the big publishing houses. But just how does one go about the task of acquiring an agent? There is a lot of advice out there, and some contradictory. I picked out some sites to get started.


Here is a list of some tips, tricks, dos, and don’ts for attracting an agent.

How to Find a (Real) Literary Agent by A. C. Crispin. This is an in-depth article with some common sense and maybe not-so-common sense tips for finding an agent. She provides tips on managing your time, tracking queries, and planning on how to deal with rejection. There are also links to some sites to read about agents (some are below) and some forums where people discuss issues or warn against “thumbs-down” publishers.

Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make Trying to Get Agents by Lucy V Hay on Bang2Write blog. These seem like obvious no-nos, but apparently they need to be said.

29 Ways Not to Submit to an Agent by Carole Blake on Bang2Write. This is mentioned in the piece above. It is from 2013 but is timeless advice.

10 Query Tips to Help You Land a Literary Agent! by Brian Rowe.

Do You Need an Agent? by Randy as admin. Very simply explains why authors use agents and why some authors do not have agents. He also suggests who indie authors might need on their team to produce a good book (may include an agent).


Although some of the links above do have tips about the query letter itself, I thought some specific guides to writing the query letter would be useful.

The Complete Guide to Query Letters by Jane Friedman. Written in 2014 but updated frequently, according to the site. This post covers “5 basic elements” of a query letter in detail and uses examples to bring her points home.

How to craft the perfect query letter on One thing to note in this post, they recommend leaving out praise of how you found the agency, yet others, including agents, have advised personalizing the letter (suggested as optional). It seems like this may be up for debate. If it is relevant, or genuine, go for it, but if it is gratuitous, probably better to leave it off.

Some examples and critiques…

23 Query Letters That Actually Worked by Jason Boog on GalleyCat.

Query Shark The subtitle says it all: “How To Write Query Letters … or, really, how to revise query letters so they actually work”. Read these critiques of queries. They may seem brutal, but the advice works! On the left column are links to critiques of queries that lead to representation after revision. I could read the critiques all day, but I have work to do…


Finally, here are some resources to find the agent that is perfect for you. Remember to match your work to what the agent is looking for, follow their submission guidelines, and be genuine.

Agents looking for writers! This site provides some tips and links for writers seeking agents, then there is a monthly update of agents looking for writers. Once you’ve gone through the databases (below), use this site to keep up with new agents.

Manuscript Wish List is a great resource for locating agents and editors. It offers a search feature to locate agents by genre, keyword, or name. There is also a blog and newsletter.

AgentQuery has a free searchable database of over 900 agents. The profiles include the agent’s current contact information, publishing experience, education, previous agencies, titles

Query Tracker requires a free membership to use search features and has a premium membership for advanced search features and query tracking features.

Agents looking for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers is an older post but offers a starting point if you are feeling overwhelmed. Not all of the links are up to date, but I found it interesting to glance over some of the agencies they suggest. I love lists, but sometimes databases work a little better for a thorough search.

ButterflyQHow have your queries gone? How long did it take you to find representation? Are you still looking? Let us know your story!

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