This post comes with a huge caveat…this is what worked for ME. I’m sure other writers will have differences of opinion.
So, five ideas for finding a literary agent (other than Googling ‘Literary Agents’ and spending a year sifting through your gazillion hits until you find your perfect match):
- Look in the acknowledgments of books you love. What does the author say about their agent? Even if it’s a different genre from what you write, chances are there’ll be another agent at the same agency who represents yours. This was how I found my agent – the perfect match for The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.
- Look at the websites of authors you admire. Their agent is usually credited somewhere. (Mine’s here!) Look them up. See if they’re open to submissions. Check what they’re looking for.
- You could use the big, fat, red Writers and Illustrator Handbook often seen as the industry standard. It lists publishers, agents etc. However, it goes out of date every year, so maybe check if your local library has a copy you can look at.
- Get yourself on Twitter. This is something I’ve only realised since entering the bookish world. Quite a lot of agents advertise what they’re looking for on social media. Search #MSWL or #opentosubmissions and see where it leads you.
- Similarly, look for hashtags like #Pitmad #pitwars (I’m sure there are many others) on social media. There are certain days in the year when you can plug your book to agents seeking new clients.
And five ideas for approaching the literary agent you’d love to represent you:
- Check their website for their specific submission guidelines. Some want three chapters and a synopsis. Others want to see the first 500 words.
- Stick to their rules and submission guidelines. Attach only the documents they ask for and make your email brief but compelling. Introduce yourself without going into your full life history, sum up your book in as few words as possible, state what genre it is and mention how many words it has. (Just my opinion, but I wouldn’t advise approaching an agent if your novel is unfinished; if they like the sound of it, you’ll want to keep the ball rolling.)
- Wait. Try not to refresh your inbox every ten minutes. Good literary agents are busy people.
- I’d say it’d be okay to send a follow-up email a month later if you’ve not heard anything (unless their guidelines have a waiting time guide). And when I say ‘anything’, know that a holding email counts as something.
- Stalk them persistently*