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How to Find a Literary Agent

How to Find a Literary Agent
Fern Reiss, CEO,

You’d love to find a literary agent for your next book, but you’ve heard that it’s impossible. Nonsense! Here’s where you should look if you’re interested in locating a literary agent. (For more information on what to do once you’ve located an agent, see the dozens of other articles on the website.)

Writing Conferences. It’s easiest to get a literary agent in person, and writing conferences provide a golden opportunity. There are two approaches to finding a literary agent at a conference. The first is to go to the best writing conference you can get into—a top-quality conference, such as Breadloaf in Vermont. It’s unlikely that you’ll interest a literary agent at a conference such as this—there are many excellent writers in competition for the attention of the same few agents. But you’re likely to improve your writing a great deal, and more importantly, you’re likely to make the connections—with other attendees, and with members of the staff—that can put you in touch with a literary agent down the road.

The other approach is to go to the worst writing conference you can find. Bad writing conferences—characterized by good faculty, but by attendees who aren’t serious about their writing—abound. A literary agent at a bad writing conference has no one to talk to and nothing to do. So if you present yourself and your manuscript professionally, you have a good chance of landing the serious attention of an agent who might not have been as interested if your manuscript had been mailed in to his offices. (Ask around; every state has at least one ‘bad’ writing conference :*)

Meet the Agent. In addition to conferences, there are other forums attended by literary agents. Some of these are specifically for the purpose of meeting agents (such as the “Meet the Agents” day sponsored by the International Women’s Writing Guild); others are aimed at publishers (Publishers Marketing Association University) or journalists (American Society for Journalists and Authors) but attended by literary agents. Informal conversations, followed up by mail or email, are probably the best way to go when meeting an agent at one of these events.

Bookstores. Almost all authors thank their literary agents in the foreword or dedication of their books. If you browse the bookstore for your type of book, and flip through some of the dedications, you’re bound to find the names of the agents who are handling your genre of material.

AAR. The Association of Authors Representatives ( is the organization of literary agents who have pledged not to accept fees for their agenting (beyond their commissions.) Since agents are unlicensed and scams abound, it’s safest to work with an agent who is a member of the AAR.

Publishers Weekly. Each week, Publishers Weekly prints a list of “Hot Deals” describing which agents have sold which manuscripts to whom. Check out this list on a regular basis to know who is selling in your genre. You can find Publishers Weekly at most large newsstands and in all libraries.

Publishers Lunch. Publishers Lunch is a free email newsletter that, like Publishers Weekly’s Hot Deals column, lists all the major sales that have been made by agents. (Unlike Hot Deals, it also often includes the monetary amount of the deal.) You can sign up by sending email to

Books and articles. There are a plethora of books on how to find a literary agent—including my own, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days. You can also find a slew of articles on literary agents, as well as self-publishing and book promotion, at the Publishing Game website,

Publicity. Finally, remember that literary agents are always looking for the next new thing. If you think you’ve got a book on that next new thing, don’t worry about the literary agent; just get out there and get as much PR for your topic as possible. Good literary agents are always contacting authors whom they’ve noticed appearing in major newspapers and magazines, and many a book deal has transpired after an author has received publicity that came to an agent’s attention.

Finding an agent is not a cakewalk. But it doesn’t need to be a death march, either. Stay focused, and stay alert for opportunities. Good luck!


Fern Reiss is CEO of ( and ( and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books.  She is also the Director of the International Association of Writers ( providing publicity vehicles to writers worldwide. She also runs The Expertizing® Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at  Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at

Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss


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