How to Find a Literary Agent
Fern Reiss, CEO, PublishingGame.com
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 http://www.PublishingGame.com
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
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 (AAR-online.org)
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, http://www.PublishingGame.com.
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 PublishingGame.com (www.PublishingGame.com) and Expertizing.com (www.Expertizing.com) 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 (www.AssociationofWriters.com) 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 www.Expertizing.com/forum.htm. Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at www.PublishingGame.com/signup.htm.
Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss