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Get a Literary Agent

Get a Literary Agent
by Fern Reiss, CEO,

Finding a literary agent for your book can be extremely challenging— or it can be a piece of cake. And you can get a literary agent even after you’ve self-published. In fact, that might make it easier. Here’s how:

Keep in mind that in today’s publishing world, marketing is more important than ever. You might have the perfect manuscript—but without a strong marketing plan, it’s unlikely to be saleable. A mediocre manuscript with a stellar marketing plan has a better chance of being published than a great manuscript with no marketing plan. So make sure you submit a well thought-out marketing plan along with your proposal. (The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days provides hundreds of marketing ideas for your plan.)

Remember that attracting a live agent is like engaging in a mating ritual. Move too fast and you come across as pushy and undesirable. Move too slowly and you risk being overlooked because you’ve been too modest. Imagine yourself on a first date: Divulge enough to be interesting, but not so much that you bore. Send the agent just a one-page pitch letter to start with. If they express interest, send a proposal (with marketing plan!) Only if they are still interested, send them the complete manuscript.) (Details on exactly what to send agents, sample pitch letters and proposals, and complete contact information for more than 300 agents can be found in The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days.

If you’re finding it difficult to get an agent, consider self-publishing first. Then, once you have strong book sales figures, you can reapproach agents with better ammunition. Here again, the importance of an aggressive marketing plan is clear. If you’ve sold 5,000 or 10,000 copies of your self-published book, agents and big publishers will be much more interested in discussing acquiring the book—because you’ve shown a track record. (See The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days for more details on how to self-publish.) If you can demonstrate strong bookstore and library sales for your title—and the ability to do sustained publicity—you will be an attractive property for agents.

How do you actually land an agent? The best way to make the initial contact, if at all possible, is in person. See if you can’t get an introduction from a friend or professional acquaintance. Or go to a writing conference where writers are always cruising for new authors— has a good listing. Or read “Hot Deals” in Publisher’s Weekly magazine to get names of agents who’ve brokered recent sales.

And 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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