How to Find a Literary Agent

Congratulations! You have a manuscript and you feel confident enough about it that you want to begin the process of searching for an agent! I’m so proud of you! Take a moment, and revel in this. It takes a lot to write an entire book, and you’ve done it. Now, if you’re a nonfiction writer, that might not be quite true, as nonfiction authors search for agents based on proposals, rather than manuscripts. However, if you have a great proposal, that’s fantastic too!

Now, you want to find your literary agent. How do you do that?

Luckily for authors, there are many great resources for finding agents. Unluckily, there are so many resources for finding agents. Let’s talk about your initial research and then go through a few of those resources.

Research

Before finding a literary agent, an author must first sit down with his or her book or proposal and ask a few basic questions: What is this book about? What is the genre? Who is the audience? What is this book similar to?

Knowing the answers to those questions will greatly help you in your search for an agent and in the querying process you will undertake when you choose agents to send your manuscript to. (See: the dos and don’ts of querying)

Once you have a good idea of which genres your book falls into and who your audience is, you can begin your research into literary agencies. Many agencies are in New York City, but not all of them, and you by no means need to live where your agent is based. NYC is a good place to begin searching for agencies that specialize in books like yours. A simple Google search for “literary agencies in New York” will pull up dozens of results. From there, you can tell which agencies only do nonfiction books, for example, so you would know that your young-adult fiction manuscript would not be a fit there. You can continue with this search on Google, or you can use a different resource to speed the process along.

Resources

Below are listed three resources for helping you find a literary agent. I’ve organized them from most costly subscription fee to least, but there are absolutely other ways to access information like this for cheap or free. Be sure to check out your options and find the one that best suits your needs. This list is, of course, not exhaustive.

Literary Market Place

The preeminent resource for contacts in the publishing industry, in many professionals’ eyes, is called Literary Market Place, or LMP. In addition to its website, this annually published reference book compiles lists of publishing industry professionals and includes an extensive list of literary agents—including where they work, what they are looking for in manuscripts, and all of their contact information.

You can purchase the print version of Literary Marketplace from Amazon for around $40 (and up), but many libraries also have this in their research sections as a resource book. If you would like to spend a hefty sum in subscribing to the online site, you can get up-to-date changes in agents’ jobs to be sure you never contact an agent who has since moved jobs or agencies. LMP offers a weekly subscription fee of $24.95 or an annual subscription fee of $429.50.

Writer’s Digest

Another great resource for authors searching for literary agents is Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents, which provides “the latest and greatest instruction and information on literary agents, literary agencies, query letters, submissions, publishing, author platform, book marketing, and more.

This resource is great for authors looking for alerts about new literary agents who are seeking manuscripts, as well as profiles on current agents. If you subscribe to the site ($39.99/year, plus other options), you also receive access to its agent listings and other great information. Writer’s Digest also provides a variety of other resources to authors, including writing competitions, educational tutorials, and community forums.

Poets & Writers

Finally, a somewhat smaller, but still very valuable resource is the Poets & Writers literary agent database. This is a free database with contact information for various agents and the sorts of submissions they are interested in.

Also available on the website are lists of upcoming grants and awards and writing conferences, as well as lists of small presses, literary journals and magazines, book review outlets, and more. Poets & Writers also produces a bimonthly print magazine that you can subscribe to for $25.95/two years in order to have access to its print content.


I hope you find this research and resource information useful! Again, the list is not exhaustive, but even so, this process can seem daunting. The most important thing is to keep moving forward, to narrow the list of agents who you feel would be the best for you and your manuscript as you move towards publication. If you’re searching for an agent, you’ve already tackled a big step in the process: you’ve written a book or have an idea for a nonfiction proposal. That’s tremendous.

Come back next week to read about the dos (and don’ts!) of contacting—querying—agents. Until then!

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