How To Get A Literary Agent: A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding Representation For Your Novel Or Nonfiction Book
If you’re new to the publishing industry, literary agents can seem kind of mysterious. The task of getting a literary agent to represent your nonfiction book or novel can be a daunting experience.
But fear not! Writer’s Relief is here to demystify the process of getting a literary agent. You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers.
Whether you’re new to the game or a veteran, you’ll find something useful in our Writers Tool Kit!
Everything You Wanted To Know About Getting a Literary Agent But Were Afraid To Ask
- What Literary Agents Do (And Don’t Do) For Writers. Not quite sure about an agent’s role? Let us illuminate the process.
- The Difference Between A Literary Agent And An Editor. Don’t worry. You’re not crazy! There IS a lot of overlap between agents and editors. But there are key differences too.
- Why You Should Query Literary Agents Before Moving On To “Plan B.” Before you decide to skip the step of getting an agent, read this. Seriously. You’ll save yourself trouble later on.
- Warning Signs: How To Spot A Bad Literary Agent. How to know a publishing piranha when you see one.
- Bad Literary Agencies: How To Protect Yourself. How to avoid said piranhas.
- How Much Money Can I Make Writing Books? We all dream of riches…but what are the chances?
- Patience. How long will it take to get a book published?
- 5 Things That Can Go Wrong If A Writer Doesn’t Have A Literary Agent. Find out what might happen if you don’t have a literary agent on your side.
- Not Getting Enough Attention From Your Literary Agent? Here’s What To Do. Before you decide that your literary agent is ignoring you, be sure that your perception is accurate.
- How Literary Agents Get Paid: Standard Commission Practices And Payments For Literary Agents. Here’s a brief overview of standard literary agent commissions and percentages of sales.
- Should You Fire Your Literary Agent? The 10 Signs That It’s Time To Say Good-bye. If you’ve been on the fence about whether to stay with your literary agent or say good-bye, this article will help you decide.
- How To Fire Your Literary Agent. You’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to fire your literary agent. Now the question is: Where do you start? Read more to find out.
- The 6 Worst Things To Say To Your Literary Agent. A writing conference can be great fun, but it’s important to remember that your agent or editor is a professional acquaintance, not a close friend!
- Which Is Better: A Big Literary Agency Or An Independent, Boutique Agent?. Do you want to work with a big, well-known literary agency or with an independent literary agent? We review the benefits and drawbacks of both choices.
Are You In A Good Position To Submit To Agents?
Before you begin submitting, it’s time to start establishing a persona for yourself as a (soon to be) successful, published author. If you start thinking about your author platform AFTER you submit, then you’re going about the process of getting a literary agent backward.
It’s a tough biz. Before you start querying agents, be sure you’re the “complete package” as an author. These articles will help:
- Should A Poet Get A Literary Agent? Writer’s Relief discusses reasons why poets shouldn’t be querying literary agents.
- Do Self-Published Book Authors Need A Literary Agent? Find out more about what roles literary agents may play in self-publishing.
- Should A Writer Finish His/Her Book Before Submitting? Novels and nonfiction books are two very different beasts in the publishing industry! Be sure you know the rules.
- Author Platforms: What They Are, Why Agents And Editors Look For Them. Not sure about this whole author platform thing? We’ve got your back.
- 10 Ways An Author Website Can Enhance Your Writing Career. Your author website may be key to impressing movers and shakers in the publishing industry.
- 9 Ways To Become More Googleable – A Primer For Reputation-Building Writers. If the only Web page popping up under your name is a white pages listing, it’s time to increase your visibility.
- The Importance of Building Publication Credits. Thinking you’ll skip the step of paying your dues with smaller publications? Maybe you want to think again.
- Book Excerpts: Can They Get Your Manuscript Published? You bet. We’ll tell you how.
- Novels And Books: Why Your Opening Pages Are Key To Landing A Literary Agent. You only get one chance to impress your readers. We expound on just how important the first pages of your book really are.
- The Need For Speed: How To Write Faster In Five Easy Steps. These tips are easy to integrate into your routine and will help you to write faster and become a more efficient author.
- Five Tips For Your First Five Pages. Craft tips for grabbing your reader’s attention on page one.
- How To Write A Synopsis For A Novel. Most literary agents want a two- to three-page synopsis of your book. Here are our tips.
- How To Send A Manuscript To A Literary Agent. Find out what you need to know to prepare your book query before sending it out to agents.
- How Long Does It Take To Get A Book Published? How long can you expect to wait before getting your book published?
- How Important Is “Writing For The Market?” We have compiled the most common questions we’ve received to help you and your writing survive in this genre-driven market.
- 5 Things Novelists Can Learn From Screenwriters. Will a literary agent be enticed by your vivid descriptions? Find out what screenwriting can teach you about improving your novel.
- 5 Techniques To Develop Your Short Story Into A Novel. Is it time to lengthen your short story into a novel? Here’s how to do it!
Special Considerations: Genre, Market Forces, and More
When it comes to submitting to literary agents, certain genres have particular “rules.” Be sure you take any special considerations into account so you can nail your submissions!
- The Book That Everyone Will Love: Writing For Young Adult And Adult Audiences.To be sure your book hits the “sweet spot” and appeals to both young adult and adult audiences, read these tips to help you bridge the gap. (Don’t think we need the other part of the sentence.)
- New Adult Fiction: The Next Big Thing In Publishing? More and more, publishers are starting to recognize new adult novels as fitting into their own genre. Find out more about the genre and whether your book could be the next big new adult novel hit.
- How Do You Know If Your Novel Is Literary Or Mainstream Fiction? How Long Is A General Fiction Book? If you don’t know how long most books are, or whether you’re writing literary or mainstream fiction, this one’s for you.
- Genre Fiction Rules: Find Out If Your Novel Meets Publishers’ And Literary Agents’ Criteria For Publication. Do you know the best length for your particular commercial genre? Don’t let a botched word count be an instant deal breaker!
- Don’t Know Your Book Genre? Here’s What To Do. Let’s say you’re familiar with the genres your book could be…but which is it? Here are tips to help you decide.
- Fiction Or Nonfiction? Memoir Or Novel? Some books aren’t entirely fiction or nonfiction. Here’s how you should decide to position and market your mixed genre book.
- After Self-Publishing: Find An Agent And A Publisher For Your Self-Published Book. How to transition from self-published to traditionally published.
- How To Write A Query Letter For A Self-Published Book. Self-published books come with particular challenges and rewards. Here’s how to address them in your query letter.
- How To Publish A Short Story Collection: Tips For Getting Agents’ And Editors’ Attention For Your Short Stories. Short story collections are tricky. Doable but tricky. Our tips are key.
- How To Publish A Collection Of Essays. Like story collections, essay collections can be difficult to place. But our tips will increase your odds.
- The Art of the Nonfiction Book Proposal. Nonfiction (of the how-to and self-help varieties) is sold via proposal. Here’s how to write one for a literary agent.
- How, Why, And When To Write An Introduction For A Nonfiction Book. Sometimes, a good introduction can go a long way toward getting your nonfiction book published.
- Can You Make Up Dialogue In Memoirs Or Nonfiction Books?What should a writer do about writing dialogue in nonfiction if he/she doesn’t know or remember exactly what was said?
- Industry Influencer: We Do Write. We Do Write is a great blog for writers who are on the brink of publishing a first young adult (YA) or middle grade (MG) book. Read this interview to find out more about publishing in YA and MG markets.
Where To Start Researching Literary Agents
There are many ways to identify the best literary agents for your unique books. But we’ll warn you: It can take a long time! We’re happy to offer our tips for finding literary agents who are right for your book. But if you’d rather be writing than researching literary agencies, Writer’s Relief can help.
- How To Research The Best Literary Agents For Your Book. A good agent is hard to find. But we’ve got strategies.
- How To Interpret Submission Guidelines. Be sure you understand the lingo of submissions before clicking SEND.
- Network Up! How To Meet Literary Agents and Editors on the Web. Publishing professionals are out there, if you know where to look.
- New Literary Agents: 5 Questions To Ask Before Querying A Newbie. Before you send your query off to a brand-new literary agent, here are five questions to ask.
- Should I Submit My Book To Literary Agents In The Summer? There are rumors that summertime is slow in the publishing biz. But summer submissions actually have big advantages. So take a look!
- Top Ten Ways To Annoy Literary Agents. Okay, this article is mostly just for fun. But be sure you’re not actually doing any of these things!
- Who Else Wants A Literary Agent? The 5 Essentials For Landing Your Dream Agent. We offer our five best pieces of advice to help you get a literary agent for your book.
Write Your Query Letter
Once you know the market, have prepared a complete book (or proposal), and identified your marketing niche in the publishing industry, it’s time to start writing your query letter!
We’ve written many articles about penning query letters that can help grab the attention of literary agents. We’ve helped many of our clients get literary agents (and book deals!).
When you’re ready to get started on the query letter that you’re going to send to literary agents, read this: Query Letters: Everything You Must Know To Dazzle Literary Agents With Your Book Query.
After You Send Your Queries To Literary Agencies
The waiting game begins… Literary agents tend to take a while to respond to unsolicited submissions. But use your time wisely! Instead of twiddling your literary thumbs, research more agencies, build your Web presence, and prepare your strategy to respond to agent requests.
- When And How To Follow Up With (Or Nudge) A Literary Agent About Your Book Query. Before you call or drop by an agent’s office, read this!
- When A Literary Agent Requests An Exclusive: Solutions For Sticky Situations. Some agents want to tie up your manuscript so other agents can’t consider it. Here’s what to do when that happens.
- How To Handle Literary Agent Manuscript Requests. After you stop doing the happy dance, here are strategies that will help you make the most of manuscript requests.
- Is A Good Literary Agent Good Enough? There are many so-so literary agents out there eager for new projects. But does that mean you should sign with one?
- Nine Questions To Ask A Literary Agent. These questions will help you decide if the agent who offered for your book is the right agent for you.
- Literary Agent Contracts: How To Protect Your Rights. Before you sign a contract with a literary agency, know the industry standards (and what your options are).
- When Your Agent Is Also Your Publisher. Some literary agents are opening publishing companies to help their authors self-publish. We give you the pros and cons of this practice.
- Authors And Marketing: Two Sides Of The Same Coin. Deborah Riley-Magnus, an author and Author Success Coach, discusses how authors can market themselves.
- The Goodies Table: 8 Ways To Make Your Promotional Items Stand Out And Boost Sales. Convincing people to pick up your item is only half the battle: You need to turn people who are simply looking to score some free stuff into your book-buying fans.
Rejections From Literary Agents
We love rejection letters. Seriously. Why? Because if you’re NOT getting rejection letters, it means you’re not submitting often enough. Even well-targeted submissions can be regularly rejected due to forces beyond a writer’s control.
These articles will help you deal with rejections from literary agents—and get fewer of them down the road!
- How To Interpret Rejection Letters From Literary Agents. Don’t toss your rejections into the fire the moment you get them. They can offer a lot of valuable information if you know how to read between the lines.
- The Best Way To Resend Your Novel or Nonfiction Book To A Literary Agent. Did you revise after your rejections? There’s a right way and a wrong way if you’re thinking of submitting again.
- Editors and Literary Agents: Why They’re Just Not That Into You. Still getting rejections? It might be time to amp up your X factor.
- Red Flags: Shortcuts That Agents Will Use To Reject Your Writing. Some readers will use shortcuts to reject your work without even reading it. Learn to avoid making these common submission mistakes!
- Famous Author Quotations About Rejection. The writers you love talk about their experiences with rejections.
- True Stories Of Unbelievable Rejections. You’ll be surprised by the wild rejection letters that the best writers in the business once received.
- Five Literary Flops (And How They Changed The World). Some books that were initially hailed as clunkers went on to become some of the most beloved books of all time.
How Writer’s Relief Can Help You Find A Literary Agent
Writer’s Relief has been helping creative writers submit their novels, memoirs, and nonfiction books to literary agents since 1994. We compose query letters, proofread and format submission pages, AND research the best literary agents for a given book project.
Our clients have ranged from promising new authors to best-sellers and award-winners. Here are our basic packages:
- Full Service: Our most inclusive package. We take care of everything for you. This is as low-stress as submissions get. Authors by invitation only.
- A La Carte PLUS: Everything that comes with our standard A La Carte service, with the bonus of query letter writing.
- A La Carte: Let us research and target the 25+ agents who are best-suited for your unique book. We do the research, you do the rest.
- Wikipedia: About Literary Agents
- Guide To Literary Agents Blog
- Association of Authors’ Representatives
- Preditors and Editors: All About Agents
- The MFA Conundrum: Does An MFA Hurt Or Help A Writer’s Career?
This page has been a labor of love to help do-it-yourself authors. We hope you’ve found it helpful in your search to find a literary agent for your novel or nonfiction book!
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