Five ways to find a literary agent

29 July 2013 by in Book publishing

Getting published with a successful book publishing company is often considered to be as hard as writing the book in the first place. A lot of publishing companies will no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means that they will not even open your book submission. The main route to acquiring a publishing deal is to secure a literary agent first. A literary agent should act as your mentor, friend and trusted partner looking after every aspect of the commercial and (if you are lucky) emotional business of being an author. That’s the good news; the bad news is that some say now that it is as hard to find an agent as it is a book publisher.

1. Cold Calling

Historically, the most trodden path of finding a literary agent is to contact them directly with a blind submission. A pretty full list of agents can be found in that fine tome The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. If you are not aware of this publication, it is essentially a listing of all registered UK publishers and agents, message in a bottleincluding contact information and an idea of what kind of publishing they’re interested in – a very good place to start. Each listing should include specific submission guidelines.

2. Three degrees of separation

One of the best ways to secure a literary agent is to be introduced by one of their existing clients or through one of their publishing contacts. Unfortunately, this requires that you know a writer or someone at a publishing company. Generally speaking though, most friends and acquaintances are happy to help. Using a social network such as LinkedIn can be helpful in locating a contact within the publishing industry.

3. Make your own luck

Not everyone has friends within the publishing industry but that should not discourage you from making your own. One way of making useful contacts within publishing is to visit a book fair. There are three major book fairs taking place in Europe every year: the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, the London Book Fair in the United Kingdom and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. The general public are allowed access to each of these fairs, usually for the last couple of days. Introducing yourself politely to publishers you admire and asking them to recommend an agent is a sure fire way to gain valuable introduction.

4. Like-minded souls

Another way to find a like-minded literary agent is to make a list of authors that you respect and find out which agents represent them. Approaching an agent by stating your admiration for one of their authors is a great way to get their attention. By stating that their author has been a great influence on your work will instantly endear you to them and will hopefully open the door to their consideration of your own project.

5. Not the be all and end all

You’ve knocked on their doors; left messages on their voicemails; sent emails, InMails, texts and letters and haven’t heard a thing? Well if you can’t live with them than try to live without them. If you are still adamant about publishing your book with an established publisher it is still possible to secure a deal without having an agent. Although a lot of publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts, smaller niche houses will often consider a submission without an agent if the book is both clearly in their remit and the author has an established platform.