How to Get an Agent

If you are looking to be published by a major publishing house, having an agent is essential. Most of the large publishers don’t accept submissions directly from authors. However, the agent is more than just a middleman. The agent represents the author, presents the author’s work to the appropriate acquisitions editor, and handles contract negotiations for the author’s rights over the work. The agent does all of this in exchange for 10% to 15% of all advances and royalties earned by the author. Avoid “agents” who ask for reading fees or any money up front—they shouldn’t make money until you do.

How do you get an agent?

Start by researching agents who represent your genre. This is important. You waste your time and the agent’s time if you send queries to someone who doesn’t represent your genre. You want an agent who is passionate about your genre and who will know the best place to send your work. It’s also good to go after a new agent—they’re more receptive to new authors. You can locate agents through the following resources:

  • Guide to Literary Agents: A book and blog developed by Writer’s Digest magazine.
  • Association of Authors’ Representatives: An industry organization with strict ethics guidelines.
  • Fellow Authors: Other writers are a great resource for locating agents. Ask people who write in your genre—both published and prospecting—whether they have any recommendations.Next, you’ll need to develop a query letter and synopsis for a fiction project or a book proposal for a nonfiction project. Fiction authors must have a complete manuscript ready before they start soliciting agents. Nonfiction authors can solicit both agents and publishers with a book proposal before writing the book if they so choose. Use either the query letter or proposal to solicit agents. A few tips:
  • Don’t mass email a form letter that begins with “Dear Agent.” Make each query personal.
  • Don’t be hokey or gimmicky with your pitch and avoid including gifts or otherunprofessional material.
  • FOLLOW THEIR GUIDELINES! Otherwise, you might as well auto-reject yourself.
  • Be courteous. Agents are people too, and they’re just doing their job—a job they earnedby learning what works in the industry.
  • Take rejections in stride. Publishing is just as much about personal taste as it is aboutquality writing. So if you receive a rejection, don’t plague the agent with follow-ups or bad-mouth him or her to others (especially online)—word gets around fast.Resources: