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Cruising for the Bookish Agent

Now your book is probably ready for publishing, or at least you hope it is. The next logical step is to reach out to those people called literary agents. You’ve heard that they have some mysterious talent that can charm publishing houses into printing books. And so you wonder how to find a literary agent.

Agents are specialists that focus on the business side of an author’s career like auditing your income, representing you with contract transactions, advising you on which events you should prioritize to appear in, and linking you with experts in your profession by expanding your relevant network. Ultimately, they help you assess the progress of your growth as a writer as an invaluable partner.

How to find a literary agent all comes down to either personal recommendation or research. Personal recommendations are organic meetings that come from your already established network. You might think that there is very little chance to find an agent this way. There is, however, a theory which states that you are six introductions away from meeting any specific person on the planet so don’t readily dismiss this opportunity.

The other method is used most often by the majority of agent-less authors who have studied how to find a literary agent. Researching the right agent for you will seem daunting unless you take things methodically. First, equip yourself with the knowledge on how to separate fraudsters from legitimate agents. Next identify organizations and associations of literary agents and rank them according to their reputation and strictness of membership requirements. You may also want to rank them subjectively by how much their code of conduct or canon of ethics appeals to you. From this pool of members, you can then select a handful of prospective agents based on the genres that they manage which should correlate with the genre of your work as well as the topics you are interested in. An alternative way to go about finding a literary agent is by reversing this order of selection by first determining your favorite contemporary books and identifying which agents managed them and then ranking them by their membership with respectable associations.

You must then reach out to agents in the shortlist that you have created. If you were given a personal recommendation, you may contact the agent by referral through your acquaintance. Otherwise, you should send a page-long, or shorter, query letter to five agents at most, preferably those from the top of your list. Only after an appropriate time, when you still have not received a reply, should you call your would-be agent to confirm receipt of your query letter. And now you have done all the basic things you could do in finding a literary agent.