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  • Writer's pictureWendiFournier

How To Find a Literary Agent in 5 Simple Steps

Landing a literary agent is a challenge, but there are ways to improve your chances of getting the right eyes on your beloved manuscript. Here are 5 proven steps you can take to help increase your chances of turning your publishing dreams into reality.

Step 1: Understand how your book fits into the publishing world. Before you target literary agents and start to write your query letter, you should know the genre (and sub-genres, if applicable) of your manuscript to help you find a literary agent that's a fit for you.

For example, if your story involves fantasy elements, ask yourself if it is high fantasy (dragons, wizards, kings, and queens), urban fantasy (set in a city), dark fantasy (elements of horror), historical fantasy (magic exists alongside historical events or figures), or comic fantasy (humorous in intent and tone). Once you drill down, you’ll gain a better understanding of what your story specifically has to offer and which agent is likely to pick it up.

Suppose you have written a gritty fiction novel with futuristic concepts such as time travel or parallel universes or extraterrestrial life and saw someone who represents speculative fiction with a fancy for sci-fi, you’ve got yourself a winner.

On the flip side, if your story is supercharged with shield maidens and flying dragons, don’t expect an agent who represents bubble gum happy endings or high school drama packed with facial glitter and pom poms to click with your manuscript.

Step 2: Search for agents who represent books similar to yours. With thousands of agents in the literary world, most of those agents won’t be good at selling your kind of book. A great way to decide if an agent is right for your manuscript is by looking at the authors they represent to determine if they are like you.

This step goes beyond looking at the genre and dives deeper by examining writing elements like tone, theme, pacing, and style. Everyone has specific tastes, and you want ensure your pallet matches the agent you are querying.

Search for agents that have sold books like yours. As a starting place, I recommend poking around Writer’s Digest and Manuscript Wish List.

Step 3: Personalize your query letter to fit the agent from whom you are seeking representation. Position yourself as the professional you are by clearly expressing why you are pitching to them to represent your novel. You are targeting agents in the same way big advertising companies target consumers for their products. The same is true in the querying process. The more targeted list you create, the more equipped you will be to personalize each query based on the desires of your potential agent.

Here's a little tip. A leap in the right direction would be to list a few books from their roster comparable to yours. This shows the agent you’ve done your research and know what books they’ve successfully sold.

Step 4: Send no more than a dozen queries at a time. Don’t risk blowing through your entire list with a weak query letter. If after sending out the first batch you don’t get a response for requests or partials within six weeks, there is a good chance your query needs some revising. Give yourself time to revise before sending out a second batch.

Step 5: Follow up! Some will tell you that silence is a hard no, but I’ve found this not to be the case. While silence isn’t the best sign, it doesn’t mean no. Agents are human, too, and like you and me, they appreciate a good reminder. Think about how many emails you’ve unintentionally let slip through the cracks. But it happens. Don’t let your beloved manuscript be one of them!

Now ladies and gentlemen, grip that wheel and hit that pedal. It’s time to #CreateYourEpic.

Xo Wendi


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