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Find Your Literary Agent

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By Emily Potter


When querying time arrives at last, the thought of plunking “agent” into a search engine and firing off a letter to anyone with a published email address can seem enticing.

We all know that the competition for agents is a fierce one and getting your letter in front of as many eyes as possible may sound like a way to beat those odds, or at least tip them in your favour.

But the real way to better your chances is with research.

I know. More research. The truth is that the likelihood of success will spike if you send that query letter to fewer agents, as long as they’re the right ones for you and your story.

As difficult as it can be to find an agent in the first place, it is crucial that whoever you do sign with is a good fit. After all, you’ll hopefully be working closely with them for a long time. With that in mind, it’s better to select those you can see yourself building a relationship with. If you put out the call to the world at large, you may get stuck down the road.

How do you know who will be a good fit? Thirty seconds on Google will bring up pages upon pages of agents. But the first step in creating your curated list doesn’t necessarily involve a computer at all.

Think about books that inspired your story or books that you’ve realized have similarities to yours, and pull them off your shelf (or pull them up on your e-reader). Flip to the acknowledgements. If these authors had an agent, hopefully they thanked them!

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which is the agent from a sea of names, but this is where the search engines can come in handy. And right away you can compile a list of agents who you already know enjoy your type of writing and are already familiar with one of the books that you chose to compare to your own.

The next step is to find those with whom you can call out a personal connection. If you’ve met them, mention where, as well as something that brought them to mind when building your list.

Never met an agent? Don’t worry. Scour social media and blogs, not only those belonging to agents but any mentions across the web as well. Anything you can put into your query letter from this bit of internet exploration will let that agent know that you’ve done some research.

Connecting with the agents on their social media or blogs is another opportunity – if you’re an active enough user, an agent just might recognize your name when it pops up in their inbox.

Once your have a solid list, get to customizing your query letter for each agent you’ve found. Here are some quick tips for creating the perfect letter:

Personalize – You’ve done your research and concluded that this agent would be a good it. Make sure you tell them why.

Elevator pitch – The agent needs to know just enough about your story to be intrigued. Don’t send a synopsis unless they ask for it, even if it’s just a paragraph.

Experience – Don’t have any? Share something interesting about yourself – bonus points if you can relate it to your story, or even to the agent’s own interests.

Watch your details – Do they want the query attached to the email or right in the body? Do they want specific sample chapters? Did you spell their name right?

Remember how you react when form letter emails appear in your inbox. Do you even look at those or just hit delete and move on?

Agents’ inboxes are jammed daily with hopeful queries. A bit of research can convince your selected agents to hit ‘reply’ when they see yours.

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