You already love your book. Or at least you should, since you’re the author of it. What you need to find is an agent who loves it just as much as you do. A literary agent can be your greatest ally in the world of publishing. About 80% of books that are sold to the world’s largest publishers come from agents.
That’s why knowing how to find an agent for a book is a skill that every writer should work on developing. The days of needing to figure this stuff out on your own are gone. Here are the steps you’ll want to follow.
#1. Edit your book thoroughly.
Your book isn’t ready until you’ve done a verbal edit of it. This means you’ve read your entire manuscript out loud. This type of edit allows you to catch errors in rhythm and makes it easier to spot typos. Some authors prefer to set aside their manuscript aside for 1-2 months before doing this edit. Others can hop right into it.
Just make sure you don’t submit it until this revision is done.
#2. Get a picture of the current market.
Although every author believes their book is completely unique, the fact is that there are several books already published that have similarities to your book. Find those books, see what they are doing right, and then replicate that process. That will give you presentation materials to present with your manuscript when you find a literary agent interested in what you have.
#3. Package up your submission materials.
Just about every agent requires a query letter as part of their submission guidelines. This letter should include a synopsis of your book, a tag line, an overview of the plot, and a short bio about yourself. An agent may also request other specifics for your book, including marketing ideas or a full business plan, depending on the genre you’re writing within.
#4. Grow your circle.
It also helps to work with fellow authors who have the same goals as you. Not only can a writer’s association membership give you some added leverage in the creative process, it also indicates to some agents that you’re committed to your book over the long haul. You can also grow your circle by getting endorsements from your local library, support from local bookstores, and even getting involved with the creative departments in local schools.
#5. Pick the best agents who work in your genre.
You’ll likely find 2-3 dozen literary agents who have the potential to accept your book for a full review. Instead of submitting your work to all of them, choose a handful of the best opportunities instead. A general rule of thumb is to submit to 3-6 agents at a time only. Some authors even prefer to submit their work to local agents first before contacting others.
Make sure your preferred agent will represent your genre so you aren’t wasting your time.
#6. Keep track of your responses.
Most agents are not going to respond to your query right away. It may take 60-90 days before you hear anything – if you hear anything at all. That’s why you should keep track of where your queries have been sent and if you’ve received a response. If a response isn’t received in 90 days, it’s okay to submit a follow-up request regarding your submission.
If you don’t get a response to your follow-up, then it’s fairly safe to assume the agent is passing on your work. Cross them off the list and find another agent to query.
#7. Take any feedback you receive seriously.
It can be difficult to receive negative feedback. Sometimes an agent may see potential in your work, but it may not be at the level needed for publication in their opinion. Their advice, if given in a rejection letter, is priceless. Follow that advice as best you can.
Some rejections just occur outright with no feedback. That can be frustrating for sure. It’s also an opportunity to choose a new agent to query. Go down your list, keep sending in submissions, and someone will eventually take notice of your work. Don’t give up until you find a match.
#8. Keep writing.
Maybe everyone rejects you. That happens a lot too – especially to first time writers. Keep going. Don’t stop writing. Even if it takes 2-3 manuscripts to get noticed, virtually every writer who wants an agent will get one who loves their work eventually.
Knowing how to find an agent for a book may involve a lot of personal work that takes up a lot of time, but it’s an investment worth making. That’s because you’re investing into your own literary future.