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How to Find Literary Agents for Memoirs

How to Find Literary Agents for Memoirs

Once you’ve written your memoirs, there is often a desire to get that work published. Although there are many self-publishing opportunities available today that are quite affordable, finding a literary agent is usually the next step in the memoir publishing process for most writers. This means knowing how to find literary agents for memoirs is an essential skill that must be developed.

This guide will help you be able to develop that skill. Here’s what you’re going to want to do.

Step #1: Locate the right literary agent.

Not every literary agent accepts memoirs. When you’re looking at the website or description of services offered by each agent, you’ll see the genres of work they represent. If memoirs aren’t on that list, then submitting your work is probably going to be a waste of time. Locate the literary agents that want to represent the work you have for best results.

Step #2: Create a query letter.

In order to contact a literary agent for the first time, a query letter is often considered to be mandatory. This letter must include a brief synopsis of your memoirs, a description of the central theme within the book, and perhaps a short bio about who you are. The entire letter should fit on one page and include any other written works or awards you may have received. Make sure this letter is grammatically correct without typos or misspelled words.

Step #3: Polish your manuscript.

Most literary agents will want to see your manuscript in its entirety before they choose to represent it. This means you’ll need to have it completely edited and polished before you’re ready to make contact. This process can take some time, especially if the memoirs are quite lengthy. Some literary agents may request the first 3 chapters or have other demands instead, which must be followed to the letter, but eventually that story needs to be in its final draft for submission. It’s better to take care of that now.

Step #4: Contact the literary agent in their preferred method.

Representation may come from companies with a single literary agent or ones that have several working for them with each in a specific genre. Every company and most literary agents have specific contact methods they prefer. Follow these methods to the letter for best results. If the instructions are to send an email query letter with three chapters attached and then mail in the full manuscript with the query letter included as reference, then do it. Literary agents have their own reasons why they have certain preferences – working with them means being willing to work with those preferences.

Step #5: Keep it professional.

Sure. You’ve worked hard on your memoirs. It may have taken 6 months, 2 years, or maybe 20 years to get them written. You want to know if you’re going to be published and how long it will take. Contacting a literary agent on a daily or weekly basis for updates is often considered to be unprofessional. Literary agents need to make money as well and their primary focus will be on writers who are earning them a paycheck. If they like what you’ve written, they’ll be in touch. If not, give them 90 days. If you don’t hear back from them, then move on.

Step #6: Contact one literary agent at a time.

It might seem like a good idea to mail out a bunch of query letters to a bunch of different literary agents, but most companies and agents prefer to work on an exclusive basis. Instead of flooding the market, sent out one query letter at a time. This is to your advantage in more ways than one. If you make an error on your query letter and don’t catch it before you send it out to every literary agent you can find, then you won’t be burning future bridges without realizing it.

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Step #7: Wait.

This is the hardest step of all. The publishing business takes time. You’re going to have a lot of free time on your hands as you’re waiting for responses. Fill that free time by writing something else to keep your mind occupied. That way, even if your memoirs are not accepted for representation, you’ll have other works that a literary agent might be interested in representing on your behalf.

Knowing how to find literary agents for memoirs means finding and contacting agents that work within this genre first and foremost. Find them, follow their instructions, and send in a high quality representation of your work with a query letter. If you can do that and keep doing it even if you receive rejections, then you’ll be well on your way to getting your memoirs published.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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