Monday, May 13, 2019

Finding A Literary Agent

If you plan on going for traditional publishing, you probably need an agent. Publishers use agents to filter out the vast majority of authors and send the likeliest candidates to the publisher for additional screening. Though there are publishers who accept new, unsolicited authors without an agent referral, they are few and far between. Additionally, it is worth noting that the publishers who do this are more likely to be sketchy and try to take advantage of hopeful authors by asking for reading fees, screening fees, etc. So author beware if you try to go it alone.

Agents may seem superfluous, and expensive since they keep 15%-20% of your profit, but actually they are gatekeepers. Plugged into the literary scene due to their previous experiences as publishers, editors, and interns, agents have the ability to get a book in front of the right publisher.

Due to their experiences, agents are often experts in one particular niche. They might have previous experience in publishing children's picture books, for example. They know which publishers are looking for books like yours this season. They can call up contacts and help increase the likelihood a publisher will look at your book rather than let it stand ignored in the inbox.

What this means is that not all agents are right for you (or vise verse). You can't just send your book to any potential agent. You need to do your research and find the agents who could work for you.

To help me identify potential agents, I purchased this book:

I read through the list of agencies and agents, and identified which were a good fit for me. I have put together a spreadsheet of these agents and am currently investigating my short list. Specifically, looking at websites, agent blurbs, authors they represent, etc. In addition to finding agents who represent the type of literary work I want to produce, I am considering how I want to work with an agent and using that to help screen through potential agencies.

Agents understand marketing, contracts, and can help you negotiate with potential publishers. They can help you leverage any success you have, as well as make sure to capitalize on that success. Many agents also specialize in foreign publishing, so can get your book out in other countries, as well as book to movie transitions. I have read over and over again that agents are worth the money, so don't let the shared profit margin sway you. But identifying which of these categories and topics is most applicable to you is a good way to help determine which agents are best to approach.

I want an agent who will help me develop a diverse author identity that captures the full scope of the work I produce. When I read websites and agent info, it is clear that some agents are a better fit for my needs than others.

In addition to the internet, you can also make connections with agents at author conferences (a list of 2019 conferences: Unfortunately, there are not many in my neck of the woods, so I have not participated in any so far. Most author conferences I have looked into are genre specific, and advertise agent and/or agency representation. It sounds like participating in these events are a great way to make contact if your writing clearly falls within a particular genre. It is less clear that this type of contact will work for authors whose writing is harder to label.

Personal referrals are even better, if you have literary contacts. Name dropping is a big part of the literary world. If you have a name to drop, do not hesitate to do so!

Best of luck on your search! If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments.

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