Where to look for a literary agent

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about where to look for a literary agent….

Readers ask me all the time for good tricks to finding a literary agent. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy!

Generally, I recommend finding a book in your genre and then looking in the acknowledgements section (where writers almost always thank their agent, by name). But I recently stumbled across a detailed post by Nathan Bransford containing a plethora of advice. It runs under the headline, “How to research a literary agent,” and it’s a good one.

Also, the photo he used to illustrate his post made me laugh. It’s Van Gogh’s painting “Haystacks.” Get it? Looking for a needle in a haystack….

A former agent, turned writer, Bransford offers lots of great tips and an important warning, too. There are some bad actors out there and it’s important for writers to be cautious. I share his recommendation that Writer Beware is a good site to consult to keep an eye on the bad guys. Know your rights as an author, Bransford warns.

Other helpful advice he offers:

  • Be honest about your genre (and understand that you have one even if you don’t know it!)
  • Supplement your literary agent research with databases like Publisher’s Marketplace
  • Follow the literary agent’s submission requirements — they are there for a reason.
  • Approach about seven agents at a time
  • Personalize your approach
  • Write a proper query letter

Oh, and by the way, be sure to download his helpful Google docs spreadsheet for tracking your queries. I know, I know. This is an awful lot of work. If you would prefer to self-publish that’s another entirely reasonable option. You can see my brief video about that option here.

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