How to Get a Literary Agent

Are you looking to traditionally publish your novel? If so, you'll need a Literary Agent to pitch your book to publishers on your behalf. So, where to begin? In this article, I'll outline what you need to prepare and how to find a literary agent with helpful tips and advice!

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Make sure your book is finished

Agents received thousands of submissions a week, and so there is a criteria you need to meet before an agent even takes a look at your novel. The first, and most important thing you need to ensure is that your book is finished. I don't just mean a first draft, either. Make sure you've finished editing, you've gone through the beta reading process, and have read and re-read your novel over and over. You should be 100% happy with your novel before sending it to agents. You'll know if you're ready to send agent queries when you can't see any further improvement for your novel. Also, make sure you've formatted your book correctly, with front and back matter. You can find out more about formatting you novel here.

Write a synopsis

When querying Literary Agents, you need to have a synopsis prepared. This should be done in a Word document, but some agents may not accept attachments and ask that you copy and paste the synopsis in to an email when querying them.

A synopsis is a summary of your novel from start to finish, which includes character names and spoilers. This helps an agent to get a rough idea of what your book is about, leaving nothing to surprise. Agents will only read your novel if they like what they read in the synopsis, so this is incredibly important.

You can find out how to structure your synopsis by clicking this link.

Write a query letter

The next thing you need to prepare is a query letter. This tells the agent information about your novel, such as what genre it is, and how many words, but also a little about yourself. The purpose of the query letter is to get agents excited about your book, and push them to read your synopsis and novel.

You can find out how to structure your query letter by clicking this link.

Get the latest Writers' & Artists' Yearbook

Now that you've prepared to query agents, it's time to find them. It is perfectly fine to do a Google search to find an agent, however the preferred way would be to use the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, which you can purchase online, on Amazon or another online retailer. This yearbook lists reputable Literary Agents, alongside what genre they're looking for, their contact email, website and authors they've worked with before. Not only can you find agents in the yearbook, but it also lists press contacts and articles from authors that give great advice!

Choose your agent wisely

You shouldn't apply to every Literary Agent you find, otherwise you'll get many rejections back. Instead, only apply to agents who are looking for books in your genre. Also, do your research on the agent and see which books they have helped get published and with who. If your book is similar, then there may be more of a chance that they'll take you on. At the same time, if your book is too similar, they may be hesitant to take on another book which seems the same as the last. do your research, and pick between 5 - 20 agents you'd like to query. A helpful tip is to query a small handful of agents, let's say 5, at a time. The first 5 you email may give you feedback on your query letter or synopsis, and so you are able to amend this before querying others.

Prepare for a long wait

Like I said before, Literary Agents get thousands of submissions a week, and so can you imagine how long it must take them to even open your email? Most agents take between 6 to 12 weeks, however there are some agents who are known to take longer. What makes it difficult, is that most agents may not even get back to you, as they don't have time to reply to every submission with a rejection. Make sure you're tracking how many weeks it has been since you queried, and if you haven't heard back from them after the time frame they specified has passed, then you know they haven't taken you on.

Brace yourself for rejection

It is extremely rare for an author to have no rejections, in fact it might be unheard of. Agents have been known to reject work that have then gone on to become bestsellers, so remember that when you receive a rejection. You shouldn't be disheartened and I find that when you do get a rejection, it's helpful as the agent will often give a short reason as to why. Sometimes, the story might just not be for them, other time they may say that a certain character, or part of your story need developing. Rejections are an asset that can help you improve your work in the long run.

Don't accept the first offer

There is a procedure that takes place when you receive an offer, and you should never accept the first one you get. If you do receive an offer, simply tell the agent that you'd like two weeks to consider their proposal. In the meantime, email every agent you queried, who hasn't yet got back to you, and let them know that you've receive an offer from an agent. Do not mention which agent, but specify the time-frame you have to get back to them by. You'll find that you'll start to receive a response from these other agents much faster, and it also allow you the chance to consider other agent proposals you might have received.