How to Find a Literary Agent: A Guide for Successful Authors

Table of Contents

Ever felt like you’re navigating a maze blindfolded? That’s what trying to find a literary agent can feel like when you’re standing on the outside looking in. But you’ve poured your soul into every page of your book, and you’re ready to hire an agent so that your love story or epic adventure can take flight. So where do you start?

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the steps you need to take to find your literary agent. Whether it’s writing a query letter that catches an agent’s eye or identifying potential scams, we’re here to equip you with the tools you need to find your perfect advocate in the publishing world and secure that book deal.

Understanding the Role of a Literary Agent

A literary agent is more than just a middleman; they’re your book’s champion, armed with industry savvy and connections that could make or break your publishing dreams. Think of them as talent scouts in the traditional publishing arena, constantly on the prowl for that next great love story or mind-bending science fiction epic.

The Agent’s Job in the Publishing Ecosystem

Literary agents handle things like negotiating contracts, selling book rights, and smoothing over any bumps you might hit on the road to getting published. They’re well-versed in publisher lingo and have an eye for spotting which editors will fall head-over-heels for your manuscript. Their job is essential because let’s face it—it’s hard to get published. In fact, it’s not uncommon for publishers to only accept manuscripts submitted by agents. To get your foot in the door, you’ll need the help of a literary agent, someone with connections will put you ahead in the publishing game.

In addition, good agents work tirelessly to get great publishing deals—not just any deal—for their authors. And when payday comes around? Agents typically snag about 15% commission from what you earn—so you know they want you to succeed, because it’ll mean they succeed too.

Why a Good Literary Agent Matters

A good relationship with a reputable literary agent can give you access to top-tier publishers like Penguin Random House while helping you steer clear of bad contracts.

When searching for an agent, look for one that you can afford, but also one that you could see yourself working with long-term. Think business partnership rather than quick cash grab. Why does this matter? Because having someone skilled at navigating this complex industry means not only do you stand a better chance at landing that elusive book deal but also securing terms that protect your interests now and down the line.

Find Out Exactly How Much You Could Make As a Paid Speaker

Use The Official Speaker Fee Calculator to tell you what you should charge for your first (or next) speaking gig — virtual or in-person! 

Identifying Agents for Your Genre

Finding a literary agent who’s into the same kind of books you write is like swiping right on the perfect match—they get your style, they know what sells, and they’re as excited about your book as you are. Zeroing in on agents who specialize in these areas can make all the difference.

Researching Agents Online

If you’ve written that next great love story or concocted a tale so gripping even Stephen King would stay up at night reading it under his covers, then target agents keen on those themes. Not sure where to get started? Manuscript Wishlist is an excellent place where agents dish out details on exactly what sort of stories tickle their fancy—be it historical epics or fast-paced commercial thrillers. And once you find a potential literary agent, tailor each pitch to highlight why your manuscript deserves its own spotlight (and avoid wasting anyone’s time).

Crafting a Query Letter That Will Help You Find an Agent

As great as having a literary agent sounds, you don’t just get one—you have to win them over. That’s where the query letter (or book proposal) comes in.

Query Letter Essentials

Think of your query letter like a first date with an agent; you want to make an unforgettable impression but also show that you’re serious about the relationship. A great query starts by introducing yourself and your book in a way that grabs attention. Maybe it’s the twist on love story tropes or how you’ve reinvented historical fiction for young adults. Include just enough juice from your plot without spilling all the beans in order to pique their interest. And don’t forget those key stats—a snappy title coupled with market insights shows agents you mean business.

In addition, give credit where it’s due. If Writer’s Digest helped shape your writing journey or Publisher’s Marketplace informed your understanding of what sells, let them know. This isn’t just name-dropping; it demonstrates dedication to honing your craft and awareness of industry standards.

Researching the Publishing Market

To catch the eye of good agents who have client lists boasting published authors and sold books, research is key. Check out or Publisher’s Marketplace to learn what’s selling—and who’s selling it. If traditional publishers are snapping up psychological thrillers this season and you have one to sell, say so in your query letter. In addition, explain how exactly your story is unique, why you think it will sell, and how you know. Doing your research is a big help when it comes to finding and winning over a good agent.

Personalizing Query Letters

When writing a query letter, make sure to tailor each submission. For instance, try to include the agent’s name in the greeting of your letter, refer to their recent deals, and mention specific reasons why this partnership would work well.

Following Submission Guidelines Strictly

The submission guidelines are there for a reason, folks. Follow them like they’re sacred texts because guess what? They are. All too often, writers send agents queries meant for another genre or ignore specific requests (looking at everyone who sends full manuscripts instead of sample chapters). So make sure you follow those guidelines to a T. Believe it or not, you’ll stand out simply by showing respect for their process.

Although a rejection letter always stings, it stings less when you know you’ve done everything you could on your end to win the agent over. And who knows? Sometimes they’ll even write back with advice on how to improve your next attempt. So stick to the guidelines. It’ll give you much better chances of finding a literary agent and of publishing your book.

Bonus tip: when getting ready to send out query letters, keep tabs using tools like This way, if one dream agent sends back that dreaded rejection letter, you’ll still have other irons in the fire.

Finally sending out your query letters is a big step in finding your literary agent, but don’t break out the confetti just yet. Multiple submissions mean staying on top of your emails and keeping track of who wants what without losing your mind. Here are some tips on handling the process successfully.

Handling Manuscript Requests Like a Pro

If an agent bites—good news—they’ll likely ask for more material. Now’s not the time to rest on your laurels; send over those requested pages promptly. While sending off parts of your manuscript can be nerve-wracking, be encouraged. An agent only asks to see your work if something about it seems promising. Plus, if one person thinks there’s gold in the hills, chances are others will too, and juggling multiple interests is a good sign.

Juggling Rejection Letters with Grace

A rejection letter doesn’t spell doom. It means you’re in the game, that your book caught someone’s eye long enough to consider publishing it. Even J.K Rowling faced more than 10 rejections before Harry Potter took flight, so don’t lose heart.

In some instances, you’ll send out your query and radio silence follows—it happens. Try following up after appropriate intervals while staying courteous and professional. Avoid turning into a stage-five clinger, though, as agents aren’t fond of being hounded. Professionalism here matters as much as passion, and a good relationship with an agent starts well before any contract gets signed.

The Etiquette of Multiple Submissions

Firing off queries shotgun-style? Make sure each agent knows whether you’ve submitted your manuscript to other agents or if you’re submitting it to them exclusively. Not only is this common courtesy, it helps avoid crossed wires and leading agents astray. Here’s some more in-depth suggestions on this part of the submission process as well as more nuanced advice from an experienced literary agent.

Building Your Author Platform Strategically

In the quest to catch a literary agent’s eye, your author platform is not just a stage—it’s your career launchpad. Building this space strategically can be like assembling a puzzle where each piece—from social media savvy to nailing your target audience—is essential.

Social Media: The Megaphone for Your Message

Social media is a great way to market yourself, both to literary agents and potential readers. Got some spicy industry insights or quirky behind-the-scenes glimpses into writer life? Share them! As you do, make sure to demonstrate originality, authenticity, and personality in order to resonate with literary agents who may find your content. Here are some ideas on how to create that content.

The Target Audience Tightrope Walk

Finding balance between broad appeal and niche expertise is key. Practice tailoring content towards your intended audience without alienating potential new readers. Strike the right balance and it could mean long-term success in this biz.

Steering Clear of Scams in Agent Hunting

Finding a literary agent can sometimes feel like navigating a minefield since you always have to be on the watch for potential scams. In addition, it’s crucial to keep your eyes peeled for amateur agents who might not have the right connections or expertise. Remember, if an agent charges fees upfront, that’s a big red flag. Reputable agents accept no payment until they sell your book.

If you find a literary agent who promises instant success, then beware, because such promises are often too good to be true. Another red flag? Agents who lack transparency about their client list or past successes. Agents like these should be avoiding since it’s likely they haven’t sold books at all.

The publishing industry is full of tales from authors who’ve been burned by shady deals—don’t let yours join them. Never rush into a business partnership without doing your homework first. Websites like Writer Beware and Publisher’s Marketplace are gold mines for vetting potential representatives in order to avoid getting scammed.

Free Download: 6 Proven Steps to Book More Paid Speaking Gigs in 2024​

Download our 18-page guide and start booking more paid speaking gigs today!

Cultivating A Fruitful Relationship With Your Literary Agent

Finding the right literary agent can feel like hitting the jackpot, but the real magic happens when you and your agent click. To get there, however, both of you must build trust and practice open communication—just like any relationship.

Fostering a Good Relationship from Day One

You’ve done your homework, crafted an impeccable query letter, targeted agents who love stories like yours—and now you’ve got representation. It’s good news for sure! Now’s the time to lay down roots for that good relationship with clear communication lines. Always keep them in the loop about new ideas or changes in direction; after all, they could be on this journey with you for many books down the road.

Good agents act as career-long advisers; they’re not just gatekeepers to book deals but also savvy managers ensuring you’re paid correctly, among other things. A good relationship with your agent thrives on honest dialogue about work sounds and market trends. In addition, both parties should offer feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

Nurturing Trust Through Transparency

Honesty is golden here. If something bothers you (like delays), speak up respectfully rather than letting resentment build up inside till it explodes out unproductively later down the line. Holding it all in will hurt any chances of solidifying mutual respect into something truly strong. Writer’s Digest explores the relationship between authors and agents more deeply in this article.

Giving Each Other Space

A successful partnership doesn’t mean being joined at the hip 24/7. Give your agent space while keeping tabs regularly enough so no one trips up. Finding this balance is often what makes or breaks these partnerships over time.

The goal? For both parties to celebrate when those hard-fought successes roll in.

FAQs on How to Find a Literary agent

How much does it cost to hire a literary agent?

Literary agents don’t charge upfront. They earn about 15% commission on your book sales once they land you a deal.

How do I find a legitimate literary agent?

Research is key. Check their track record, client list, and memberships in reputable organizations like the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA).

How do you get a literary agent?

Craft an eye-catching query letter for your manuscript and send it to agents who rep your genre.

How do you get referred to a literary agent?

A referral can come from industry contacts or writers represented by the agency if they like your work.


Think of finding a literary agent as crafting your own success story. Once you understand their role and do your research, you can craft the perfectly tailored query letter that will catch their eye. Navigate submissions like a pro, handling both interest and rejection with grace. In between writing and submitting query letters, build that author platform since it can be your beacon to attract agents and publishers alike. Once you do start getting offers from agents, keep an eye out for potential scams.

Remember: This journey isn’t just about getting published; it’s about building a relationship with someone who gets what you write and why it matters.


Explore Related Resources

How Long Does It Take to Write a Book? Find Out Now!
Writing a book isn't just about hitting word counts; it's about consistency and dedication. However, here's how long it takes on average based on different factors.
How to Self-Publish a Book: A Step-by-Step Guide for Authors
Learn how to self-publish a book with this comprehensive guide. Discover the best platforms, cover design tips, and marketing strategies for your success.
How to Run a Successful Book Launch: 5 Tips to Skyrocket Your Sales
Here are 5 strategies for a successful book launch that will skyrocket your sales and elevate your author profile.

Learn How You Could Get Your First (Or Next) Paid Speaking Gig In 90 Days or Less

We receive thousands of applications every day, but we only work with the top 5% of speakers.

Book a call with our team to get started — you’ll learn why the vast majority of our students get a paid speaking gig within 90 days of finishing our program.

If you’re ready to control your schedule, grow your income, and make an impact in the world – it’s time to take the first step. Book a FREE consulting call and let’s get you Booked and Paid to Speak®.