How Do I Find An Agent?

Whenever I am speaking at any form of writer's event, be it a Learning Community during the Q Conference, at Writer's Boot Camp or the Frederick Buechner Writer's Workshop at Princeton Seminary, one question is asked more than any other.

How do I find an agent?

We'll be answering questions throughout this series on how you approach an agent, but assuming you're all ready to go, here are some ideas on how you might go about actually finding one.

Agents are a lot like publishers, in that each has their own unique approach to the business. They have certain genres they represent authors in and others they don't. There are certain types of voices and projects they're drawn to and others they're not. The number one thing you can do to advance your cause of successfully finding an agent to represent you is to do your research.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this. First, go to the bookstore or library and find books similar to the genre your writing in. Often times the author's agent is thanked in the acknowledgments or listed on the copyright page. Find authors similar to you and check who their agent is. Websites like Writer's Digest are all over the internet with agent information you can find through a simple search. There are books such as the Guide to Literary Agents, which has tons of information about the agencies working in the business and the types of projects they're acquiring.

If you're willing to spend a little money, you can subscribe to a site like Publisher's Marketplace. This site not only has contact information for agents and publishers, but also has comprehensive deal reporting where you can track the projects specific agents have actually sold and get a feel for the types of projects that agent is working with and the publishers they do business with.

But once you've compiled a list of potential agents, do a little more digging. Most agents list their clients on their website or have specific submissions guidelines. Even with an agency like ours where we've intentionally left a list of our clients off the site, we post agency news and blogs about what our clients are up to. You can find out a lot about who we represent and the books we work on by doing a little digging. When you ultimately query an agent, anything you can do to personalize your query by telling the agent why you think you'd be a fit based on their previous work will go a LONG way.

My last piece of advice? You have to persevere. I often tell my clients and prospective clients that this is a business of rejection. Even when I am representing a well established author to publishers, I hear "no" more often than yes. You don't need every agent banging down your door asking to represent you. You just need one. And doing your research will get you a lot closer to finding the right one.

Have a question you want us to consider for our Ask An Agent series? Submit your question here.