Article by: Safiyah Fazal
You are done with your Book Manuscript? (check our Manuscript Formatting: A Comprehensive and Easy guide for Authors) Now what??
While writing, editing, and proofreading a book can be a breeze for authors, finding a reputable agent who will help take a manuscript to heights by finding a publisher who’ll eventually lead the book to be a bestseller.
However, in the crowded and competitive world of publishing, it can be challenging to get noticed without the help of a literary agent.
A literary agent is a professional who represents authors and their work, negotiates book deals, and manages the author’s career. Literary agents play a crucial role in an author’s career, and why they are so important can be attributed to how they facilitate getting your manuscript into publishing houses while increasing the size of an advance and moulding your whole career as a writer.
In this article, we’ll provide tips for finding a reputable literary agent and how to submit your work professionally.
- Why do I need a reputable Literary Agent?
- How Do I Find a Literary Agent?
- 1- Researching agents and agencies
- 2- Checking agent guidelines and requirements
- 3- Networking and attending writing conferences
- 4- Understanding the agent’s literary interests and current projects
- Submitting to Literary Agents
- Crafting a professional query letter that grabs an agent’s attention
- Tips for submitting a polished manuscript and supporting materials
- Following up with Literary Agent and handling rejections
- Working with a Literary Agent
- Understanding the agent-author relationship
- Negotiating a contract and understanding the Literary Agent ‘s fees
- Communicating effectively with your Literary Agent
Why do I need a reputable Literary Agent?
A good literary agent guides new authors, or even experienced authors for that matter, and helps them navigate the complex publishing world. They do this by negotiating with publishing houses, managing contracts and promoting your work as a writer to possible clients. A reputable literary agent also has established relationships with publishers, editors, and other industry professionals, making it easier for an author to get their work noticed.
They play the role of an assistant, PR director, finance manager and advisor. So finding a good literary agent will save you a lot of time and will make you quite a lot of money along the way.
It doesn’t stop there; if you do find an outstanding literary agent, they should also be well-versed with writing and genres and be able to provide feedback on your work, help the author further develop their career and be of constant support through the entire publishing process. However finding a reputable literary agent can be a challenging process, but who said you have to be alone in this?
How Do I Find a Literary Agent?
Just like there is plenty of fish in the sea, so are there plenty of agents; that being said, not every agent you meet will be a perfect fit. When you start your hunt for a literary agent, you have to be on the lookout for someone who meets all your criteria. Now you may wonder, what criteria should you ideally have? Looking for a mix of experience in your genre and an excellent track record in your niche market.
1- Researching agents and agencies
Before you start emailing and reaching out to agencies, you need to have your research and facts all written down. Creating a list of agencies and publications that best suits your needs will make narrowing down on the perfect agent easier. Utilizing websites such as Writer’s Digest Shop, Reedsy, or Publishers Marketplace will help ease the task of scouting for literary agents. These websites offer databases of literary agents and allow writers to track agent activity. you can also try websites like Fiverr or Upwork that will do all the hard work for you and find the perfect Literary Agent for you.
It’s important to research potential agents and agencies thoroughly before submitting your work. Look for agents who have represented authors in your genre or who have a track record of selling books to publishers similar to yours. Check their submission guidelines to ensure that your work is a good fit for their agency.
A marketplace of publishing professionals, including literary agents, that offer resources for writers on how to find and work with agents.
Fiverr is a global online marketplace for freelance services. Fiverr’s platform connects freelancers to people or businesses looking to hire.
It’s a good place to find a literary agent or someone that can do all the research for you regarding that matter.
Upwork allows clients to interview, hire and work with freelancers and freelance agencies through the company’s platform.
It’s a good place to find a literary agent or someone that can do all the research for you regarding that matter.
2- Checking agent guidelines and requirements
Once you have a good understanding of the agents or agencies in the market and which ones you think would fit your needs, it is vital you go through the requirements and submission guidelines. Every agency has its submission guidelines, and failure to follow them could result in your work being rejected without being read, which is the last thing you would want.
Most agencies accept submissions via email, and you’ll typically need to provide a query letter, a synopsis of your work, and a sample chapter or two. Some agencies also request a writer’s resume, while others prefer a brief author bio. It will help to do some extra research and find out what they look for in authors in order to hear a call back from the agent of your choice. Additional research always goes a long way. Frequently, authors get rejected from publications and agencies when they don’t quite fit what the agency is looking for.
3- Networking and attending writing conferences
Another effective way you can get your book closer to getting published is by networking and attending writing conferences. Writing conferences are events where writers and industry professionals gather to discuss writing, publishing, and related topics.
Attendees can pitch their work to agents, editors, and publishers and attend workshops and panels on a variety of topics related to writing and publishing.
4- Understanding the agent’s literary interests and current projects
And we delve back into further research. While networking and meeting agents is a good way of getting your book out there, you wouldn’t want to approach an agent who doesn’t like the genre of your book. Hence, it is vital you have a strong understanding of an agent’s literary interests and current projects before submitting your work. This will also help you with customizing your query letter to their interests leading to having a higher probability of getting noticed.
An excellent time to become a sleuth and do some digging into their past work would be to check their website or socials, which will give you pointers to their literary taste and style. Reading through past books they have represented will provide you with better insight into what they like as well as what is expected of you when you approach them. You could also turn to online platforms like Publishers Marketplace, a leading source of publishing news and deals. They offer a database of literary agents and allow writers to track agent activity, making life so much easier for you!
Submitting to Literary Agents
Crafting a professional query letter that grabs an agent’s attention
Yes, there is much to be done when you’re trying to find a literary agent, but an excellent query letter could be your golden ticket to getting the attention of a literary agent.
A query letter is a brief introduction to your work or, instead, a concise version of a book proposal, typically one page in length. It should include a summary of your book, your author bio, and your intended target audience, as well as a good hook to persuade the literary agent to look through your book and eventually represent it in the literary world.
To craft a professional query letter that grabs an agent’s attention, you should:
- Address the agent by name and ensure you have all the correct information.
- Explain why you are submitting to that agent expressly. This calls for personalizing the letter and making it more tailored to that agent.
- Provide a brief synopsis of your work, including the genre and target audience. This has to be a compelling pitch that really sells your book.
- Highlight any previous writing credits, relevant experience or connections you may have had with the agent.
- Include a personalized closing that thanks the agent for their time and consideration.
It’s essential to proofread your query letter carefully for spelling and grammatical errors. Consider having a trusted friend or writing group member review it as well. If you still feel in the dark while trying to craft your query letter, check out Writer’s Digest Shop. It’s a leading publisher of writing resources and offers a variety of tools and services for writers, including agent query letter critiques and agent databases. It’s basically a one-stop shop for writers on the internet!
Tips for submitting a polished manuscript and supporting materials
For most authors, writing is easy, apart from the occasional writer’s block, but when it comes to the time of publishing, things start to look grey. Often, writers forget that publishing and finding literary agents is just as crucial as writing the story, so submitting a polished manuscript and supporting materials to literary agents is vital to success in the literary world.
Here are some tips for ensuring your submission is professional:
- Follow the agent’s submission guidelines carefully, but ensure the final manuscript is polished and error-free. (check our Manuscript Formatting: A Comprehensive and Easy Guide for Authors)
- Use a readable font and double-spaced formatting.
- Include a table of contents if applicable.
- Include a brief author bio or resume if requested.
- Consider hiring a professional editor to review your manuscript before submitting it, or if you don’t have the budget for that, reading out aloud helps with spotting mistakes your brain often corrects when you read silently.
Following up with Literary Agent and handling rejections
After submitting your work, following up with agents within a reasonable time frame is essential. Check the agent’s submission guidelines for their response time, and if you haven’t heard back after that time has passed, it’s acceptable to follow up with a polite email or phone call. If you are new to the literary world, knowing that success lies in the follow-up is key to finding the literary agent of your dreams.
Receiving rejection letters can be discouraging, but handling them professionally is important. Thank the agent for their time and consideration, and consider any feedback they’ve provided. Keep in mind that rejection is a standard part of the publishing process, and it’s essential to persevere and keep submitting your work.
Working with a Literary Agent
Understanding the agent-author relationship
If an agent offers to represent your work, it’s necessary to understand the agent-author dynamic. Your agent is your representative and advocate in the publishing industry, and they will negotiate book deals, manage your career, and provide support throughout the publishing process. So it is paramount you trust their process and follow through with what they instruct you to do.
Communication is critical in the industry; hence, communicate regularly with your agent and keep them informed about your writing and career goals. Additionally, be open to feedback and advice from your agent, as they have experience in the industry and want to help you succeed. It helps to remember– your success is their success, so they will make decisions in your best interest. You can always check out Reedsy if you want to learn more about dealing with an agent. Reedsy is a marketplace of publishing professionals, including literary agents, where they offer resources for writers on how to find and work with agents.
Negotiating a contract and understanding the Literary Agent ‘s fees
All agents receive a percentage of your advance and royalties when they negotiate a book deal, typically ranging from 10% to 20%. But this entirely depends on the agency and the contract. It is imperative you have a solid understanding of the fee’s structure and how the agency and you will be paid after signing the deal.
When your agent provides you with a contract that outlines their terms of service and fees, instead of signing the extremely long and uninteresting document, read it and save yourself the hassle of not knowing how the procedure would take place. It is also at this time should you have any questions, it would be best to clarify everything before you sign the contract. You’re not signing your life away, but treating the contract like that would save you a lot of time, money and effort in the long run.
Communicating effectively with your Literary Agent
Effective communication is vital to a successful agent-author relationship. Keep your agent informed about your writing and career goals, and be responsive to their requests and feedback. If you have concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your agent.
Finding a reputable literary agent can be challenging, but it’s an essential step in getting your work noticed and published. By researching agents and agencies, networking, and submitting your work professionally, you can increase your chances of finding an agent who can help you achieve your publishing goals. Remember to persevere and stay positive, and you’ll be one step closer to realizing your dreams of becoming a published author.