Hello to whoever is reading this! So, you’ve finished your manuscript, you’ve edited it to your hearts content, you’ve had others read it, and then you edited it some more, right? Awesome! So now you’re at the part where you think to yourself, okay, I finished my manuscript, now what? Well, now, if you’re going the traditional publishing approach, this is where you take your plunge into finding your potential creative partner. That’s right, your literary agent.
What is a Literary Agent?
A literary agent is many things; your creative partner, your accomplice, partner in crime. They are also in professional terms, a person who represents you as the writer on all of your written works whether it comes to publishing, film, or other sales, they represent you in all aspects and help to negotiate deals. Literary agents typically charge a standard fee of 15% of any and all sales made by you in terms of your work. Literary agents do not get paid unless you get paid. To read a full description on what they are and how they operate check out this article written by Master Class or do a simple google search for more!
Is a Literary Agent Necessary?
Listen, everybody operates differently. If you’re going to self-publish a literary agent is not needed because you’re doing exactly what I just said, publishing a book by yourself to which you own all of the rights to and any money/royalties you make off of your books go directly to you. If you decide that you want to query small presses or indie presses that don’t require a literary agent, that’s perfectly fine too, again to each their own! There are even some literary agents out there who will read over and negotiate your contracts with you for that sole purpose. An agent to look at for this purpose would be Melissa Edwards and here is her Twitter just in case you want to check her out to query as well.
Now, with all of that being said there are many publishing companies that will not look over an author’s proposal/submission without literary representation. This is specifically the case for the big 5 publishers and again, many other indie or smaller presses out there who are just as amazing.
Pluses of Having a Literary Agent?
Aside from everything I mentioned just a moment ago there are a lot of pluses. For starters, at least from my own personal experiences with my amazing agents (REDACTED) and (REDACTED), you are gaining a person who has a literal attachment, connection, and passion for your book/writing. They want you to succeed by whatever means necessary so if that means working on edits/revisions, brainstorming ideas together, collaborating on a twist, etc, they are there for you. Another awesome bonus is the fact that you are both building a career for yourself and your agent. Agents don’t get paid unless you get paid so they are ready to put in work! That means any other manuscripts/manuscript ideas you may have, if it is of interest, they enjoy it, or they feel it could sell, get ready for more revising and book writing. Having an agent is like having a sidekick that’s an equal partner, they are your cheering squad and are there for you to get you to your next level in your writing career. Literary agents are secretly superheroes.
I get that I may be coming off a little biased here but this is coming from a person who has been writing since she was a child and dove into the querying world totally unprepared and having ZERO idea what the hell an agent was, what they did, and how to get one. Trust me on this, they’re a great asset to have!
Alright, Alright, Where Can I Find An Agent?
Well, I’m SO glad you asked! There are so many awesome resources out there right now that are far more accessible now than what they used to be. A few great resources specifically are the following:
Manuscript Wishlist – Manuscript Wishlist or MSWL (also on twitter as the hashtag – #MSWL) is a place where you can search your genre of your current manuscript and find agents who are looking for your genre in particular. Their official page on MSWL will tell you more about them as people, what they are looking for, as well as the literary agency they work for. Most profiles will also tell you their guidelines i.e. how to query them. MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES TO A T! If you don’t, you can expect for your query to not be read nor responded to.
Writers Digest – Another great site to find agents/find out more information about what agents are looking for from authors. You can also expect to see new agents added to Writers Digest for you to gain more information on.
Query Tracker – This site allows you to view all different agents who are members of this site, it also allows you to see who’s open to queries and who is currently closed. You can also click into agents on this site and see comments made about them by other authors so you can gauge their query response times/what others may say about them in general.
Before you go about querying these agents straight off of these sites, do your homework. How do you do your homework? Research the agency this agent is currently apart of, look on twitter, search Writers Beware, google, read reviews, and look on Publisher’s Marketplace. Publisher’s Marketplace is an expensive site to be apart of, last I knew it was $25 a month but I joined to see previous sales history with agents/agencies, it’s truly a great site to be apart of, at least for me personally it is.
Another way to conduct research is to join a writing group or reach out to other writers and see if they have any thoughts, opinions, or have heard anything about the agent you’re querying. Make sure to ALWAYS do your homework on all agents and agencies (including publishers) before you query.
Okay Cool, What Do I Do When I Found A Good One?
Query your little heart out. Follow your dream agents guidelines listed on their site. Most agents nowadays tend to use Query Manager which is an online form used for querying – some other agents use standard email but still have SPECIFIC guidelines for all writers. Make sure before you start querying that you have:
- A Perfected Query Letter – feel free to check out my last article How to Write a Query Letter for more information
- A Solid Book Synopsis – this will detail your book from start to finish but make sure you have a couple of different synopsis’s written. Some agents want spoilers, some agents do not. Some agents want one full page, some agents want five detailing everything. Know your agents before you send these materials.
- Refined Opening Pages/First Few Chapters – Make sure that this is your best work! Make sure that your opening pages/chapters flow, hook the reader in, and leave your reader craving more.
- Non-Fiction Book Proposal – I don’t have a lot of information when it comes to non-fiction books which I apologize for but Jane Friedman really details here what you need for a book proposal
- Patience – Remember that agents are just like you, not every book is going to interest them which is what makes publishing so subjective. If you get rejected, keep trying and don’t give up. Also remember, most agents have a lot and I mean A LOT of queries to read through so most agents give a specific timeline on when they will get back to you or when it’s okay to nudge them.
Can I Really Do This? Get An Agent?
Hell yeah you can! I know it feels almost impossible given how many amazingly talented writers are out there but guess what, you’re one of them kid! I was asked on Twitter earlier today about how often agents find a writer in their slush piles of queries and to tell you the truth I don’t have a real answer. That’s a tough question to gauge because more often than not, it does happen. My first full manuscript request came from a slush pile cold-query. I also, however, consider the Twitter Pitch Events to be a slush pile as well, can you imagine how many pitches agents like on that one day and the amount of queries they get flooding into their inbox? You can see on my first article of My Querying Journey/How I Got My Agents my statistics of full requests and offers of representation for the LatinxPitch event how I did.
One thing to remember, everybody’s querying journey is different. No two are the same. I ain’t never seen two pretty best friends (sorry, I had to, I hate me too, also this statement is false because I’ve seen multiple beautiful best friends). Where one person’s querying journey may last them three years and multiple manuscripts may last another a matter of months. The most important thing to remember is you wrote your book for a reason and you are a writer, if that manuscript doesn’t catch any bites, you have plenty more swimming around in your head I’m sure of it!
Have patience while you wait. Just a quick mention, once someone reads your query and opening pages and let’s say they fall in love, they will either request a partial or a full manuscript. If it’s a partial, still celebrate and remember it can take a little while to read through, then if the agent loves it and requests the full, it can take even longer. If an agent requests the full right away, you may be waiting a few months to hear back, most agents are great about giving time frames for reading unless they are totally swamped!
I’m just linking my Fiverr and my Twitter down below here but please, feel free to reach out with any questions/comments/etc I’m always here to help!
You got this. You are an incredibly talented writer with an amazing gift. How do I know this? You wouldn’t be here looking for a literary agent after you just finished writing your manuscript if you weren’t.
A Few Fun Quotes to Remember While Querying:
“If at first your don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.” – Aaliyah.
“Defeat does not exist in this dojo, does it?” – Martin Kove and John Kreese, Karate Kid. (I know, but it still applies)
“Will you ever quit?” “NO, we want some mo, we want some mo!” – Remember the Titans – Denzel Washington as Coach Herman Boone and various other amazing cast members like Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Ryan Gosling as a baby, and others.
“Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.” – Edgar Allan Poe.https://ko-fi.com/widgets/widget_2.jskofiwidget2.init(‘Support Me on Ko-fi’, ‘#29abe0’, ‘U7U13DB1Z’);kofiwidget2.draw();