Hello, everyone! I just sent out my first batch of query letters to several literary agents (*crosses fingers excitedly*), so for this post I thought I would focus on the subject of literary agents in general. I hope all you aspiring authors looking to get published out there find this helpful!
Anyone trying to get his or her manuscript published should strongly consider looking into obtaining agent. Their job is to submit the author’s work to publishing houses, or more specifically, the editors he or she believes would be the best match for the manuscript. In essence, literary agents act as mediators between the author and any entity wishing to sell, advertise, or promote his or her work, such as publishers or film studios. Simply stated, a literary agent’s function is to act as the author’s representative in the literary market. An agent will drastically increase your chances of getting your manuscript accepted by editors, negotiate the terms of your publishing contacts to give you the best deal possible, and also manage the subrights of your work.
Author Nathan Bransford has written a wonderful article that depicts the author-literary agent partnership in great detail here.
Here’s a basic list of the things you should include in your query letter:
- 1-2 paragraph summary of your manuscript (like the blurbs on the back of book covers you see at the store)
- Brief biography (only things writing-related)
- Word count of your manuscript
- Why you are contacting this particular agent (note: This is IMPORTANT in making your query letter more personalized. If you’re choosing to query a specific agent because you read an interview that he or she was looking for YA fantasy works, and your manuscript fits this description then MENTION this!)
Before starting your letter, you should research various resources online for more detailed guidelines on how to do this (the link for AgentQuery below will lead you to a page with this kind of information).
Okay, so now you maybe wondering exactly how to find the right literary agent for you?
One of the easiest ways to do this is to search online. There are many writing websites that regularly post agent spotlights that explain the types of manuscripts each one is looking for. These are some of my favorites:
You can also buy this year’s Guide to Literary Agents book, which contains a comprehensive list of every literary agency in the U.S. and what genres they are currently accepting.
Tip: While it is tempting to immediately send a query letter to the top literary agents of famous bestsellers, you should keep in mind that newer agents who are still building their client lists are more open to submissions and more likely to take on inexperienced authors. Writer’s Digest has a specific segment focusing on new and upcoming agents that you can check out here.
Good luck and write on!