5 Ways to Discover the Perfect Literary Agent, Even as a New Writer

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When you fundamentally dislike the taste of beef, it doesn’t matter if you’re served olive-fed Kobe—you’ll still hate it. It’s the same when a mismatched literary agent reads your query letter. There’s no book in the world that everyone likes, so don’t abandon your dreams of authordom just because of a few rejection letters. 

However, while all writers have to deal with the pain of rejection, sometimes rejections stack up because those particular agents don’t work with that kind of story. In short, you’re pitching to the wrong agents rather than pitching the wrong story. 

Choosing the best-suited agents to approach takes legwork. Once you’ve done that, they will be the most helpful if you’ve hired an expert query letter writer. Picking the right agents requires research, forethought, and doggedness. Our specialists can identify talented literary agents aligned with your story, saving you precious time and effort that you can pour into your next book. Nonetheless, knowing how to research agents is a beneficial skill. 

Put your best foot forward

Before submitting a story, make sure you’re ready as well. Aside from not knowing who to approach, novice authors might worry about being newcomers. It’s not as insurmountable an obstacle as it may appear. Agents are passionate about books, and discovering new talent gets them excited. Plus, if you’re unpublished, you haven’t authored any failed books. All famous writers were once greenhorns like you, nervously reaching out to agents as nobodies, hoping for one positive answer in that heap of rejection letters. 

A more pertinent question is whether the agent is accepting new clients. You can verify this online. Even if you’re unproven, you can still compensate for a slim resume. 

  • Have a track record: Not having a book doesn’t mean you have zero experience. Make a list of short stories, poems, or essays you’ve published. You won’t be bombarding an agent with this information, but being able to reference it and knowing what shows up in a search will give you more credibility. Even small-scale publications can work—the agent knows you’re new to the scene. If you don’t have anything to show, that’s okay, too.
  • Demonstrate patience and professionalism: The publishing world doesn’t work at Amazon Prime speed. You need to respect an agent’s time. That means being professional. Always be polite, have a sleek online presence, and follow their submission guidelines to the letter. Of course, proper decorum can never compensate for a lackluster manuscript, but a polite, professional demeanor can certainly help an agent look past your newbie status.

Now, on to finding those agents.

Combing the internet

Dust off your internet trawling skills; it’s been a while since you searched “is Winds of Winter finished.” If you google “agents looking for submissions,” you’ll see tons of results, but they won’t always be current or reliable. Cross-reference any leads. You’ll want to do thorough research before you pitch to any agent, especially considering that scammers also inhabit the realm of literary agents.

Agent databases

You can search well-moderated websites for agent information. Some commonly used portals are Agent Query, QueryTracker, and Publishers Marketplace. You can search for specific agents to see their work and preferred genres. However, the information listed may not always be 100% accurate or up-to-date, so always check it against other sources. Some websites need a subscription. 

Personal websites and social media

A database gives you basic information, while a potential agent or agency’s website offers you a feel for their personality, top hits, and willingness to accept new clients. Other writing blogs and sites can mention specific agents or post interviews. Many agents use Twitter and LinkedIn, too. You can follow them, but don’t barge into their DMs with your story. Just use their social media to surmise what kind of people they are, whether they might be interested in your story, and whether you’d work well together. 

Newsletters, bulletin boards, and magazines

Some sites and magazines have newsletters, like Publishers Lunch, Publishers Weekly, and Writer’s Digest. Newsletters offer updates on the publishing industry and can have listings for agents accepting submissions. You’ll also find interesting articles and interviews, giving you an exclusive glimpse into certain literary agents.


You can discover successful agents in your local bookstore. Find books similar to yours. If your protagonist is a snarky fantasy antihero, for example, look for authors like Joe Abercrombie or Brent Weeks. Authors often thank their agents on the acknowledgments page. You can look up these agents online to see if they’re open to new submissions. If you query them, be sure to mention the title you found them in as being similar to your manuscript. 

This page is on Kindle, too, but going out into the wild gives you more perspective. For instance, see what’s trending on the display tables. Agents want unique stories, not interchangeable rehashes.

Meeting in person

If you’re attending a convention or a conference like Worldcon or Sleuthfest, see if any agents are presenting. They might also mention it on their social media. Since you’re there anyway, you can try to meet them. Don’t launch into a pitch unless you’re invited to do so—just make a connection. Even if you have nothing more than a pleasant conversation, get their card and send a thank-you email. Never underestimate good networking! If you query them later, make sure to reference your in-person meeting—in case they remember you, you’re already on their good side (hopefully).  

As you can see, there are many ways to track down a potential agent who fits your genre and personality. To save time, you can also ask an expert to prepare a well-researched list of agents for you. Remember, you’ll still have to convince the agent that you have a terrific book. For that, you need an engaging query letter. If that sounds daunting, reach out to a specialist to write an eye-catching query letter and make your book shine. 

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