Need a Literary Agent? Here’s How to Choose the Right One for Your Book

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All writers dream of having their books published, of seeing their names in print on the cover. It’s what motivates them to keep writing on those days when it feels impossible to add one more word to their work in progress. Although eBooks and self-publishing have changed and challenged the traditional publishing industry, many writers still want to feel the weight of a printed book in their hands or even better—to catch sight of a stranger reading it in a café or on the beach. 

If you’re a new author, you must have tons of questions about what comes after your manuscript is finished. We bet you’re wondering whether you need a literary agent, and if you do, how you can choose the right one. 

Finding a legitimate literary agent can be a lengthy, time-consuming process, which is why we offer targeted lists of agents and publishers for authors with finished manuscripts. Our lists can save you lots of time and improve your chances of finding the perfect agent for your book. 

Do you need a literary agent?

If you want your book published on paper, then the answer is yes. Literary agents work with authors and publishers to secure contracts and market and sell manuscripts on the writer’s behalf. A successful agent is well-connected, has a solid sales trajectory, and will work hard to protect your rights as an author. 

However, not all books need an agent because not all of them are what traditional publishing houses are looking to buy. Publishers want a book that’s guaranteed to sell a certain number of copies, and they’re less likely to take a chance on one that doesn’t meet their criteria or promise to boost their bottom line. A work of literary fiction has better chances of being picked up by an agent and sold to a publisher, which is why many emerging and nonfiction writers are choosing self-publishing.

What should you look for in a literary agent? 

One of the most important things to look for is an agent who is excited about your work. That’s why it’s essential to do your research and find an agent who already works within your genre or niche and has been successful in selling these types of books to publishers. Pitching your manuscript to an agent who works in a completely different genre is a sure way to have your query rejected or ignored. 

All agents have their preferred genres, so do your research to make sure that you are querying the right people. You also want someone with an impeccable reputation and the time and availability to take on your project so you’re not left on the back burner.

What should you look out for in a literary agent?

When researching a literary agent, you can’t focus on their wins alone; you also have to be on the lookout for red flags. After all, you don’t want your book falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are just looking to make a quick buck. Keep your guard up when you interact with literary agents and make sure they are legitimate before you commit to anything. You don’t want to sign your book away to a scammer.

You should definitely run the other way if you come across an agent who charges fees up front (legitimate agents work on commission), refuses to show you their sales information or list of previously published books, and appears on any “beware” lists (which means they’re known scammers). 

Working with new agents can be great as they’re eager to grow their client list, but do your due diligence and make sure they’re actually new and not just covering up a shady past in the industry. Research the pros and cons of querying well-known versus new agents. It is probably a good idea to query a good mix of both since more well-known agents will be less likely to respond to query letters. A newer agent will be more receptive to working with fresh talent, but they will also not have the contacts you may want.

While there are many benefits to self-publishing, if you dream of seeing your book on a shelf, you should aim for the stars and start querying literary agents who can make that dream come true. To increase your chances of success, check out our query packages, which include a query letter, a synopsis, and an outline of your manuscript plus a targeted list of agents or publishers you can submit to.  

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