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Publishing is known for being exclusive. It’s all about who you know and, just as importantly, who they know. Getting any kind of representation for both yourself (as an author) and your work can take years, and knowing exactly where to look is going to make that work more efficient and effective.

What is the purpose of having an agent?

In short, agents offer representation to you and your book. They do more than that, but the appeal of having one is that they increase your chances of you getting traditionally published through a larger publishing house, if that’s a goal of yours. A few examples of these houses include:

Agents are your voice since most large and mid-size presses do not accept “unsolicited manuscripts” (AKA: books written by unknown authors without representation). Once you’re signed with an agent, they tap into their professional network to access a variety of publishers and editors who might be interested in producing your book.

Comprehensively, agents support you with:

Good to know. But how do agents fit into the whole book publishing process?

Ah. They are going to be your next stop after writing and editing either your manuscript (if fiction or memoir) or book proposal (if nonfiction). So what does that look like in action? It looks like this:

It’s going to look different for fiction versus nonfiction, but much of the process overlaps: you prepare some kind of documentation, edit it, pitch it to an agent, they lean on their connections, and then you publish.

I might benefit from having one. So where do I look?

You can find agents in a variety of ways, but databases and conferences are probably the most common. Below is an outline of the best places, specifically, to find them.

I will say that the best way to prepare yourself for an agent is to get very clear on THESE questions! Knowing how to describe your book in 1-2 sentences and who your target readership is will really help (1) position your book and (2) make it more appealing to agents.

I found the perfect agent. Now what do I say?

This is probably one of the most important pieces: each agent is going to list their own literary interests and unique submission guidelines, so it’s imperative that you read each one fully and carefully. Think about this like you’re applying to a job. Your future employer (or in this case, agent) is only going to consider accurate, personalized, error-free submission materials, so you’ll want to be very detail-oriented.

The materials you’ll most likely need to submit include a:

HOT TIP: As you start finding agents you think would be a good fit and submitting to them, it helps to document your progress. This is more to help you stay organized if one reaches out to you requesting your full manuscript. (This does not necessarily mean they’re wanting to represent you, they’re just showing interest in your project.)

Additional Resources

Agents & What They Want:

Writing Query Letters:

Organizing Your Submissions:

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