How do you find a literary agent?

BooksLiterary agent Rachelle Gardner recently posted on a topic near and dear to the hearts of many aspiring writers.

Since I am just beginning the querying game, I have an eagle eye for advice such as this. Take a look at her excellent advice on how to find a literary agentsPlot spoiler: apparently there is no secret handshake or password to move things along quickly and painlessly. Sorry!

Of course, we all know how important it is to write a good book that can be marketed. Be sure to also have a good group of critique partners. This is the best way I know to smooth out rough patches, have glaring plot holes pointed out to you, and have your first group of readers telling you where things are moving along nicely and where you should take out the hatchet and cut, cut, cut. If everyone is telling you something’s not working, something is obviously not working…

Write a good query letter. Okay, great advice, harder to follow through on. But at least there are lots of fantastic resources out there. Take a look at the brilliant Query Shark or  Slush Piles Tales to at least learn from some of the most common mistakes. And, when in doubt, refer back to your amazing crit partners. A fresh pair of eyes are always useful!

Take advantage of all the great industry information out there – author blogs, agent web sites, and be willing to learn from the pros. Meet agents at conferences and soak up all the information and advice you can.

Probably the best advice of all: Don’t give up!

You know it already, but Harry Potter was rejected 12 times, The Help a whopping 60 times. Authors simply don’t have the luxury of letting rejection get in their way if they are serious about publishing. The publishing world is subjective, and a literary agent can only do a good job selling your book if she feels drawn by the project.

Keep looking until you find the person who truly believes in your work.

Writers, what have your experiences been in finding a literary agent? Suggestions and advice?


  1. Created ~ on January 25, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. kimberlysullivan on January 25, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Happily! And good luck with the writing and querying!

  3. Celeste on January 25, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Finding a good agent is the most important thing for a serious writer. It takes time but it’s worth it.
    Ti auguro il meglio, Kimberly, e grazie per aver pensato a un traduttore da presentarmi, ma in questo momento della mia carriera sarebbe un po’ prematuro. A presto e ancora grazie!

  4. kimberlysullivan on January 26, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Thanks, Celeste! I agree that it’s important to take the time to find someone who believes in your work and with whom you can work well. La prossima volta che vieni a Matera, puoi conoscere alcune traduttrici che stanno la’ per la conferenza. A presto, Celeste!!

  5. Catherine on January 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I agree tenacity is essential and each rejection must be like water off a duck’s back. I see myself as my own secretary a lot of the time! I have work with an agent now and am waiting (or my secretary is). I have to add that I think the role of the agent is currently changing and there are so many many opportunities out there that require you to work as competitively and determinedly as an agent. There will always be an incredible amount of work surrounding the writing of a book and I’d like to think that having an agent would take off some of the weight, but I think they are feeling the pinch as much as we writers!

    • kimberlysullivan on January 26, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      Ha! Thanks, Catherine. Love the idea of doing double duty as the ‘secretary’, since then it’s much more impersonal. : ) Thanks for the tip!

  6. Julia on January 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Kimberly. I highly recommend the book “Making a Perfect Pitch” by Katherine Sand. It was written by several agents and publishers and they explain what they look for. It is like getting inside their minds to really understand them. It can also help you find like-minded agents.

  7. wordfoolery on January 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Good luck with querying agents, Kimberly. I’m busy on that job myself at the moment. I think a great way to find an agent for your work is to check the agents of the authors in your genre that you read and love. I’d recommend getting as much feedback on your query letter/pitch and synopsis as possible. I entered Amazon’s breakthrough novel contest and PitchPalooza by the Book Doctors for that reason. .Also Critique Circle has a forum where you can polish your synopsis and pitch. Query Shark is great too.

    • kimberlysullivan on January 30, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Great tips, Grace! I know all of these – except Book Doctors – and they are all excellent resources. Still, I would have preferred the secret handshake that would have saved me all the fuss. : )

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