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How To Find A Literary Agent – Ask Anne The Pro Writer

ask a writing questionHi Anne,

Any suggestions on finding an agent for a book I have written? It’s fiction. Everyone that has looked at it says it is worthwhile.

It is very timely based on the current situation here in the US today. I would be glad to send you the first four chapters so you could see what I mean.

I write for a number of magazines and do a lot of non-fictional work and have self-published four technical books that have gone international but I am a novice when it comes to this. I don’t really know where to start and the two or three inquires that I have sent out haven’t merited a response.

Seems like the agents I have contacted don’t think it necessary to even acknowledge an inquire.

Any comments would be appreciated.


Hi EG,

Congratulations on finishing your novel – at least I gather it’s finished from your email. With fiction, the book almost always has to be complete when you approach either an agent or a publisher. Unless you’ve already got a reputation as a fiction writer it’s just to hard for either to know if you’ll be able to sustain the story.

And no, don’t send me the first four chapters. I appreciate your trust, but I charge for reading people’s books.

Finding an agent and finding a publisher are about equally difficult. The literary agent will represent your book to publishers for a 15% fee. Which can be more than worth it.

The process is the same – you send a query letter offering to show them your manuscript and when they say ‘yes’ send it along.

A good agent will evaluate your manuscript, and if they decide to take you on will probably help you polish it before they begin sending it to their publishing contacts.

Another approach is to go directly to the publishers.  Although many publishers say they don’t want simultaneous submissions, I’d ignore that, particularly since your book is timely.

It’s counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to get a literary agent is by asking a publisher who has decided to buy your book for a recommendation. Often an agent can get you a bigger advance, but the publisher would rather negotiate with a professional.

Deciding who to approach, agents or publishers, is not an easy decision. You might want to check your own network and see who knows an agent or knows someone who knows an agent. The same approach can work for an introduction to a publisher.

By the way, if you approach publishers, keep close track. Any agent you contact will want to know who you contacted so they don’t embarrass themselves presenting a book they’ve already recjected.

Good luck, and let us know what happens.

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Email me with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to answer it here.


{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Jesse McCarley

    Greeting Anne,
    Actually, I’m writing in behalf of my son. Last year he finished a novel, I guess it would be generally classified as sci-fi, although it has a lot of different elements from comedy to tragedy to mystery. I helped him with the proofreading and it was re-written a few times. The end product is good. He asked me to help submit to agencies, which I did. The very first asked for the manuscript, but was rejected very tactfully with encouragement to “find a home” for his work. Since then I submitted to a few more, with a few encouraging rejections, :^). The problem I have is that he is getting discouraged, and this is the 1st in a series of four that he plans for this particular project. I really have enjoyed the tips you give, and realized that I also was discouraged. Thanks for the boost. I’m going to try to figure out a marketing plan again. Maybe this time.. hopefully. Regards, Jesse

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