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This step-by-step guide about how to find a literary agent is part of our free 15-Part Guide About How to Get a Book Agent. Here you’ll find everything you need to research publishing agents and do your book agent search.

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Each of the following sections in this guide to finding a literary agent will help you see what to look for in a book agent. You can also use our book agent directory to find publishing agents seeking clients for your book genre.

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How to Research Literary Agents

Book authors who want to understand how to research literary agents need to know there are two parts to the process. First is realizing what to look for in a literary agent. Second is using a reliable book agent database like our free Literary Agents Directory to conduct your book agent search.

What do you need to know about how to find a literary agent? Most authors don’t realize everything they should consider during the process of finding a publishing agent or choosing a publishing agent. Researching book agents doesn’t just involve finding a book agent that represents your book genre. There are other factors to consider, and different authors should make different decisions when trying to find a book agent.

This guide about how to research literary agents will help you see what to look for in a literary agent based on your unique situation. It will show you where to find literary agents who want your type of book. It will give you the best chance of finding a book agent you’ll be happy with. And it will give you the best chance of finding literary agents–more than one book agent–offering to represent you.

Best Literary Agents – How to Find a Book Agent

Who are the best literary agents, and who are the best book agents for you and your book? The best place to start when researching literary agents or trying to find a literary agent is learning the difference between the best literary agents overall, the best book agents for your genre, and the best publishing agents for you and your book.

The best book agents overall are usually defined by financial success or the number of books and bestsellers the publishing agent has sold. But just because an author representative has sold more books than other author representatives doesn’t mean they represent your type of book. It also doesn’t mean they’re the best author representative for you.

Should you try to find new publishing agents or established publishing agents? Should you try to get a book agent near you, or a book agent in NYC? Should you try to get a “licensed” book agent who is a member of the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA), formerly known as the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR)? What else should you put on your list of what to look for in a literary agent? And which publishing agents should you avoid?

The rest of this guide about finding a literary agent will help you decide what to look for in a literary agent based on your unique situation.

Top 10 Literary Agents – How to Find a Literary Agent

Who are the top 10 literary agents, and who are the top 10 publishing agents for fiction books, nonfiction books, and children’s books? You can find the top 10 book agents for the most popular book genres here using our free Directory of Literary Agents, which is part of this free guide on how to find a literary agent.

Most book authors underestimate the number of publishing agents they’ll need to query to get an offer for representation. For that reason, looking for a list of the top 10 literary agents, top 20 literary agents, or even the top 100 literary agents probably won’t be enough. The best thing to do is compile a comprehensive list of book agents, one that includes every publishing agent who represents your book genre.

The rest of this guide about how to find a literary agent will show you how to create your book agent list. It will also help you prioritize, so you can create your own personalized top 10 book agents list. Your list of publishing agents will look different than other authors’ lists, once you consider the following considerations regarding what to look for in a literary agent, and what matters most to you.

Literary Agents Near Me – How to Find a PUBLISHING Agent

Book authors often ask, “Should I try to find literary agents near me?” This section of our free guide about how to find a literary agent explains the pros and cons of looking for book agents near you. It also shows how to find literary agents near you who are seeking clients using our free Book Agent Directory.

Most publishing agents aren’t near you, unless you live in New York. Approximately 70% of all book agents in the United States are located in or near NYC. The good news is you don’t need to find literary agents near you, and you don’t need to meet your book agent in person to have a positive and productive working relationship.

The most important thing to consider when finding a publishing agent is to find author representatives who are the most successful, professional, and interested in your book genre. Many of those publishing agents will be looking for new clients, so those book agents should be your primary focus.

Licensed Literary Agents – How to Find a Literary Agent

There’s no such thing as a “licensed literary agent,” but there is an organization that monitors the business practices of publishing agents. You can find all members of the AALA or Association of American Literary Agents–formerly known as AAR or The Association of Authors’ Representatives–in our free Directory of Literary Agents.

Though there are no licensing requirements for literary agents, and less than 20% of author representatives are members of the AALA, being a member has some meaning. To become members, book agents must be sponsored by two publishing agents who are members in good standing. In other words, two author representatives must vouch for the one applying for membership.

The publishing agent attempting to join the AALA must also agree to abide by the association’s code of ethics. The code of ethics says members must act professionally and communicate with their clients regarding their efforts. It also says the book agent will not charge the author abnormal fees, or do anything else that isn’t considered a “best practice” in the publishing industry. Click here to learn more about the term Licensed Literary Agent, and continue reading below to see how to find a successful book agent.

Established Literary Agents – How to Find a Book Agent

Established book agents have more influence and experience than new book agents, but it can be harder to get their attention. You can find established publishing agents using our free Literary Agents Directory, but make sure you read the rest of this guide about how to research literary agents first, for the pros and cons of working with an established author representative.

Most book authors believe the best literary agent for any book genre–fiction, nonfiction, or children’s books–would be one who’s already successful selling books in that genre. That’s generally true, but you’ll see as you continue through this guide about how to find a literary agent, there are exceptions to every rule regarding how to find the perfect literary agent.

For example, some authors are fortunate to find author representatives with no experience selling their book genre. A publishing agent might be very knowledgeable about your type of book, but not have yet tried to sell that type of book. If you’re the first–or one of the first–authors that literary agent offers to represent, they’ll likely put extra time and effort into trying to sell your book to a publisher.

New Literary Agents – How to Find a Literary Agent

New book agents have less experience and influence than established book agents, but they often work harder since they’re trying to become established. Find new publishing agents in our free Book Agent Directory, but make sure you also read the rest of this guide about how to find a literary agents, for the pros and cons of working with a new book agent.

Though there are sometimes benefits to finding a new literary agent to represent you, there’s no guarantee you’ll be happier with a less experienced author representative. Just because a publishing agent is willing to dedicate their time and effort to trying to find a publisher who wants to buy your book doesn’t mean they’ll be effective. Experience and connections matter too, so don’t be too quick to query only new book agents.

It’s also a myth that it’s a lot easier to get a new publishing agent vs an established publishing agent. And it’s a bad idea to query less successful agents first, thinking you might learn something along the way that helps you improve before querying more successful author representatives. If you do that, you might get a representation offer from a mediocre agent when you might have gotten an offer from a better one.

Literary Agents to Avoid – How to Find a Book Agent

Knowing which book agents to avoid is a critical part of how to research literary agents. Avoid publishing agents who charge reading fees or processing fees; provide or suggest options for paid editing, coaching, or consulting services they benefit from financially; or don’t provide information about books they’ve sold.

The Association of American Literary Agents (AALA), previously known as Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR), prohibits publishing agents from charging “reading fees” or “processing fees.” It’s also best to avoid author representatives who offer or recommend specific paid editing, coaching, or consulting services. That’s because an author who pays for editing, coaching, or consulting services can’t be sure if the author representative offering those services is more interested in their writing or their money.

Before signing a literary agency contract, book authors should also research the literary agent to see if they have a good reputation. Some author representatives have a good track record of selling books. However, they have a poor track record when it comes to communication and responsiveness with their author clients.

Literary Agents Seeking Submissions – How to Find a PUBLISHING Agent

Once you’ve decided what to look for in a literary agent using this guide about how to research literary agents, use our free Literary Agent Directory to find book agents seeking submissions. The number of publishing agents taking new clients is constantly changing, so you’ll want to use a reliable database or directory of book agents accepting submissions.

Almost all author representatives are closed to author submissions during different times of the year. In addition, literary agents and some literary agencies temporarily close to submissions periodically. For example, when they go on vacation, get behind, get overwhelmed, or need to devote more time to their existing author clients.

A small percentage of book agents stop accepting submissions for extended periods such as months or even years. During such times, many of those publishing agents continue seeking submissions, but only via referral.

Unless you see statements on literary agency websites saying they are closed to submissions, you can assume their book agents are looking for submissions. The remainder of this guide about how to find a literary agent will help you identify and query them.

List of Literary Agents – How to Find a Literary Agent

You can create a customized list of book agents that includes every publishing agent who might be interested in your book using our free Literary Agent Directory. Since our list of publishing agents is comprehensive, it will give you the best chance of finding literary agents who want to represent your book.

Before you decide which author representatives to prioritize on your book agent list, make sure your list is comprehensive. Include every publishing agent who might be interested in your type of book.

For example, the author of a novel that has commercial or popular appeal but is also intelligent and somewhat poetic, with romance and thriller elements, set in the 1930s, shouldn’t just consider querying Historical Fiction book agents. The author should query many or most of the publishing agents who say they’re interested in General Fiction, Commercial Fiction, Mainstream Fiction, Upmarket Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance Fiction, and Thriller Fiction.

Once you’ve included everyone who should appear on your list of book agents, prioritize them based on the advice in the rest of this step-by-step guide regarding how to research literary agents, to ensure you have a quality literary agent list.

Literary Agent Database – How to Find a LITERARY Agent

Use the book agent database in our free Literary Agent Directory to find every publishing agent who might be interested in your book. Since our list of publishing agents is comprehensive, it will give you the best chance of finding literary agents who want to represent you.

Our publishing agent database is easy to use and it is up to date. You can find literary agents in the book agent database by doing a variety of searches. You can select agents by book genre, gender, location, AALA/AAR status, and more.

The literary agents database includes:

  • 1,000+ book agent bios/photos
  • Publishing agents representing all book genres
  • The option to search by book genre, gender, location, etc.
  • Each book agent’s preferred query method(s)
  • Each publishing agent’s AALA/AAR membership status
  • All literary agency website links
  • Individual book agent email addresses
  • Book agent postal mail addresses
  • Maps to literary agency offices

There is no cost to use Directory of Literary Agents and you can click here to start using our Literary Agency Database. Once you enter the literary agent directory, you’ll also have instant access to our free author training library with insider advice and interviews (print and audio).

Book of Literary Agents – How to Find a Publishing Agent

Books of publishing agents such as the Guide to Literary Agents and the Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents aren’t the best way to find literary agents. Their information is old by the time it arrives in bookstores. Use an online book agent database instead, such as our no-cost Literary Agent Directory.

Books of author representatives used to be the best way to research literary agents prior to the Internet. In fact, such literary agent books used to be the only way to research publishing agents. Now authors can do book agent research online. It’s faster and easier, and for authors who use the official Directory of Literary Agents, it’s free.

Book agent information is constantly changing, so it’s important authors use a reliable online source to research publishing agents. Book agents move from one literary agency to another. They update their contact information. They change their preferences regarding the types of books they’re looking for. And they change their submission guidelines.

Where to Meet Literary Agents – How to Find a Book Agent

Where can authors meet book agents? Writers can meet literary agents at writer events where book agents are participating or in attendance. The various options regarding where to meet publishing agents are listed here.

Querying via email, online forms, and postal mail is the faster, easiest, and least expensive way to meet publishing agents. You can meet book agents via Skype or Zoom as well through various virtual writer events. And you can meet book agents in person via publishing industry events.

The only way to meet literary agents in person anyplace other than a publishing industry event is to make an appointment. However, unless you’re a celebrity or a writer who’s already been published by a major publisher, it’s unlikely a book agent will agree to meet somewhere such as their office, a restaurant, etc.

Literary Agent Events – How to Find a Literary Agent

Book agent events take place throughout the year, every year. You can find literary agents who represent your book genre at a literary agent conference, writing class, writer workshop or seminar, or publishing industry event such as a book expo or book fair.

,The most popular way for authors to find book agents and connect with them in person at events is at writers’ conferences. One of main attractions at most writers’ conferences is the opportunity for authors to meet and pitch book agents.

Book authors can also find literary agents at publishing industry events such as book fairs and expos. However, the main priority of author representatives at those events isn’t meeting with authors seeking representation. It’s meeting with other publishing industry professionals: book agents, publishers and publishing house staff, marketing and publicity people, and, at times, existing clients.

Other publishing events that aren’t exactly “book agent events,” events where book agents can be found, include writing classes as well as writer workshops, seminars, residencies, and retreats.

This article about finding a book agent was written by former literary agent turned author coach Mark Malatesta, creator of The Directory of Book Agents, host of Ask a Publishing Agent, and founder of Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author.

Mark has helped hundreds of authors get offers from literary agents and/or traditional publishers. Writers of all Book Genres have used our Book Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get Top Literary Agents at the Best Literary Agencies on our List of Literary Agents.

How to Find a Literary Agent – Next Steps

 

Now that you’ve read this guide about how to research literary agents and how to find a literary agent, click here to:

  1. See the next part of this guide to getting a publishing agent called Literary Agent Submissions.
  2. Visit our Ask a Book Agent page, where you’ll find a complete list of questions and answers about getting a publishing agent.

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Photo of Mark Malatesta - Former Literary Agent MARK MALATESTA is a former literary agent turned author coach. Mark now helps authors of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children's books) get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals through his company Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author. Mark's authors have gotten six-figure book deals, been on the NYT bestseller list, and published with houses such as Random House, Scholastic, and Thomas Nelson. Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta and see Mark Malatesta Reviews.
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