Have you finished writing your novel? Did you consider your options, and would you prefer to be published traditionally? While some smaller publishers accept manuscript submissions directly, and others have designated periods each year where you can do so, your next step should be getting a literary agent.
A literary agent will be in your corner and defend your interests when it comes to getting your book published. Many publishers will not accept submissions unless they come from agents, and an agent will be able to help you sort through complicated steps such as contract terms, or even work on editing your book with you before sending it out into the world.
But do you know where to find literary agents?
Before you begin
No agent represent all genres, so don’t send out your manuscript to every agent you can find. You will end up wasting a lot of time querying hundreds of agents who, even if your book is the best piece of writing ever accomplished in human history, will not offer you representation. They will not even bother finishing your email if they see you’ve written in a genre outside of their expertise.
Take the time to properly research all the agents you want to query and make sure you comply with all their submission guidelines. Starting a spreadsheet early on will be your best bet: record information such as their names, agencies, contact, guidelines, timeline for response, and status of your query.
You might think that you need an agent that is based in the same country as you, but the truth is that most agents will represent clients from all over the world. Some may, of course, prefer otherwise, so again, check their guidelines. Don’t feel like you can’t query US agents if you are based in the UK!
Where to find an agent
- The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is updated yearly with a comprehensive list of publishers and literary agents based in the UK. It also includes a variety of articles offering advice and useful information for querying authors. There is also a version specifically for children’s writers: the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.
- QueryTracker is a free database of agents from all over the world. It also, as the name suggests, helps you track the queries you have sent out and what their status is. You can also use QueryTracker to find out who represents specific authors. A premium membership allows access to more information and features, such as advanced search filters and agent reply data.
- ManuscriptWishlist also compiles information on agents, but takes it further by including specific elements/plots they are looking for. You can search the database by genre, or browse the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter.
- Publishers Marketplace is one of the go-to websites to keep track of book deals as they happen and see which books an agent has sold, and it also hosts a database of agents. You will, however, need a paid membership to take full advantage of its features.
- AgentQuery has profiles for nearly 1000 agents.
- Writer’s Digest publishes new agent alerts for both fiction and non-fiction. You should always do your research and make sure that new agents are with reputable agencies that can suport them, but they are a good choice to query since they will actively be looking for authors to add to their lists.
- The Writers’ & Artists’ Guide to How to Hook an Agent covers all the questions you might have about getting an agent and the agent-author relationship.
- QueryShark is a blog with years worth of posts focusing on critiquing query letters. Reading through them will give you a good idea of what works in a query and how to improve your own.
- Not sure if an agent/publisher is legitimate? Writers Beware tracks and exposes predatory, scam or questionable agents.
- The QueryTracker forum has a useful thread on How to Spot a Scam.
- If you want to keep up with UK publishing news and book deals, The Bookseller is the place to go.
- Does your query letter need work? The Sub It Club Facebook group offers support and critiques.
- Author Alexa Donne shares useful advice for aspiring authors on her Youtube channel, such as questions you should ask agents, what to do when you get an offer and common contract terms.
Sofia Matias is a professional writer, editor and proofreader. She specialises in working with independent authors of Young Adult and genre fiction, publishers and publications. She is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). Learn more about her and her services on her website and connect via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.