How to Find a Literary Agent for Fiction

How to Find a Literary Agent for Fiction



hi my friend I am so excited to talk to you today about one of the most mysterious parts of the book publishing process for new authors how to find a literary agent now this particular video is for those of you who are writing fiction that's novels short story collections children's books ok this is not for people who are writing memoir transformative nonfiction how-to books wellness etc ok so my 20 years of working in the book publishing business working for some of the biggest houses in the United States has taught me a lot about this subject and I'm really happy to share it with you because I know that it can be kind of confounding ok so first of all what is a literary agent a literary agent is sort of the person who has the relationship with the big publishers the traditional publishing companies this is your Random House's your hate houses the how the houses that are not going to accept unsolicited submissions directly from an author they want to have someone they know like and trust who stands between the authors and them for a variety of reasons that I'm not even going to go into in this video that literary agent is the person that will sell your book to the publishers they will shop it around to different publishers that they feel would be interested in it they have relationships with the editors at those houses and they know what their tastes are so you need this person if you want to be published by one of the big houses okay so what is the first step in finding a literary agent this first step is the hardest you have to have an amazing idea that's unique and that will find its way into the market and that an agent and the only need one falls completely in love with their enthusiasm is the number one asset in in their agency of you they need to love your book this is why it's so hard to find one because people have different tastes you know your book might be amazing to one agent but not so amazing to another so you're going to have to know it is kind of like finding a needle in a haystack it's actually in a way like finding making a friend you know you don't make a friendship with just anybody that you walk into a party and meet you are going to find that connection that thing that jives between the two of you and the thing that will make that connection is your great idea it needs to rise above the crowd it needs to also have a market it needs to be a book that there is a ready and willing audience for and the agent will know potentially better than you whether that's the case ok so that first amazing idea is number step number two is that as a fiction writer you must write a complete manuscript this means you can't just submit a book proposal if you're writing nonfiction of a proposal is fine but if you're writing fiction you need the whole thing why well back when I was actually acquiring and editing fiction I needed to know that the author was able to come bring the book to a really satisfying conclusion write the conclusion of a book is not a lot of cases the most important part of it right I mean the beginning is very important because it gets the person to read and keep reading and you know the middle is important too because it's got to keep you reading all the way to the end but that end you've got to feel like wow I feel satisfied all of that time commitment I put into reading this novel is coming to fruition here at the end right so it actually must be complete when you submit it to your agencies okay so I would also recommend at that place if you have the budget I would highly recommend working with an editor before you start submitting your manuscript why because not everyone knows how to write a book you might have a really great idea you might have been willing and have the passion to put in the time to actually put it on the page but getting a developmental editor someone who specializes in fiction to look at your book before you send it to agents is just the the next level of insurance you never get a second chance with an agent so you must make sure you're putting your best foot forward and to do that I highly recommend investing in working with an editor who specializes in fiction and also in your genre of fiction okay step number three is that you're going to draft what I call a powerful and succinct query letter okay so the query letter is the thing that most agents are going to want to see before you send them their manuscript it's a multi-stage process you don't just you know blast your manuscript out to New York City you actually are going to need to have a query letter first in most cases which you will email to agents and then if they feel inspired and compelled by your query letter then they will request the manuscript therein lies the importance of the query letter you must make sure this query letter is as good as it possibly can be right because you don't want the person to say Matt I don't really need to see the manuscript so it's really important this is another place where you may want to work with an editor somebody who has experience working at these publishing companies maybe somebody who previously was a literary agent so that they can tell you you know what this is not as gripping as you think it is we need to adjust your pitch so that it sounds even more unique and the agent can't help but ask to see the full manuscript okay so that is step number three is to draft your query letter step number four is to do a lot of research this is the step that I think most of my aspiring authors either don't know about or just skip right over the research is incredibly important there are two different things that you need to research you need to research agents who work on the genre your writing so if you're writing science fiction you need to research and find agents who specifically work with science fiction if you're writing literary fiction you need to make sure that the agent is actually a literary fiction agent a children's book agent a short story collection agent you need to make sure that they have worked on books that are like yours ok so it's the first piece of the research I want you to do and I'm going to explain in a minute how to do that the second piece of research that's so important is that you must look at their website and find out what each individual agents requested submission guidelines are so this is a process I recommend you create a spreadsheet where you put the name of the agent their website address the actual page where their submission guidelines are because every agency will have their submission guidelines and then what specifically they're asking for because some people are gonna ask straight-up query letter sent by email some people are gonna ask for a query letter plus one sample chapter you don't know what it's going to be most agencies will absolutely request that you not call and you not send mail it used to be that things went through the actual snail mail but pretty rarely these days does that happen you want to keep this spreadsheet so that you do not get your wires crossed between different agents you also want to make 100% sure this is such a funny little tip that I'm going to give you but wow this happens so often in the publishing world make sure that you have tailored that query letter to the agent that you are sending it to so you don't say you know hi Sally when you actually meant to be sending it to John that happens all the time and it's the like number one way that things get thrown out I'm not going to if you can't keep attention to detail enough to know who you're writing to then then out right because agents have so many queries coming at them every single day you need to give them zero reason to throw yours away okay so back to where can you find the agents that are going to be appropriate for your book there are two different resources that I recommend number one is a website it's called publishers marketplace comm it is a subscription-based website twenty-five dollars a month as of this recording and it's totally worth it I highly recommend you jump on there you pay the fee I mean anyone who's anyone in publishing is subscribed to publishers marketplace comment is the insider website for all things editorial book sales so we were the acquisitions that are happening at the different houses are reported they send out a daily email called publishers lunch where you get like the updates on what's happening in the book business it is a place where if you want to be published by traditional publishing you need to know this website and I recommend that you get the subscription on this website there will be reputable literary agents that you can start researching okay they will say in their bio what kind of book they are looking for and they might be looking for a variety of different books and some people are just looking for one type of book so you need to research each one individually the second place to research is actually at a brick-and-mortar bookstore go to a book store and start pulling and you can even start on your own bookshelf honestly start pulling books off of the shelf and look at the acknowledgement section if that book was agented and the agent was good and someone that you might be interested in working with they will be thanked in their authors acknowledgments it's just dirigir as an editor i never let my authors books go to press if they hadn't put a thank-you to their agent in there if their agent was still her agent at the time that the book was being published i would send it back and say you need to talk you need it like you know say thank you to your agent your agent has been a huge help in the process okay so you can look at the acknowledgement section and see and what's really great about this particular way of researching is that you can then especially if the book is something that you've read and something that you've enjoyed in the letter that you're tailoring really carefully to that specific agent you can say I saw that you were the agent on this book this book is one of my favorite books and it's also very similar my book in these ways this is why I'm reaching out to you give the agent so this is actually the next the next and final I guess step is the fifth step which is to tailor those letters specifically to the agent that you want to send it to and to send them out okay so this is the place where you are going to actually be putting in some time and energy you're going to make sure that you mention at least one book that that agent has worked on one book you might have find it on found it on their website you might have found it in publishers lunch you might have found it in the bookstore but you're gonna say I know what kind of books you agent because you agented this book and my book is similar to this book in these ways that is highly recommended it is a way that will have your letters stand out above the crowd when you send it out which is also part of this stage you tailor the letter to the specific agent and you send it per their specific submission guidelines okay so that is the five step process for finding an agent you might notice I did not say find an agent as the sixth step because it is not ever guaranteed that you're gonna find an agent this is one of the hardest parts of the book publishing process is helping people understand that agents finding an agent is in that way like finding a needle in a haystack you need to keep going keep practicing keep sending out letters to improve your letter every time sometimes the agent will have a little free time on their hands and they'll tell you a little bit about why they didn't ask for your manuscript or they will have requested your manuscript and then they will tell you why it wasn't quite right for them that's good information gather that information more often than not you're not gonna get back a personalized reply do not take it personally you've got to understand that they are receiving hundreds of queries every single day and generally it's not even the agent you send it to who's the first person to look at it it's oftentimes an intern or an assistant at the company so just keep going keep sending out those query letters if you feel the call in your heart to be traditionally published and you want to work with one of the big houses all of which accept no unsolicited submissions only accept agented submissions then you got to think of it as a game as a fun challenge and see how many different people you can query I sometimes say why don't you look at it as a success if you have sent you know let's say you set a goal for yourself I'm gonna send out 25 queries just having done that says so much about your drive and your enthusiasm and that is actually what's required to make a book work in the world so when the book does finally hit the shelves whether it's through a traditional publisher or an independent publisher or through through your own self-publishing efforts you will actually have what it takes to sell that book if you have the stamina and you have the belief and the passion to send out 25 30 maybe even 50 queries that tells me a lot about who you are and how much you are committed to this book so I hope this has been helpful for you fiction writers out there this is how to find a literary agent if you want more information you can always go to Kay and literary calm we have tons of free information there and I would love for you to subscribe to this channel so you never miss a video this is where my 20 years in the book publishing business is brought to you information that you need so that you can actually get the book you were born to write into the world all right best of luck to you let me know how it goes and in the meantime please keep writing

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