So, you want to write a book and have “the best idea ever” (it’s always the best idea if it’s yours, isn’t it?). But you may be wondering, as I have been asked quite a bit lately, how do you find an agent to represent you? Agents can be helpful to get your book proposal in front of traditional (and in many cases, non-traditional) publishers and help you to structure a deal and review the publishing contract. They can also serve as a “bad cop” during any negotiations, which is important since you want to have a strong relationship with your publisher.
Here are three different ways that you can go about securing a book agent:
Get a referral
The best way to get to anyone in any realm is through a referral. With literary agents, it is no different. If one of their authors or other network contacts, such as a lawyer, friend, etc., makes an introduction, you will immediately get their attention and move to the top of their “to-do” pile. So, if you know someone who has an agent, ask them first if their agent did a great job and if they would recommend him or her, and then see if they will provide a warm introduction.
Do note that this is a fairly big ask of someone, so be respectful. The person providing the introduction is putting their relationship on the line by vouching for you. This means that you should not ask someone you just met- or have had three Twitter exchanges with- for an introduction. Build the relationship first and make them feel comfortable with providing that introduction. Also, give the referring individual an opportunity to review your book proposal and idea. If they do not feel like it’s strong, they shouldn’t make an introduction.
This is the way I found my literary agent for The Entrepreneur Equation. I was introduced to another agent who specialized in sports biographies. She suggested that I go to Publishers Marketplace, which is a great resource for deals and other information on the publishing industry. There, you can research recent book placements in your genre. I searched to find out which agents had secured the most book deals for clients in the business genre with the publishers I had an interest in to find my target list.
I reviewed all of the websites of those top business book agents, found the ones I thought would be a good fit for me and my book and then sent query letters to less than a dozen. If you want to learn how to write a great query letter, check out this blog post from Erika Napoletano. This querying process netted me many rejections and some agents that never had the courtesy to even reject me. It also netted me an agent, so I can say that it worked for me.
I mean “cyberstalk” tongue in cheek, so don’t go crazy here. As you probably know, it is easier than ever to build relationships with individuals online, including literary agents. Do your research and when you find an agent that you might want to work with, start to build that online relationship. If they have a blog, become active in their community. Start to follow them on Twitter and re-tweet interesting content. Perhaps even ask them a short question or two. Once you have built a relationship over time (this means more than three days for those afflicted with impatience), reach out and tell them that you are interested in discussing a book proposal and ask if could you contact them. This can be a very effective strategy (not just for book agents, but all around for those with whom you want to build connections).
Do you have other tips or stories on how to find and land an agent? Share below!