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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

How Do You Find a Literary Agent for Your Book or Book Idea?

Written By: Carol Roth | No Comments

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.

Query

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.

Cyberstalk

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!

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth