5 Things to Do Before Finding a Literary Agent
As an intern I got a glimpse into the publishing world, specifically learning the unspoken rules of one New York literary agency. Knowing these rules may increase the chance of your manuscript getting selected by a literary agent. Before I start the list, there are a few things writers should keep in mind.
Literary agencies can often be overwhelmed by the volume of query letters. “A query letter is a single page cover letter with three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography” (AgentQuery). At the literary agency I worked for, we tried to respond to every query, but don’t be surprised if a few get lost in the mix.
Another thing to keep in mind is that literary agents may be too busy to read all the queries or even the first few chapters of a manuscript. The fate of your book may literally rest in the hands of interns and assistants. It was an assistant, after all, who convinced literary agent Christopher Little to reconsider his decision on Harry Potter.
Now, here are 5 things I recommend you do before finding and submitting to a literary agent based on my experience.
#1. Do proofread your manuscript. Check not only for spelling errors, but also for the overall flow of the story. Is the plot clear and easy to understand? Does everything make sense? Any loopholes?
#2. Do know which genre your book fits under. See all the genres listed on Amazon.com? That’s how books are marketed and sold. Knowing your genre makes it easier to pitch your idea.
#3. Do establish an online presence. Having hundreds or even thousands of Twitter followers can increase your chance of getting selected because it also helps the literary agent sell your book to a publisher. If you do have a strong online presence, make sure to mention that in your writer’s biography.
#4. Do have an idea on how you can market your book. Marketability, defined by BusinessDictionary, is the ease of which your book can sell for a price at which similar items are selling. In other words, is there a demand for your type of book? As hard as it is to admit, literary agencies and publishing houses are still businesses that must be able to sell books to make money.
#5. Do research the literary agent or literary agency and know what genres they specialize in. The literary agency I worked for specialized mainly in nonfiction. Your book has a greater chance at getting selected if the literary agent is familiar with your genre.