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Guide to Literary Agents


If you're in the market for a guide to literary agents, Chuck Sambuchino has a good US based book that I recommend, with over 500 agents listed. In addition, he keeps it updated with supplementary blog posts and even a free newsletter.

Poets & Writers has another good guide to literary agents, available as an ebook or free download. For a list of Canadian agents, see my guide to Canadian Agents elsewhere on this site.

You can do a lot with a name. It wasn't always easy to gain access to information about literary agents, but these days, once you have a name, a Google search will turn up the agent's website, Twitter and Facebook posts, news articles, and even articles published by the agent about the business.

From all of these, you will learn quite a lot. Is the literary agent sound respectful of others, or contemptuous? Does the agent have a positive attitude about change, or does he or she sound mired in the past? Is there evidence of discontent or litigation concerning the agent and/or his or her practices? Who does the agent represent? Which deals been mentioned in the press?

The literary agent's website will tell you what he or she wants you to know. The press surrounding the agent will tell you as much or more.

Read other articles on this site to learn how to approach a literary agent and what to expect in return, but do approach your search knowing that an agent will not read your entire manuscript, or even an entire chapter. To be outraged when that doesn't happen is unprofessional and smacks of inexperience. A good agent has spent years with print. He or she will need to read only a small portion of your writing to know whether or not the book is of interest. Sometimes a query letter sounds promising, but the manuscript is not a good fit. That is disappointing, but nothing to get upset over.

Literary agent Rachel Gardner, uses a clothing analogy to explain the process:

When shopping for clothes, I can browse through racks fairly quickly. "No, no, no, no... " My eyes and hands can take in copious detailed information about each item of clothing. Color, style, size, texture, pattern, fabric... so many things register in my brain in a millisecond. I instantly reject the ones that clearly aren't what I'm looking for - they don't suit the occasion I'm shopping for, or they're not "me" for whatever reason. Occasionally I stop at something. "Hmm. Maybe." I grab that item to take to the fitting room and try on.

This is one of the best analogies I've heard, and assuming that you have consulted with a professional and know that your query letter and synopsis are all they should be, don't worry if your work doesn't suit several agents. Go back to your guide to literary agents, create a new list, and carry on. As with everything else in this business persistence is key.

Guide to Literary Agents

  1. Guide to Literary Agents Editor's Blog
  2. This is the blog by the author of the book I mentioned above.
  3. My guide to Canadian Agents
  4. Poet's and Writers Guide to Literary Agents
  5. Available as an ebook, or a free PDF download
  6. An online directory, mostly US based.
Related Articles

How Publishing Agents Increase Your Chances of Success Finding a Literary Agent

When you may NOT need a book publishing agent

Literary Agents, Part I

Literary Agents, Part II

"Why 'No' Comes Quickly ... But 'Yes' Seems to Take Forever" article by Rachel Gardner

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