How to get a literary agent to represent you

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Your manuscript is ready and you’re seeking traditional publication. It’s time to start querying and find the right literary agent to represent you. But how do you get their attention?

Your manuscript is ready and you’re seeking traditional publication. It’s time to start querying and find the right literary agent to represent you. But how do you get their attention?

Are you sure?

Is your book as good as it can be? When you’ve spent hours poring over your prose, consider that you might not be the best person to look at your writing in an objective and realistic way. It can often help to get feedback from someone else – preferably someone who’s going to tell you the truth. Or better still, try a professional writing critique.

Follow submission guidelines

Such a statement is sure to generate eyerolls from many serious writers, but this is an easy one to get right and is particularly important to check if you’re submitting to multiple agents who might have different guidelines.

Present ideas in your unique voice

Finding a completely unique idea can be challenging, but it’s how you present your idea that counts. Even if your plot is similar to other books out there, don’t let that shape your pitch. Talk about what makes your book different.

Have an awareness of marketing

Marketing for authors is an area that is constantly adapting, and it pays to be familiar with current trends. It’s an advantage if you already have an impressive social media following or if you indicate your enthusiasm to get involved in promotional activities.

Show some familiarity with the agent

You don’t need to mention their latest Instagram snap of their cat, but it does help to have some connection with the agent and know which other authors they represent and what they’re passionate about. Why are they the right person to represent your work?

Let them be familiar with you

It’s all about striking the balance. If you see they’re attending an event you’re interested in, why not go along and introduce yourself? Or simply interacting with them on their blog and social media platforms is enough to get your name noticed.

Know your audience

Don’t expect an agent or publisher to figure this out for you. When you submit to an agent, you need to show them that you’re aware who you’re writing for and what that audience wants.

Know your competition

In fiction, it’s about finding the books that are comparable to yours. Be realistic about similar titles that have been recently released in your genre. You don’t need to compare yourself to big-name authors but it’s important to know where you’ll sit on the bookshelves.

Get the professional balance right

Know the difference between putting personality into your query letter and dedicating a whole paragraph to your love of cats. Or worse, the agent’s cat.

Be what they’re looking for

There’s no secret to getting an agent to love your book as long as it delivers everything you promise in your equally well-crafted synopsis and query letter.

Some agents publicly post specific wish lists so, if you’re querying someone who’s looking for a book like yours, let them know how your work fits their requirements.