Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Find a Literary Agent

Three years after Writer Abroad started writing her memoir, the third (or fourth?) revision is complete, the book proposal is in its final edit, so now the real work begins. Writer Abroad should find an agent.

So far, Writer Abroad hasn’t gotten very far with researching agents (being interrupted by baby with foot stuck in parrot toy is a new occupational hazard for her). Anyway, so far, Writer Abroad has a list of about 10 agents. And since she’s not Tina Fey, she realizes she needs to query about 100 agents if she’s really got a shot at this real deal book thing.

Anyhow, in case you’re not Tina Fey either, Writer Abroad thought she’d share some of her agent-finding tactics in hopes that you’ll share some of yours. Here are the places she’s been looking for agents:

In the acknowledgments of books she likes that are similar to hers. Almost all authors have small love fests in the back of their book where they thank their high school teachers, the jerky boy that stuck gum in their hair on the bus when they were in first grade (what endless writing inspiration!), their parakeet, and yes, their agent.

Through LinkedIn. Writer Abroad realizes like most things in life, it’s who you know that matters most. So she’s typing in “literary agent” in LinkedIn and seeing which of her connections know which literary agents. Of course then she must find out about these agents to see if they make sense for the book. But if they do, bonus, maybe one of her connections will introduce her.

With Google Searches. Today Writer Abroad tried searches like “perfectionist literary agent who moved to Europe and failed at something as simple as buying milk” and other searches relevant to someone she thinks might be attracted to a memoir about identity set in a European country about the size of a Walmart parking lot where the bells still ring at 11 a.m. to remind women to get home and cook lunch.

Websites that talk about agents. Ones she’s found helpful so far are Publishers Marketplace, Agent Query, Guide to Literary Agents blog, as well as websites and blogs of literary agencies and agents.

Contacts from writing conferences. Unfortunately, Writer Abroad can’t attend too many this year besides the ones she plans in Zurich (see above—baby with foot stuck in parrot toy occupational hazard). But hopefully her contacts from past and future conferences will come in handy.

If you have an agent, how did you find them? Or if you’re looking, what resources do you find helpful?


  1. I've found the Guide to Literary Agents really useful, especially after reading that many agents go out of their way not to be google-able :) I got two bites (and two rejections), but am going to keep fighting on! Best of luck to you.

  2. Thanks for the input. Yes, it is hard to find info on agents sometimes. Like editors, they must do it on purpose! Good luck in your search as well.

  3. I write fiction, so this may be a bit different, but I've done the query thing once for my YA urban fantasy (queried 30 agents, got some bites, but decided to tear it apart), and I'm just in the beginning of agent list-making for my adult post-apocalyptic romance.

    My go-to site at the beginning is indeed Then, I might also check out, Publisher's Marketplace, the Literary Rambles blog (selected agent bios -, and the Absolute Write Water Cooler forum ( If the agent seems a bit fishy, I'll also check at Preditors & Editors (

    Also I agree with writing conferences, though I'd also add contests. I have a full manuscript request right now from an agent because of a contest I won with my current novel. There's lots of contests in romance writing, at least!

    Oh, and one final thing (this is turning large!) - most of the agents on the top of my list are very google-able and accessible on the Internet. They blog, they tweet, and they make me think they want (and mean) business. That's what I want in an agent.

  4. In the U.S. I went to a large writers' conference to which had been invited a number of agents. Conference participants could sign up for short one-on-ones, and we got everyone's biz cards. It was a great way to shop.

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