People often ask me how to find a literary agent. Because literary agents work entirely on spec (meaning they don’t earn a dime until they sell your book AND the check has cleared their bank account), they’re not always easy to procure. This is my basic advice:
1. Check the Literary Market Place (LMP), latest edition (it comes out annually) in your library and submit a query letter to agents that are listed as representing your genre. The top tier agents are listed in LMP so this is a great place to start.
2. Check, too, The Writer’s Market and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Literary Agents, the latest editions. The second- and third-tier agents are listed here as well as some first-tier agents. Do not bother sending your query to anyone who does not list your genre as one of the genres they represent.
3. Check the acknowledgments pages of books that are similar to yours for the names of agents (whom the authors often thank) and even editors (it helps to have an editors’ list for when you do submit–keep track of which editors bought which books that are like yours). You can do this by looking at the physical book or through Amazon.com’s Search Inside This Book or Google Books (search for Thanks or Thank you or Acknowledgements or agent).
4. Go to Publishersmarketplace.com and subscribe to Publishers Lunch for one month for $20. Research agents, and editors, and deals made, in your genre like crazy all month long.
5. Read Publisher’s Weekly, the publishing industry’s trade magazine which is now online. Check outany round up articles on particular genres. Notice who is quoted. The editor or agent quoted may specify what types of books they are currently looking for.
When you approach an agent–or if you’re daring and decide to approach an editor sans agent–mention WHY you chose to submit your query to them.. Including statements such as “I know you represented Marianne Williamson on The Gift of Change” and “Like that book, mine is a poignant coming-of-age tale featuring a woman of mixed ethnic heritage/an erotic science fiction novel/a self-help book based on sound psychological principles and the latest neuroscience” will go a LONG way toward piquing a potential agent’s (or editor’s) interest if he (or she) has already shown an interest in that type of book.