advice, getting published, literary agents, Writing

The literary agent question

In my Journey To Publication post I asked if anyone had any questions about the publishing process and I would try to answer them in a future post. I was asked what was the first step I took to find a literary agent so I will answer that here for you.


The first step to finding a literary agent is be as ready as you can be. What I mean by that is you should have finished your novel and edited it as much as you can to make it as good as possible. An agent wants to see a finished and polished manuscript so don’t rush into submitting if your book isn’t ready.

If you have a finished and polished manuscript, then the next thing to do is research. Google is your friend. As is Twitter. I also bought a copy of Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook which lists literary agents and publishers and gives advice on submitting. Research what agents represent the genre of your book – you don’t want to send a sci-fi only agent your romance novel. A great resource are published books – check the acknowledgements of writers in your genre and see who their agent is. Agents are generally pretty active on Twitter  too so you can find them on there and see what their tastes are (do not pitch them on there unless they say you can though!)

Once you have a list of agents looking for similar books to what you’ve written then you can submit to them. In the UK, most agents want a covering letter, your first three chapters and a synopsis but always go to their website and check what they want. If you do not submit according to their guidelines they are likely to auto-reject your book. There are a lot of online resources at your disposable to help you write a covering letter and synopsis – make sure these as great as your book itself!

Unfortunately, there is no secret to finding an agent. I did the above and found an agent. There are sometimes other routes, such as meeting an agent at a conference, but this is the typical process. I didn’t know anyone in publishing. I submitted my book for both my first and current agent to a stranger who judged it solely on its own merits. So, the best advice I can give to finding an agent is to focus on your book. Work on it until it’s as good as you think it can be – use beta readers to give you feedback, check it for errors, read it aloud, read other books in the same genre – and then start thinking about finding an agent.

And remember you will get rejections! I submitted two books to agents and both were rejected. It was my third book that found me representation, but it was my fourth that got a book deal. It can be a long process but if your dream is to have a book published then don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged if your first try doesn’t nab you an agent.

But, it just might.

Do you guys have any advice you want to share on how to find an agent?

And if you have any more questions about publishing, pop them in the comments for me to answer!



7 thoughts on “The literary agent question”

  1. This is excellent. In my case, I was picked up directly by a publisher from my Blog, but the publisher, although they love my work, largely publish other genre’s to mine, and were pretty hopeless in providing any marketing help, ot obtaining the correct classification on Amazon and a number of other problems. Now I am writing my third book, and intending to go the “Agent” route. Like you I have purchased, “Artists and Writers” and am polishing my manuscript. I’ve learnt that having a book published and selling many copies do not necessarily go hand in hand and I mean to do something about that. 🙂

    1. This is really interesting, and is an example of how sometimes you can be so excited to get published that you don’t always stop to think about how much harder it may be to sell a lot of copies with a small / indie publisher. It’s great that you’re trying a different route this time and I look forward to reading about how it goes!

  2. Same as Susie — in the querying process, and it’s long and tough. I would say if you’re not getting any personal rejections explaining why an agent isn’t into your book, to take another look at your query, or have a writing coach help you. An objective set of eyes can do wonders!

    Great advice, Victoria!

    1. Sending you lots of luck! Great point – if agents are not asking to read pages from your query, it’s a good idea to look at it again! Query letters are used more in the U.S. than here and I think they’re really hard to get right!

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