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How to Find a Literary Agent to Sell Your Book Manuscript

August 12th, 2010

Hi All!

You’ve been slaving over your manuscript forever, it’s done, it’s brilliant…everyone you know says it’s going to be a best-seller (and not just your Mom), and you don’t want to self-publish this work of art. Your dream is to land a publishing deal with a major New York publishing house and see their logo printed on the spin of your book cover.

I respect that goal, and I have some clients who pursue it – some successfully, and some not so much.

But what I find many new authors don’t realize is that nowadays you typically need to land a Literary Agent to represent you FIRST, and then they’ll shop your manuscript to Publishers. Most Publishers won’t even accept a manuscript unless a legitimate Literary Agent delivers it to them. And, quite honestly, I’ve heard endless stories from authors about how they tried to land a Literary Agent for a long time…and I’m talking 1+ years.

This is a big reason many authors choose the self-publishing route…out of total frustration!

But, for the sake of this blog topic, let’s say you are totally determined to land a publishing deal with a traditional publishing house. Here is some general info and resources that could help you grab the attention of a Literary Agent who may love your manuscript, and choose to represent you.

Some common questions with answers:

What exactly is a Literary Agent and what do they do?

In general, they are marketing and sales experts who know how to make your manuscript sizzle. They determine the compelling pitch that (they hope) will make Publishers want to review your manuscript, and then offer you/agent a publishing deal. And, a good agent has the contacts you don’t.

Do they charge a fee?

Yes, but not up-front. Like a Talent Agent, they work on commission based on the deal they get for you. So if you contact an agent and they say they charge a fee for them to represent you, RUN! That’s a scam. Legitimate agents only get paid if they get you a publishing deal.

Here’s a bit more detail from about this: Literary agents charge a commission whenever they sell the publishing rights (and various sub-rights) of a book. Standard commissions range from 10-15% for the sale of domestic rights and 15-20% for foreign rights. Major Publishers pay authors an advance against royalties. A literary agent negotiates the terms of the sale, then collects a commission for her hard work.

I have no connections to Literary Agents, so how can I find one?

You can do Google searches to find directory listings. And there are websites like these where they have agent listings:

Association of Authors’ Representatives

These types of websites also provide loads of great info about how to contact and approach an agent, how to write a query, how to avoid being scammed, and much more.

Getting an agent to represent you is not impossible, but it can be very challenging. So if you really want to try to land a publishing deal, be patient and start by finding a great Literary Agent to represent you and your best-selling manuscript!

Cheers & Happy Marketing!