The Secrets to Finding a Literary Agent, 3 key points

In 450 words or less, this post highlights the main ideas of the webinar entitled “The Secrets to Finding a Literary Agent: Fiction & Nonfiction Books “.

For the hour-long video, please click here.

Who is the speaker? Carole Sargent is Director of Scholarly Publications at Georgetown University and guides tenure-line faculty through the scholarly book and article publishing process for university presses and first-tier academic journals.

  1. Get yourself some “platform”.

The single most-iterated word throughout the webinar, Carole stresses the importance of “platform”, which she defines as the audience and space you carve out in which you will later promulgate your work. The idea of platform ties hand in hand with marketing, which she repeats time and again is the always the author’s responsibility, even if the book is not self-published.

The best way to do this is to get known before you write your book. In order to do so, she suggests trying to appear in regional outlets, as opposed to national or local outlets, which might be too broad and competitive, or too narrow, respectively.

The idea of becoming known before your first book gradually lends itself to her second point: most writers begin publishing their content somewhere other than in books.

2. Writers usually graduate to published books.

Writers do not typically begin a career in the business without having passed through publishing in non-book format. But what other channels exist?

First and foremost, Carole advises fiction writers to start with Literary Magazines (follow this link for a list, or go to the “Resources” tab and click “Literary Magazines”). After writers are published several times in this capacity, they should in theory have the contacts and experience to publish their first book, and they can choose to contact an agent.

3. Follow the Royal Road to Agents.

Agents are not a completely indispensable part of the process, but Carole suggests that they can get you a better deal with publishers.

The best way of finding an agent suitable for your novel harks back to the idea of platform, and in this case, “knowing your audience.” If you’re not sure who your audience is, take a stroll through a store with a wide range of magazines and ask yourself: What magazine would a reader of my novel take home?

Once you have a vague idea of who your book is for, move into a bookstore and find other books that would match your book themes, content, style and age-group. Start compiling a list of agents that have worked with your genre and sub-genres. This information can be found either in the book or online. This is the ‘Royal Road to Agents’.

A few pointers on contacting agents: contact as many as you would like, and do not feel compelled to work with one at a time. Once you are in contact with them, let them know that you are speaking with other agencies until a formal agreement has been reached.


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