What do literary agents do?
A literary agent represents your book to acquiring editors who want to publish it. In other words, an agent gets the foot of new authors in the door of a publishing house — and onto the path of getting traditionally published.
In addition to championing you and your writing and serving as your point of contact with others in publishing, literary agents understand editors’ tastes and the types of books they are looking to add to their lists — a crucial component in getting any publishing house to invest in the works of new authors. Since most big publishers don’t accept unsolicited submissions, getting a literary agent who’s accepting submissions is the most realistic route to traditional publication, particularly for debut authors.
Aside from getting your foot in the door, what else do literary agents do?
- They are expert negotiators, combining publishing acumen with a nose for the value of good, sellable writing;
- They act as mediators between you and your publisher (when you don’t want to hurt your working relationship with an editor by talking brass tacks);
- They manage the financial and marketing side of things while you concentrate on the writing; and
- They often have strong editorial skills, helping refine your manuscript before you submit it to a publisher.
As you might've guessed, literary agents are especially important for debut authors, who often don't have a starting point in the vast maze that is the publishing industry. That's what a literary agent will become for you: a guide to help you throughout the publishing process, and kickstart your publishing career.
New authors might be intimidated by the wealth of information and cautionary signs in the industry. It's especially tricky to research literary agents when some are open to submissions from new authors, and some are not.
If you're one of those debut authors, don't fret! We've got you covered with the resources that you need to gain your bearings.
Resources for new authors landing a literary agent in 2023
You might think that a great book is all you need to catch a literary agent’s attention. But you’ll need to put in a good amount of work to land them — and that includes everything from the careful study of each agent's wishlist to personalizing your query letter for each candidate..
Whether you’re a new author learning how to research literary agents or an experienced writer refining your query letter, here are the resources that can give you a headstart.
Free online materials for debut authors
- How to Get a Query Letter Review (and Why It's Important)
- How to Find a Literary Agent
- How to Write a Query Letter in 7 Steps
- How to Personalize Your Query Letters
- How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal
- How to Write a Nonfiction Query Letter
- How to Format Your Manuscript
- For writers in the UK: Writers' & Artists' Yearbook
- For writers in the US: Writer’s Market 2020