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How to Find a Literary Agent

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Though the process of finding a literary agent can be one of the hardest steps in getting a book published, it's also one of the most important. A good agent will help edit your book, get it into the hands of receptive editors, and make sure that you get the best possible deal. So how do you go about this all-important (and time-consuming) process? The steps below will get you started.

1. Finish Your Novel.

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Finish writing your novel before contacting literary agents. Have other writers read your book, take a novel writing class, or hire an editor. We all have blind spots as writers; identify them before contacting any agents with your novel. And make sure that the first 30 pages or so are especially strong. Agents need to see that you can set up your story effectively.

2. Establish Credibility.

An agent will be more likely to pay attention to your work if you have published in smaller journals and magazines. Find an excerpt from your book that can stand alone and begin sending it out. (Other ways of establishing yourself as a serious writer include winning a contest or getting an MFA.)

3. Research Literary Agents.

In finding an agent, you'll do much of the same research you do when looking for a job. And as with a job hunt, there are many tools at your disposal. Learn about the essential ones here.

4. Write a Query Letter.

Your query letter is your one-page audition: your chance to catch an agent's eye. Introduce your novel with a short, compelling synopsis, then share the credentials you've been working so hard to accumulate. These dos and don'ts will further help you craft a professional, dynamic letter.

5. Start Writing Literary Agents.

Once you've finished your novel and researched the market, you're ready to start querying literary agents. Dive in and see what happens. Even if you don't land an agent right away, hopefully you'll get feedback, both about your writing and about where it might belong.

As you proceed, questions will inevitably come up: What fees should you expect? Can you send to more than one at a time? What if you have more than one book? For answers, refer to the agent FAQs. You can also follow one writer's path to finding an agent.

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