Guest Post: Find the Literary Agent Who’s Right for YOU

Here’s a new guest post from award-winning children’s author and writing coach Dianne Ochiltree. She’s got smart ideas about seeking representation with a literary agent, complete with helpful links for more info. Enjoy!  ~ AMC

In today’s competitive publishing environment, it’s more important than ever to have a literary agent on your side. But not just any agent! It’s just as important to find one who is a good match for your writing genre, career goals, and working style.

How to find the perfect industry pro?

Five steps to guide your search

1. Figure Out WHY you want an agent in the first place.

Are there certain publishers with whom you’d like to work, but are closed to un-agented work? Maybe you’d welcome a helping hand with the querying, pitching, revision and submission tasks to free up more time for writing? Perhaps you’d like someone familiar with publishing contracts to examine yours before you sign them? Start a list of all the ways your dream agent could help you in your writing career.

2. Think About HOW you would like to work with an agent.

Do you want to find an agent with the skill and desire to give you editorial guidance as you develop projects? Or is it more important to have one who has a strong sales track record in your genre? Do you want frequent contact from your agent about submissions made on your behalf and/or encouragement on the creation of your WIP? Or are you okay with less contact and hand-holding? Keep in mind that you’ll be working with your literary agent closely on projects near and dear to your creative heart, so it is important your working styles jibe.

3. Consider WHAT kind of literary agency your ideal representative works for.

Literary agencies vary as widely as publishers and authors. Do you want representation from an older, established house or the ‘new kid on the block’? Do you desire a larger, multi-faceted agency or a smaller, boutique firm? Is it important to you that the agency is in NYC, or is it okay that it’s headquartered away from this publishing hub? What other qualities do you need the dream agency to possess? Don’t forget the basics: any agency worth your time should be a member in good standing of the American Association of Literary Agents.

4. Visualize what’s on your dream agent’s résumé.

Do you prefer a new, young, hungry agent just building their list? Or would you like to sign with a well-established agent with a large (and possibly big-name) clientele? Is an established sales track record in your genre a factor? What did the agent do prior to becoming an agent – publishing PR, sales manager, bookstore owner, editor? Anything a potential agent brings to the table will impact how they work with clients. What’s most important to you?

5. Think about what makes you an ideal client.

Knowing just what you and your work will bring to any potential literary agent will prove useful in figuring out which type of agent and agency will serve your highest good. This list will also help you when it’s time to begin reaching out to the agencies and agents you’ve prioritized as ‘perfect picks’ for you and your work.

photo of white woman with blond hair sitting in an office environment with a Black man. Both wear suits. both are smiling and gesturing

Take the time to find a good match with the right agent.
Image by Memento Media on Unsplash

Final thoughts

It’s tempting to skip or skim over one of these steps, but I hope you won’t. There are a dizzying number of literary agencies out there, each having multiple agents working under their umbrellas, so please trust that knowing precisely what your ideal agent looks like will be a real time-saver in the long run. A good fit translates to greater book sales and creative satisfaction…while minimizing the trauma of disengaging from an agent that really wasn’t a very good fit from the beginning. There’s a win-win!


Here are some helpful websites to get your search underway:

Query Tracker: Helping Authors Find Literary Agents. Free. Search database of agents, organize and track queries, explore agent data and more.

Manuscript Wish List: The most human database for the most efficient querying. Free. Writers search by genre and age group to find agents looking for work in their area of expertise. Additionally, there are podcasts and live events which feature interactive conversations between agents, editors, and authors.

American Association of Literary Agents. Free. Visit profiles of featured member agents, or search for an agent by category or name using the tools at the top of the page.

Publishers Marketplace – Publishing’s essential daily news source. $25 per month. Find and vet literary agents and agencies (and editors and imprints) by seeing their deal history and marketplace performance. Hundreds of new deal reports posted every week.

Poets & Writers Literary Agent Database. Free. List includes agents and literary agencies that represent poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers, plus details about the kind of books they’re interested in representing, their clients, and the best way to contact them.

Happy Hunting!

Dianne Ochiltree is an award-winning children’s author and writing coach. Learn more about her books and her critique services at Read her previous guest blog on how to choose your next big writing idea.