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Landing a Literary Agent

For those looking at getting their book traditionally published, the first step is to find a literary agent. An agent works as your advocate during the publishing process. Their job is to pitch you and your manuscript to editors, negotiate your advance & publishing contract, and support you throughout the process of getting your book into the world. Now the trick is to find the right agent for your unique book.

Step by Step


There are many ways to find agents. Your goal is to find someone who will be just as passionate about your book as you are. Find someone who already represents the kind of books you want your book to be compared to. Look in the acknowledgments of your favorite books and authors will typically thank their agent. You can google these names and see if they are currently open for submissions. You can also use Publishers Marketplace, for a small fee, and look at recent book deals that have been announced. This will give you a sense of who is currently making deals and actively working. Another way to find literary agents is by looking at QueryTracker. It is a free resource where agents can specify what they are looking for. The search engine is great for helping you narrow down someone looking for your genre, and they have a filter for agents looking for LGBTQ stories.

Write a Query Letter

There are many blogs with advice for query letters, so I will keep this simple:

  • Greeting: Keep it simple. Here is where you show that you know their name.
  • Just the Facts: Describe your manuscript’s genre, word count, number of POVs and any other simple details. If you are pitching this particular agent because of something else they represent or because you saw them express interest in a particular type of project, bring it up here. You can also mention if you are pitching them based on a referral from someone they know.
  • Quick Pitch: Summerize your manuscript like you would see on the jacket of a book. No longer than a paragraph, you will want to provide enough information to spark their interest in learning more and reading further, but you don’t need to tell the whole story. In fact, don’t tell the whole story. The agent will ask for your manuscript if they want to read on.
  • Author Credentials: Here is where you provide your simple biography and any credentials that might show that you know how to write. Have you been to a writer’s retreat like the Lambda Literary Writer’s Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices? Name drop away! Also include any publication credits or anything else that shows that you are involved in the world of literature.
  • Any relevant personalization: This is where you can gush about why this person is your dream agent or how this book is a perfect fit for them. You can talk about why you are so excited to get this book out into the world.

Overall, you want to keep the query letter pretty short; no longer than a page printed out. Your goal is to capture the agent’s attention fast and not waste their time. Don’t be afraid to workshop your letter to make sure you are striking the right balance.

Pitch Yourself to Agents

Once you have your query letter written and your list of agents prepared, it is time to start reaching out. People often advise sending out in rounds. Pick your top 5 to 10 agents to send your query letter. Typically, an agent only wants a query letter and they will reach out if they want you to send your manuscript. Be sure you are reading their submission guidelines carefully to make sure you are sending exactly what that particular agent is looking for. Wait about three months, make any edits based on the feedback you get, and do it again.

Responding to Feedback

When responding to a query, an agent has a number of ways to respond. They can ignore, reject, or request your manuscript, whether the first part or the whole draft. Once they have had time to review your draft, an agent can reject it, ask for a revision & resubmission, or offer representation. This whole process can take months! If you haven’t heard from someone after six months, you can send a follow-up email, but not sooner than that.

Make a Contract with Your Agent

Remember, a contract is a legal document. Make sure you read through your contract and understand exactly what you are signing. The Author’s Guild has some useful resources, but you are welcome to get the contract looked at by a legal professional. Your relationship with your agent is a professional one, and everyone should be clear what your expectations are with one another. Now is the time to ask questions and clarify what is going into your relationship. Remember, your agent is an expert and their job is to help you have the best career as a writer as possible.

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