This inside look at literary agencies from a literary agent was written by Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group exclusively for Texas Authors & Indie Beacon.
A literary agent exists to provide services to authors. This may include—but is not limited to—performing book sales, giving editorial guidance, making book-to-Film/TV sales, doing foreign rights deals, facilitating contract negotiation via a contracts or business affairs department, handling accounting & information tracking, making audiobook deals, handling eBook sales & marketing, as well as general publishing management for authors.
Clearly, writers need literary agents—and literary agents need writers—but how to go about approaching a literary agency?
Research literary agents on highly credible websites, such as Publishers Weekly or Publishers Lunch/Publishers Marketplace
One of the best ways to look up literary agents and literary agencies is by using the Publishers Lunch/Publishers Marketplace database, since it breaks deals performed by literary agents and literary agencies down into subcategories of fiction, subcategories of nonfiction, subcategories of children’s books and even subcategories of graphic novels and digital publishing. All of us in major trade book publishing consider the site to be something of a giant book publishing rolodex since many literary agents and literary agencies have their contact details listed on that site. The viewer can sort the information by a list of top 100 literary agents or top 100 literary agencies in the categories of volume of deals in a six-, twelve- or all-time overall time period. There’s also a category for six-figure+ deals in an all-time overall time period, especially if an aspiring writer looking to become a published author is looking for a literary agent or literary agency that does book deal-making at a very high level of money. The viewer can see the date a book deal was made, with which book publisher, as well as a description of the book deal. Publishers Lunch is really the proof in the pudding when looking to test a literary agency’s mettle.
Visit a literary agency’s website to learn more about them and their individual literary agents
It’s good to read up on a particular literary agent or literary agency on their website. Contained there will be a company profile, as well as bios of the individual literary agents at the company. Pay particularly close attention to the type of books the agency and the agent represent by looking at the client list of the company, as well as their latest releases. The literary agency will often list off the services they perform for authors there, too. Follow the literary agency’s submission guidelines
Every literary agency will keep their own set of submission guidelines on their website. For instance, most agencies tend to prefer receiving query letters via an online submissions form or via email. Very few agencies are still accepting self-addresses stamped envelopes containing a query letter. Some literary agencies might ask for a synopsis with a submission, whereas most will not. Other agencies might want a ten-page sample with a submission, while others will not. Every literary agency is differs in their submission guidelines. Above all, as a part of the submissions guidelines process, do not call or show up unannounced. Most literary agencies do not appreciate this and will not accept unsolicited visits from an author in person.
Build out your network/community of published authors, in order to get referred to an author’s literary agent
Most literary agents prefer to meet potential author clients via referrals since the highest quality of submissions tend to come about that way. Usually, a published author that is a client of the literary agent, or even an editor at a book publishing house, will be in touch with what’s currently working well in the marketplace and will therefore know what a literary agent is looking for. An aspiring author might need to ask a friend that is a publishing industry professional for a referral.
As a part of building out one’s network, attending conferences and workshops is helpful for meeting other authors. Also, a lot of literary agents will also look at awards given out at writers’ conferences to unpublished writers. For instance, SCBWI offers one such award for aspiring children’s book authors and The Master’s Review offers a series of awards for unpublished authors of fiction.
Write an amazing query letter
I actually find that an author that has written a knock-out query letters work the best, since it lends a flavor for who the author is, what the book is about, and the query letter is above all, a sample of what the author’s writing is like. Those are just a few of the reasons why I’ve taught query letter writing and hook writing workshops at numerous writers conferences and have offered query letter instructions so some popular writing sites. I also maintain a blog with many helpful author resources on query letter writing and how to find a literary agent at Talking Books: Literary Agent Mark Gottlieb on the Book Business. The very best submissions I’ve found have been from unsolicited query letter submissions via the Trident Media Group submissions form.
Mark Gottlieb has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on Publishers Marketplace in Overall Deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his own client list of authors of fiction and nonfiction. Mark is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. Since his time at TMG, he has represented numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold numerous books to film and TV production companies. Mark Gottlieb is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres.