Literary Agent Tip #1: DO YOUR RESEARCH

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I’ve pitched about 10 literary agents, as of today. Ten. Literary agents.

They include the reps for Gillian Flynn, Stephenie Meyer (we both live in Phoenix!), John Green, Dan Brown, and James Dashner.

Prepare the automated rejections!

But seriously, these folks are top, top grade agents. And why not start with the best? Which leads me to the first lesson I learned upon my quest for a book deal:

Do your literary agent research BEFORE finishing your book!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t consider my book complete until finishing the first draft and editing it. Therefore, I ended my book, stepped away for a month, then started the editing/rewriting process.

It was during this month—between finishing the draft and editing—that I began my literary agent research. And here’s how I did it:

  1. Decided the genre which best described my book
  2. Deciphered the audience (YA, new adult, middle grade, adult fiction, etc.)
  3. Brainstormed which published books were similar to mine
  4. Googled their authors’ names with the term “literary agent” (i.e. John Green literary agent)
  5. Got the agent’s name and visited his/her website

Then, I created an Excel spreadsheet.

I used to work as a public relations professional in corporate communications. Whenever we were preparing a splash, we always developed a list of target reporters, their beats, and their contact information … all wrapped with a bow in an Excel spreadsheet.

We separated these reporters into “tiers:”

  • Tier one consisted of reporters who covered stories most aligned with our pitch. They also had the largest reach, or influence.
  • Tier two expanded further out, and included reporters who worked for community publications with a smaller reach.
  • And so on …

As I began compiling my list of literary agents, I did the same thing, preparing everything in Excel. My thought was this: once editing is complete, I’ll have a list of top tier, and second tier, literary agents to begin pitching.

And now that I’ve reached the moment of truth, I can tell you … this works, kid!


Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

4 responses to “Literary Agent Tip #1: DO YOUR RESEARCH”

  1. Welcome back to the blog world, Shari! I bet nothing has changed. I would love to see a post on how it felt to step away and how it feels to be back. Did you stay off social media a lot more, too?

    1. Hey Nina, thank you! It feels good to be back. 🙂 GREAT idea for a blog post. I didn’t even think about that. I wrote it into my lineup for post ideas; stay tuned, as I’ll write something on my year’s break. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Securing an agent is a booger. Thanks for the tips!

    1. It IS a booger! 🙂 Thanks for reading, I’m glad the tips were helpful!

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