top of page

How to find the right agent for you and your book

Words: Amanda Reynolds

You’ve written your book, well done. Not many do, finish that is. And you have. And you’ve polished and edited and asked people to read and you truly think it’s the best you can make it. It’s time to send it out into the world and that means, in most cases, submitting to a literary agent. But first, what do you need to do to ensure you not only secure the services of a top literary agent (no mean feat), but also the right one for you?

It’s easy to think that getting an agent is so nightmarishly difficult you should try them all, pleading if necessary, hoping that one will take pity on you, especially when those rejections inevitably begin to land in your much-refreshed In-box. But the relationship you build with your agent is one that will likely span your whole writing career, so tread carefully. It’s important that you can work with them, and that they can work with you.

Read more: It's OK to fall out of love with your work. It will make you a better writer

Most agents will help their authors to get their manuscripts into the best possible shape before submitting to commissioning editors at publishing houses. This is in everyone’s interest as relationships are built on trust, and editors rely on agents to only send them their authors’ finest work. This means that your first editing experience will be with your new agent.

Before you submit anywhere you need to know that your agent will offer you this editorial expertise. (Personally, I haven’t come across any reputable agent that wouldn’t.) You also need to check that they represent your type of work, so research the other authors they have on their books and see what they have sold in the past. Does it feel like they will ‘get’ your book and will be a champion of you and your vision?

Another important consideration is do they have a good track record of selling foreign rights for their authors. It’s not something I had thought much about when I first began looking for an agent, it felt presumptuous to consider at such an early stage, but it’s been a huge part of my career so far, with deals struck for translations in many countries by the wonderful team who represent me. There are also other rights to consider such as film and TV. Does the agent you’re querying look after these for their clients, and have they some successes already?