Perfect Fit: Looking for a Literary Agent by Kathy Ide

Posted by on Dec 9, 2015 | 1 comment

Perfect Fit: Looking for a Literary Agent by Kathy Ide

Finding a literary agent is a somewhat intimidating task, in particular for a new author. My guest, Kathy Ide, shares some valuable information on how to look for an agent, as well as thing you should not do. We would love to hear your comments!



Wandering Wednesdays

If you want your book manuscript to be considered by a big traditional publishing house, you need an agent. But how do you find the right one for you?

First, let me tell you what not to do. Never pick up the phone and cold-call. Agents hate that. Unless you are a well-known, established, hugely successful author looking for a new agent, it’s best to start your search with a query letter.

Keep your letter relatively short, preferably one page. It should be well written and impeccably neat.

If you’ve met the agent at a writers’ conference or similar event, or if another author or editor has referred you, mention that right up front.

Give a brief description of your project. Emphasize a “marketing hook” that will pique the agent’s interest. Does your book fill a niche in the market? Is your premise likely to attract a wide audience? Do you have a bThe Perfect Fit 2ackground that makes you uniquely qualified to write the book?

Include biographical information and credentials. Go ahead and toot your horn. It is virtually impossible for an agent to sell a book written by someone with no experience. Tell the agent if you have a degree in creative writing, if you know a few popular authors who would write endorsements for your book, if you have any publication credits, or if your writing has won any contests or awards. As a Christian, the idea of promoting yourself may not sound very appealing, but you’re going to have to get over that if you want to see your book published. And after you get published, you will need to promote yourself and your book in order to boost sales. You can tell people what God has done with the writing talents He has given you without coming across as a prideful bragger of your own accomplishments.

If you are writing nonfiction, credentials are even more vital than with fiction. A publisher will have a hard time selling your book unless you have some sort of speaking platform already in place. A local column or radio show is a great start, but a nationally syndicated radio show or column, or a regular lecture circuit that includes large groups across the country, or an impressive social media or Web presence, will appeal far more to publishers (and, hence, to agents). If you don’t have the kind of credentials you need, start small and build from there.

If you write history or biography or other narrative nonfiction, affiliation with a major publication or prestigious learning institution, and published credits on your topic (in print or online), will go a long way toward impressing a publisher or agent.

Agents get hundreds of submissions every month or even every week, so if you can make yours stand out in a positive way, you’ll be a step ahead. However, avoid cutesy stuff like graphics of kittens or teddy bears (unless you’re doing a book about kittens or teddy bears). Look professional.

Do your research. Go to the agent’s website, or find the agency’s listing in a writer’s market guide, and carefully read the writers’ guidelines.

Find out what type of books the agent represents, and don’t send something that’s outside those parameters.

Some agents accept e-mail queries; others prefer snail mail. Some agents want only a query letter to start; others want a synopsis with the query letter; some prefer to skip the stand-alone query and receive a proposal with sample chapters or the complete manuscript. Send exactly what the agent’s writer’s guidelines specify—no more, no less.

Most important: Carefully proofread everything you send to a prospective agent. Make sure there are no typos, inconsistencies, or inaccuracies. And follow the industry-standard guidelines for punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling (what I call “PUGS”). My book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors can be a tremendous help with this. You may want to consider having your query professionally edited or at least professionally proofread.

Don’t hesitate to query several suitable agents simultaneously. You don’t have to limit yourself to one at a time.

Follow up with an e-mail if you don’t hear back after four or five months (or whatever lead time is specified in the agent’s writers’ guidelines).

About the author:

Kathy IdeKathy Ide is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker. In addition to being the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, she is the editor/compiler for the new Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. Kathy is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network ( and the Christian Editor Connection ( To find out more about Kathy, visit

Connect with Kathy:


Twitter: @ KathyIde



Book Link:



One Comment

  1. This is great information. Thanks so much for sharing.

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