A dog looking at a notebook computer screen If you are hoping to get published, you will most likely benefit from being represented by a literary agent. Fortunately, finding a literary agent is a relatively easy task, so long as you have a strong manuscript. That’s the difficult part! With just a small amount of research you should be able to find someone who represents authors working in the same genre as you, someone who will work effectively on your behalf and, since this is likely to be a long-term relationship, someone who you will be comfortable working with. So, assuming you’ve got your manuscript in shape, what’s next?

One approach to finding a literary agent is to search on the internet. Literary agents generally list their specialties on their website. You may also find a list of the authors they represent, a description or history of the agency, and possibly even a photograph. Alternatively, compile a list of agents who have represented authors who write in the same vein as you. Most authors acknowledge their agent and members of their publishing team, usually at the end of the book. You can then go to their website to find out more about them. Your aim is to compile a list of the agents who would most likely be interested in picking you up as an author. That means prioritising those literary agents who are clearly interested in your type of work, aren’t too busy, and show an interest in new writers. Any agent you approach will appreciate that you have made the effort to find an appropriate match.

To give yourself the best chance of being picked up by a literary agent you need to be able to clearly communicate your manuscript’s ‘hook’. Every book needs a really good reason for the reader to be interested in it. That’s your ‘hook’. Your hook should be simple – the simpler the better. What makes your book unique? What’s the main theme? If you could tell an agent one thing about your book, what would it be? What do readers really need to know about it for them to care enough to read it? A literary agent will remember a strong, clearly communicated hook. They know that if your hook appeals to them it is also likely to appeal to publishers, which is what you are both aiming for.

A strong ‘literary CV’ (Curriculum Vitae) can also help you get noticed and give you an edge. You may have had some shorter works published, such as poems, short stories or articles. List these in your CV, along with competition wins or places and relevant courses you have completed. These will all help to show that you are a publishable writer.

When you approach a literary agent it’s important you follow their submission guidelines. These can usually be found on their website. If the agent hasn’t published any submission guidelines you can send an email briefly outlining your project and offering to send a synopsis of your manuscript. You should also include a few biographical details. Keep the email formal, addressing the agent by name and closing the email with ‘kind regards’ or ‘yours sincerely’. Before pressing ‘send’, make sure everything has been proofread. You want to make a good impression.

These days it’s okay to send out multiple submissions to literary agents. The important thing is to get your manuscript out there.

Most literary agents will acknowledge receipt of your submission. Those that don’t will generally say so in their submission guidelines. Once your submission has been received you need to be patient. It may take a little while for the agent to get to it, so it’s best not to send any follow-up emails for several weeks.

If you are fortunate you may have several literary agents interested in you. Take a little time to get to know them. This could be a lifetime relationship. Who do you feel most at ease with? Who do you think will best look after your interests? If you find the right agent you will always have someone on your side, encouraging you and doing their best for you.

Remember, everything written here is immaterial if you don’t have a strong manuscript. If your manuscript is strong, and you follow these guidelines, you should have no problems in finding a literary agent. So, before you do anything else, make sure your manuscript is up to scratch.