Writing Wednesdays: Literary Agents, part two - How to get one

Wondering how to get a literary agent? I share some tips in this post.

I’ll be honest: most of this is knowledge from research I did before I got my book deal, stuff that other authors have told me, and things I’ve been told since getting my book deal. I didn’t get my agent in the conventional way (as I’ll explain later). 

But, I’m going to do my best to help you understand what steps to take to get a literary agent.

If you didn’t catch the first instalment, click here to find out what literary agents actually do and why you need one.

As I said in my last post about literary agents, and in my post about traditional publishingmost major publishing houses will not accept submissions from just anyone – they have to have manuscripts sent in by literary agents.

You need to Google.

It took me about three days of solid Google-trawling to look at all the UK-based literary agencies I found (I think it was on the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook website). It will be very boring and very long but it will be very, very worth it.

Find a list of literary agents.

 Maybe start by your area, or start looking by your genre. Look for agencies who represent authors who also write in your genre. Also, look at their submission guidelines. They may not be looking for that genre right now. Or, maybe they’re expanding and even though they don’t currently have any authors who write sci-fi, they’re looking to start repping more sci-fi authors, and you’re in luck.

Make a list of any agencies who catch your eye. 

Write their name and website down in a Word document, or something. You’ll want to go back to them all later.

One thing you’ll probably notice in the submission guidelines is that most agencies want the same sort of submissions: a one-page synopsis, a query letter, and (typically) a three-chapter sample of your book. They might specify the first three chapters.


Make sure that your (first) three chapters are the best you think they can be.

Cultivate them and slave over them until you can do no more. And make sure you still love them by the end of it.

Write your synopsis.

It might help to write a blurb first for your book to get you started, and then you can develop that into your synopsis.

Check out this post for advice on writing a book blurb.

You can Google for help on writing your synopsis, too. One piece of advice I will give you is to maybe give the synopsis to a friend/teacher/whatever who hasn’t read your work and doesn’t know what it’s about, and ask them if they think it all makes sense and explains the plot and the storyline and the main characters. You’ll know your novel inside and out, so you might overlook the fact that you never talked about how the thing you mentioned at the beginning of the synopsis gets resolved.

As for your query letter... 

All the advice I’ve seen online says to NOT go on about how much your friend/mum/cousin liked it. BUT, if you’ve published it online at all and have maybe 50,000 hits and 10,000 followers, you should mention this. This is worth talking about. You’ve already got some fan base there supporting you. (But maybe don’t go on about it too much – a sentence or two should suffice!) 

You can find loads of help for these on Google, too. The query letter is there to sell you and your book, in a concise manner, so make the most of it.

Lauren James and Alice Oseman wrote a great post with some tips on writing a query letter. Check it out here.

Now, I can’t help very much on query letters and one page synopses. 

This is because I didn’t write either of those when I contacted agents. I’d been recommended some agents by authors/editors/etc. that I’d spoken to last summer and then I emailed these agents and basically said ‘Hi, I’m Beth Reekles. You may know me as the author of The Kissing Booth, which was a Wattpad sensation with 19 million reads and published by Random House… I’m now looking for an agent because… And you were recommended to me by… So I was wondering if you’d maybe be interested in having a chat.’

Of course, I said it in a much more professional manner, but that’s the gist of it. Then I attached a Word document outlining the things I’ve done since being published (which rights my books had sold, awards I was shortlisted for, being on the Time Most Influential Teens list in 2013, doing a panel at YALC – stuff like that).

For more on how I got published, check out this post.

That’s why I can’t help very much there. I’m very sorry about that. Honestly, I want to help – because I know when I was thinking about approaching agents because my book had like 10 million reads on Wattpad and I’d already been hired to write a short story, I really struggled with trying to write a query letter and a good synopsis. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

But, I have got a couple of awesome guest posts on the topic you might like to check out:

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