– by Tim Beals
The hardest part of the entire process can be identifying the best agent for your work. But there is no shortcut. Do your research, starting with these resources:
- Guide to Literary Agents (Writer’s Digest Books). A reference book published annually. Contains a comprehensive list of agents. Provides limited information on each agent.
- Writers’ Handbook (JP&A Dyson). A reference book published annually. Includes a complete list of agents for the US market, plus separate entries for literary representatives in Canada, the UK, and Ireland.
- Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books). A reference book published annually. Includes a much shorter list of agents, but each agent’s interests, specialties, and credentials are described in detail.
- Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents (New World Library). A reference book, now in its 27th Edition. Includes a comprehensive list of agents, including their interests, specialties, and experience—over 300 pages long!
- For an online list of top agents and agencies, visit the website of the Association of Authors’ Representatives at aaronline.org.
Specialized Lists of Agents:
- Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books). A reference book published annually. Contains a list of many agents who handle material for children and young adults. Each listing is very thorough.
- Christian Writers Market Guide (Christian Writers Institute). A reference book published annually. Includes a chapter called “Literary Agents” with a list of agents and agencies representing Christian authors.
- Dramatists Sourcebook (Theatre Communications Group). A reference book now in its 26th edition. Includes many agents who handle material for the stage.
You are also encouraged to ask other people for information on agents they have worked with or know. Ask about agents’ effectiveness, responsiveness, willingness to stick with a project, knowledge of the market, strengths, and weaknesses. People you might talk to include:
- Writers you know
- Editors and publishers with whom you have established a professional relationship (even if you’ve never sold them anything)
- Members, officers, and staff of any professional writers’ organization to which you belong
- College professors of creative and professional writing. Many of these people have agents or knowledge of and experience with agents
- Faculty and organizers of writers’ conferences and events.
Tim Beals, “Agenting 101: The What, Why, When, and Hows of Literary Representation” in Jot That Down: Encouraging Essays for New Writers ed. A.L. Rogers (Grand Rapids: Caffeinated Press, 2017), 116–117.