Agent Advice

In our Agent Advice feature, some of the best literary agents in the country answer the questions most frequently asked by writers about how to get published.


Is it not expedient to send a sample chapter of a novel-in-progress, to find out where interest might lie, rather than wait until you've got it all done, and then maybe spend the next five years sending out queries?

Since we agents have such heavy reading (and the lion's share of that reading is material we won't ultimately take on) you shouldn't go on a fishing expedition with a work-in-...

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Is it possible to find an agent for a novel if you don't have a website or social network platform?

Yes, it's absolutely possible. If an agent loves your book enough, he or she will sign you, and the two of you can work together on any platform issues, if necessary, before...

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Is there a market for just plain funny fiction? Or does it have to fit into a genre such as mystery or literary fiction?

Oh, there’s a market—it’s just so damn hard to crack. Nothing is as subjective as humor, hands down. Even if the acquiring editor thinks the project is funny...

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Why does a writer need an agent?

Publishing, at its best, is a team effort. The agent is the writer’s first professional reader and, in most cases, first editor. Ideally, a writer should pick an agent who has...

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At what point is an author justified in ending his relationship with his agent?

Writers leave their agents, and vice versa, for any number of reasons, so the point at which to do so varies. If you do decide it’s time to end the relationship, it’s wise to...

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I’ve made revisions to a novel that change it in significant ways, including a name change. Is it bad form to submit it to some agents who asked for the manuscript before but passed on it?

I think you can query agents with the same book if you feel it’s been significantly improved. You should be up front, however, with the fact that they have previously seen a...

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Do you think it’s a good idea for people who are not completely confident in their work to make an attempt at soliciting an agent? Is it worth the effort to try? Which raises the question: What evidence would one need to consider oneself worthy in the first place?

Think about it this way: If only supremely confident people attempted to put their work out there, then we’d hardly have any books. Is it worth the effort to try? As I once...

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Do you like it when a writer draws a parallel between the writer’s manuscript and other books that have been published?

I love it. These comparisons give me insight into the writer’s influences and what kind of novel the writer has crafted. In some cases, particularly when a writer compares the...

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How widely should a writer be published and how large a body of work should she accumulate before it is time to consider finding an agent?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule. You don’t even need an agent to get your novel published. Independent and university presses publish amazing writers, and some people self-...

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Should I have my work professionally edited before I present it to an agent?

Most of the material agents see is not professionally edited. However, it’s not unheard of, and the instinct to have your work looked at is a good one, as you really want to...

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