Five ways to find a literary agent

28th June 2009
3 min read
10th December 2020

You've written your manuscript. It's as good as it's going to be. It's time to get it out into the real world – and you need an agent.


Many mainstream publishers no longer read work that isn’t represented, which is where the literary agent comes in. Find yourself a good agent and they’ll use their experience to match your work with the best publishing house, and push to get the best deal for you.

If you’re new to the writing game, these are my five pointers, based on my experiences of the industry (others will have their own tips but these are mine and I'm sticking to them) – for finding yourself an agent:

  1. Know your writing By this I mean, consider what you have written. What genre is it? Which other authors' work do you admire? Try to match your title to an agent who is known for the sort of work you are aiming to get published.
  2. Be as original as can be
    You’ll need your own voice if you want to be taken on by an agent, so don’t try too hard to emulate works already on their list. There’s a fine line between drawing inspiration from published authors and a lack of originality! – and it can be frustrating for an agency to receive imitations of the style and tone of their bestsellers.
  3. Speed read the thank-yousA quick way to track down an author's agent is to look at the dedication and thanks pages in their books - they normally mention their agent (particularly if theirs is a solid working relationship!)
  4. Choose your preferred style
    Agencies vary in size, location and personal style. Although agents work happily with clients at any distance, consider how easy it would be to get to their offices. Would you rather be represented by a larger agency who has more services 'inhouse' - such as the ability to sell your work abroad, or a one person band, where you might develop a closer relationship?
  5. Refer to the experts. Use the Writers’ & Artists' Yearbook as a source of agents to approach (it carries a complete listing of all the UK agents you could hope for) as well as further advice from articles written by literary agents.

Finally, remember that if you sign up with an agency they should never ask you for money (read our post on vanity publishing vs self-publishing). But they may well suggest your work needs some editorial help, and will either make their own suggestions or recommend a professional who you would pay directly.

Good luck!

Writing stage


Thank you for this . I am a screenwriter and have several scripts with known directors and producers from Netflix and Universal etc . I sold seven scripts last month alone, I am now in search for an agent so will the above book give a list I should contact ?

Profile picture for user Chris_Torretto
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Christopher Torretto

If I still lived in London and had connections with the publishing world, it would be so easy to invite an agent for a drink or lunch. However I live in Israel and have had some traumatic experiences with agents: one left the country after taking her commission on the signing of a contract and I was left with a publisher who wouldn`t give me a publication date and eventually backed out; another expressed interest in getting me a Hebrew publisher for a non-fiction book I had published in the UK and then left it on her desk until an author with an (inferior) book in the same genre (but with a superior agent) beat me to it. Before I wrote the book that was eventually published in the UK, a London agent looked at it and said that she didn`t know how I could possibly write a full-length book on postnatal adjustment based on my synopsis. I eventually found a wonderful publisher who accepted my proposal, paid me an advance and sold a respectable number of copies (also in Spanish (until they went into the hands of the Receivers a couple of years later).

I have just finished writing a novel and with just the list of agents and publishers in front of me am confused. Some of the better agents have full lists. Some publishers are waiting to see which way the wind blows with the e-books.

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Wendy Blumfield

Well, the best way to find literary agents here on our site is to try the Advanced Search option, which you can do straight away so long as you are a registered user.

Just go to Advanced Search, key in your choice of 'keyword' in the Full Text Search field and pick All Literary Agents or Literary Agents Overseas from the dropdown menu under Category.

Most UK and US agents will sell work into the Indian market, but only as a sub-right of the work that they are promoting in their home territories. Hope that helps!

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Claire Fogg