The first step after you’ve finished your manuscript is to find a literary agent.
This will mean querying agents. Most agents require a cover letter, synopsis, and the first 10,000 words of a manuscript. (Querying).
Finding a literary agent can be like dating. You want to find an agent who you can trust – someone who loves your work and shares the same vision for your writing. It’s not an agent’s job to find a publisher for every writer or to get books published. An agent’s job is to build a list of writers and be champion their careers. There’s a clear distinction between the two.
Most literary agents specialise in certain genres; remember that agents are readers, and their lists are focused around their tastes. The most practical way of finding an agent – find out who represents writers that are similar to your own work. You can usually find this on the acknowledgements page of any book.
Many agents also travel to writers’ festivals and panels where they will discuss what they’re looking for. Agents usually also advertise what they’re looking for in interviews – so it’s worth reading about different literary agents and seeing if their tastes fit with your work.
Remember that agents receive dozens of queries each week and that they are reading in their free time, so make a strong case for why you’ve chosen a particular agent.
*It’s worth checking how legitimate a literary agent is – do your research. Check writers’ forums and Writer Beware.
Look on www.publishersmarketplace.com to see if they’ve had recent deals.
There are agencies that are large and corporate, and there are agencies that have only a few agents or even agents who work on their own. It is important to consider that an agency has the capacity to process payments effectively and has a contracts team to review agreements.