6 Tips for Pitching a Book to a Literary Agent

If you want to sell your book to a literary agent, make sure you are giving them exactly what they want. Approaching the task haphazardly is a road to certain failure.

1) Pitch the right manuscript to the right agent

Just like different publishers and imprints specialize in certain genres, literary agents have genres they prefer to represent as well. Sending a query for your romance novel to an agent who only works with nonfiction is a waste of your time and theirs.

How do you find out which agents are a good fit for your book? Do some research! Spend a few hours in the library of bookstore and look through the acknowledgment pages of authors that write books similar to yours. Many of them will thank their agent on that page. Make a list of all the agent names you can find. When you've got a reasonable list, you'll want to look those agents up at agentquery.com or everyonewhoisanyone.com, www.writersmarket.com/agents or in the newest edition of the Guide to Literary Agents from Writers Digest.

When you query those agents, you can include in your cover letter that you know they agent for author X, and might be interested in your books as well, as you write in a similar genre and style. While this won't give your proposal any better odds once it's read, at least it shows you've done your homework.

2) Send your pitch in whatever manner they like to be pitched

It isn't so hard to find out whether an agent prefers snail mail, email, two pages plus a cover letter, first chapter plus a cover letter, plain text, PDF, or any other format. Sending them your pitch in a way that's friendly and convenient for them (rather than what's easiest for you!) is a good start.

3) Have a finished product.

Do not approach agent with 'great idea' for a fiction book. Be sure to have a complete (and perfected) manuscript before you start pitching. While well-known authors, or writers with an impressive track record, and even non-fiction writers can often pitch a good idea with a few sample chapters, a first-time fiction writer doesn't get that luxury.

4) Be a person they'd want to work with.

While this might seem obvious, it needs to be said. Correspond in a courteous, professional manner at all times. Don't stalk, and don't appear to be crazy.

Avoid paranoid talk about people censoring you because you haven't found a publisher, or even expressing your fears that the agent, or publisher, or a random person in their office will steal your book.

Simply put, be professional about what you do, and treat the agent as a professional as well.

5) Have a brilliant proposal

The perfect format, the right agent, the finished book and a professional demeanor won't help a whit if your book proposal is lackluster. Spend the time to write an enticing proposal that will snag the interest of the agent quickly.

6) Include your contact information

Again this seems obvious, but it isn't uncommon for agents to receive packages with vague contact details or only a hand-scrawled address on the envelope. Make sure to include your name, postal address, email address, mobile and home phone numbers, web site address, and any other method that could be used to contact you.

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