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A caveat: the right literary agent for you is the one who has a good track record with the type of book you’re writing. Make sure the agent you’re considering is a member of the Association of Author Representatives (AAR). To belong to AAR, an agent needs to have a successful track record and abide by a specified ethical code. See

1.  Get discovered! Write articles for major magazines. Submit an essay for the “My Turn” column in Newsweek. Write articles, columns, and op-ed pieces for newspapers. For fiction writers, submit stories to literary magazines. Make sure your byline references the type of book you’re writing.

2.  Attend writer’s conferences where agents are present.

3.  To find lists of agents and the types of books they represent, research the following guides: 2010 Writer’s Market, Literary Marketplace, 2010 Guide to Literary Agents, Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman, and  Literary Agents by John F. Baker.

4.  Go to the section of the bookstore where your book would be shelved. Look in the acknowledgments section of a book similar to yours. Reference that book in a complimentary way when you send a query letter to the agent.

5.  Read Publisher’s Weekly. It tells you which agents have sold projects for large advances. You can also receive an email newsletter. See

6.  Look in publishers’ catalogs to see which agents handle the rights for certain types of books.

The common way to query an agent is with a one-page letter. (Be sure to enclose an SASE.) It takes a lot of research and time to find the right agent, but it’s well worth your effort. Literary agents are the gatekeepers to the publishing world. You won’t be able to interest a large house in publishing your book without agent representation. Good luck!

2010 June Cotner, publishing consultant and author of the bestselling Graces and Dog Blessings and 24 other books. PO Box 2765, Poulsbo, WA 98370

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