Books Magazine

Resources for Finding Literary Agents

By Andyross

I get a lot of  unsolicited queries from writers, most of which I must respectfully reject. Many of these writers ask me if I can refer them to another literary agent. Usually I tell them to find a reputable and well-vetted website that has a data base of agencies and that includes information on whether an agency is currently open to new authors, the genres that they are specifically looking for, and whether the list is searchable  on some of these fields. These lists are all free. Here are a few of them that I like.

Association of Author Representatives   .  The Association of Author Representatives (AAR) is the trade association for American literary and dramatic agents. It has a searchable data base that includes important information about genres an agent works in, whether she is actively seeking new projects, submission guidelines, and other relevant information. The AAR list is very selective, only 350 agencies are listed members. In order to become a member of the AAR, you must have sold at least 10 books in the 18 months prior to your application (this is a significant hurdle).  You must get a written  recommendation  by 2 other AAR members, and you must agree to a rather stringent code of ethics. A lot of the members are from large agencies. But many are not. If an agent is a member of AAR, you can usually assume that the agent is a fulltime and reputable agent. However many good and successful agents are not members of AAR. So you need not limit yourself to this small list of agents. (I’m a member of AAR and proud of it!)

Agentquery.com  . This site has a much larger list of agents than AAR.  It has over 900 agents listed. It is also vetted, so most, if not all, of these agents are reputable and full time. It has a great searchable data base, and it is all free. It also has lots of other information that writers want including lists of agent blogs, information about writing effective query letters, how to identify scammers, and information on self-publishing options, I like this site.

Preditors and Editors.   This is a very unusual site that has a long list of agents annotated with cautions against certain agencies. P&E  frequently gives details about why these “not recommended” agents have received this dubious honor. Some of these examples are pretty gruesome. The site explains criteria for including a negative rating. Some of those criteria are: agent charges fees, has burdensome engagement agreements, has tie-in arrangements with other fee charging entities, and a whole lot more. Some agencies have special “recommended” notations. But it is unclear what the criteria is for these qualifiers.

Querytracker.net.   Querytracker has a decent agent data base and some good information that will be useful for writers. It also has some interesting tracking information with statistics about how responsive a particular agent is with unsolicited queries. I’d take these statistics with a grain of salt. It is usually based on a very small sample by writers who take the time to report back to this site. Example. My report is based on 14 responses sent to the site. That is about as many queries as I receive every day. So this is not a particularly robust sample.  They also have some nifty chat rooms for authors. For $25 per year, you can receive their premium membership that offers some more reports and services. I generally advise against spending money on any of the sites. The information is usually available for free elsewhere.

Writer Beware.   This is not a list of agents. Rather it is a very good free resource that gives comprehensive advice on how to avoid scams by agents, editors, and publishers, along with good legal advice on your recourses. Some of this information is also available on other sites that we discussed above. But this one is particularly complete. It is on the site of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, but the information applies to all writers in all genres.


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