How to Get A Literary Agent, or What I Learned These Past Six Months


I've been waiting to say those words for years. YEARS. Like twenty of them. Sure, when I was ten, the agent I wanted was one for child actors, but the fact that an agent brought legitimacy to an artistic career was something I recognize at an early age.

Sure enough, the minute I got an agent, people who had thought this writing thing was just something I said I did to avoid a "real" employment, started referring to writing as my job. Only "legitimate" writers get agents.

While the concept that only agented writers are legitimate is total bullocks, and while I think anyone who writes is a Big Deal, there is something to be said for the professionalism the steps needed to get an agent take.

To get an agent, I had to take myself seriously as a writer. I had to see my blog as a business, see myself as a brand I was building, and I had to make room in my life for my writing.

Whether you want an agent or not, the things writers have to do to get an agent forces them to think about their book as a complete product they are selling. Not every writer wants to sell themselves, but if you want to pay your bills as a writer, you need to have a polished idea of who you are and what you have to offer others.

The process of writing a book proposal forces you to pinpoint specifics, instead of living in the vague world fo fluffy words us authors often reside. Having a good writing coach or agent by your side will help you refine and build your platform even more.

Plus, it just sounds really cool to say "my agent" to people.

So, how do you get an agent? Heck if I know. I'm still learning this whole publishing world thing.  But here's what I did to get one.

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How To Get A Literary Agent

By Lauren Marie Fleming (and people who know what they're talking about)

Step One: Write Something

2013-06-12 12.23.28 Agents sell your work. If there is no work, there is nothing to sell. So write.

Write like a mother fucker.

Write all the time, as often as you can. Set your alarm an hour early. Go to bed an hour later. Sell your TV. Get rid of Netflix. Download Freedom and Antisocial to keep you from wasting time on the Internet.

Join a writing class, or start a writing group, find something or someone that's going to hold you accountable for setting and meeting word count or chapter goals.

Keep a journalwith you at all times. Get The Artist's Way Starter Kit.

Announce to the world, to everyone you know, what times you write and ask them to not contact you or tempt you away during that time. Set your phone to Do Not Disturb. 

Do whatever it takes to write and write often, because it's the most important part of the publishing process.

Step Two: Create a Book Proposal for "Something"

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I learned everything I know about book proposals from two places.

The first was the Internet. I found 100 million articles swearing to be from the top-most expert in the field of getting a literary agent. Soon, I was overwhelmed and defeated, with no idea how to proceed.

My second source was a lot more helpful. Her name is Brooke Warner and she is my writing coach. Coaches haven't always been my thing. I wasn't athletic, I wasn't looking for someone to point my life in the right direction, so I never had need for a coach before. But Brooke, and the Write Your Memoir in Six Months class I took from her, helped me pinpoint my book's purpose and theme. If you can't take a class or afford a writing coach, Brooke has a book that's also helped me: What's Your Book?: A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author.

While I used Brooke, there are plenty of other amazing writing coaches and blog to book professionals and people out there that have been there and can help you along your way. Find someone, even if it's just a friend, who will help you have perspective and think of this from a business standpoint.

Until you find someone, check out BlogHer's Pathfinder Day transcripts from the Blog to Book and the Blog as a Business sections. I spoke during 2012 and know 2013 has some great information as well. 

To get you started, here are the sections your book proposal needs. You can start working on amplifying these sections now, before you even start your book or are looking for an agent.

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