Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How To Find A Literary Agent

We're going back to basics today. Way back two years ago (!!) I wrote a post on how to find an agent, only I've never really been happy with that post and had always meant to replace it with a better one. Well, two years later, here we are.

So here goes. I give you........... How to Find A Literary Agent

Welcome to publishing, the land of books, writing, and agonizingly long waits. Pour yourself a drink. You're going to need it.

Step 1. If you are trying to find an agent and you are not a) a celebrity or b) a deity, you will need to have a finished and polished manuscript if you are writing a novel or memoir, and a finished and polished proposal and sample pages if you are working on a nonfiction project. Did I mention the finished and polished part? Well, you missed a spot. Go back and polish some more.

(Also, you might check out my guide to writing a novel while you're at it: How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever. On sale for just $4.99 at:

Amazon Kindle
Apple iBooks (coming soon!)
B&N Nook

Step 2. Ok, so you've finished and polished your manuscript so much it's shining like the top of the Chrysler Building. Now it's time to find an agent, right? Nuh uh. Time to learn about the publishing business.

Many aspiring authors feel that all they have to do is write a good book, sit back, and let the God of easy money and literary groupies take care of the rest. Not so! Before you embark on your quest for a literary agent, you should devote many, many hours to familiarizing yourself with the business, literary agents, editors, and anything else you can possibly do to discern how this unique industry operates. Luckily there is more information out there on the Internet than ever before.

Now, hopefully you took care of all this research as you were procrastinating while working on your manuscript. But honestly, in today's publishing clime it's just not enough to have written a good book. Treat this business seriously, because it is a business. Explore the links on the left side of this page, read blogs, talk to booksellers, attend conferences, get to know authors. If you do this BEFORE you try to find an agent your odds of success will increase dramatically, because you will ooze professionalism and knowledge, qualities that bode well for future successful writers.

Step 3. Finding that agent. There are many ways of going about this, and, believe it or not, none of them involve telling an agent they're a cutiepatootie. First off, we'll address referrals.

Referrals are a great way to find an agent, and for many of your more experienced/legendary agents they're darn near essential. And it's easy to see why -- you're coming in with an endorsement from someone the agent respects, you've got their attention, and you're more likely to get a thorough look.

How do you get a referral? It's kind of tricky. If you don't have preexisting personal connections, the best way to do this, especially if you live in a big city, is to get involved with local writers communities, fraternize with writers, and put yourself in a position where your work will be seen by other established writers. Genuinely (and not selfishly) invest in those writers and you may find that they will invest in you -- trust me, they remember what it was like to be an aspiring writer. If you don't live in a city, get your stories published in journals, become involved with writers' blogs and online writer's communities, and really invest in authors until you are virtual friends.

Now, notice that I didn't suggest the "e-mail random writers and ask for referrals out of the blue" approach, which has about a zero chance of success. These things have to evolve organically.

Step 4. No referrals? Time to write a query letter.

A query letter is a short letter that describes your work. Please consult this comprehensive post on how to write a query letter, and there are examples of good queries here and here and here. You should adapt and personalize your basic letter depending on which agent you're submitting to in order to demonstrate your aforementioned professionalism and knowledge. Which leads us to...

Step 5. Now you need to figure out who to submit to.

Here's a comprehensive post on how to research agents.

There are various resources on the Internet you can use (again, check out the links on the left side of the page and the how to write a query post) to narrow down the search. You should try to target agents who represent your genre, but avoid agents who previously represented something extremely/eerily similar to yours. Another way to target agents and get personalization fodder is to check the acknowledgments in your favorite books in your genre and see who represented those writers.

Before you submit, Google the agent and the agency to try and find their submission guidelines. If you find it, go precisely by what they ask for. If you do not find any information online, I'd just email the agent directly.

Step 6. Query widely. Don't blanket the town with your query unless you want to end up on Gawker, but agents assume you are going out there trying to find an agent. Also, you should limit your query to one agent per agency. After you've heard back, it's usually ok to re-query another agent at the agency if their submission guidelines don't suggest otherwise, but wait a couple of months.

Step 7. You wait. You want a request for a partial or full manuscript, and then you wait some more. You wait until you think you are physically going to die and/or commit a drastic crime. And then you get "the call!"

Now, chances are at this point you are going to be in a psychological state where you are ready to sign over a body part just to get an agent, and you will be predisposed to say "Yes, for crap's sake, yes!!". But take a step back, take your time, make sure you're very comfortable with the agent before you enter into one of the most important business relationships you will have in your life. You and your agent are going to have to seriously trust one another, so ask questions, don't be shy, and make sure you're ready.

That's it! You've done it! Now that wasn't so hard, was it? Oh. Wait. Yes, it was.

Please continue adding thoughts in the comments section, and if I missed something I'll update this post as needed.

Art: Portrait of Father by Bruno Liljefors


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Steph said...


Loved the revamped version of this post, Nathan. I don't see anything to add to it, but then again, I'm studying for finals, so I'm missing a large chunk of my brain.

Procrastination, over.

- Steph

Adaora A. said...

I love this blog.


Was that the query due to your 'physical appearance.' For shame. I would be wincing the whole way through typing such a letter.

I think I'll pour myself a cosmopolitan thanks! Is the glass chilled?

About Step 5: Ah yes! First person you query! I think this blog has a good handle on that. Majority of us are here because we have intentions to (or already have), queried you.

I think after we've spent days and weeks revising the query letter we should go out to celebrate. The whole buisness of waiting to hear from an agent can make you want to pull your hair out thanks to anxiety. The least we can do is let out hair down ahead of time so we don't break our scalp tugging viciously. Don't you think?

Josephine Damian said...

Steph: No finals for this grad student, neener-neener, and my 30+ page paper on forensic botany is done and will be in my prof's hot little hands tomorrow! Yay!

Good luck on your tests!

Nathan: Step 5. Now you need to figure out who to submit to. That's easy. Start with me.

And you wonder why you get a bazillion queries....?

Re: assisants - I still say you can hire some English major intern on the cheap, or get one of those virtual assisants who get paid by how ever many hours you want them to work and let him or her go through and eliminate the really bad queries, the one's for stuff you don't represent and the ones with rhetorical questions.

When you get to be my age, you'll realize however little money you have, you have even less time.

Adaora A. said...

Nathan don't hate me for saying this but I hope you never get an assistant (or at least not for the next 5 years so I can query you directly). The reason why I say that is I always feel it terribly nerve-wracking to think that the assistant of an agent would shove off a query because they thought the story was crap, and the agent I actually would love to have never got to read it. Do you know what I mean? How do you know that the assistant doesn't have a different taste or is having a bad day. Anything of consquence. Again, it's terribly selfish, but I like knowing that you - a great agent - would actually read it. Whether you reject it or not, at least I know your eyes saw it.

Am I alone in thinking this?

*covers eyes*

Nathan Bransford said...

Well, getting an assistant/intern isn't in the cards for me at the moment, but all the same I would be reluctant to pass up seeing all the queries myself just to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Josephine Damian said...

Adaora: Since I started out in screenwriting I'm well aware that the person opening, reading and screening queries (as well as manuscripts) is some barely-20-something still pimply-faced kid making the decisions to even let an agent see my letter.

It's a basic entry level position for future agents to learn how to assess story viability.

I think screening assistants are more the norm than the rarity. It's just a matter of time before our cutiepatootie blog host, Nate Dawg has one as well.

Adaora A. said...

That's not bad. It always makes me wonder with those things. I've heard some horror stories of sorts. Then again, these 'stories' could probably be considered hearsay or er... e-say when it comes to the internet, but there it is. Thanks for your response.

Adaora A. said...

@Jos - No really, you make a good point. I was just letting my (arguably, and self admitted selfish reasoning), be known. Let it be known, that I am nothing (aside from a writer and shopaholic), if not explicit (where I feel I need to be that is)!

Josephine Damian said...

Nathan: I made a bet with myself that was the reason. You're thinking: What if my assistant rejects the next Dan Brown.....

Still, didn't you start out as an agent's assistant? Didn't that agent/boss trust your judgement.....? My guess is: Yes, they did!

sl said...

An assistant doesn't necessarily have to handle queries. They can manage your schedule, run your errands, do your filing, organise your paper work...

Also get your coffee, pick up your dry-cleaning, locate that piece of paper you had in your hand yesterday, and order that table that you liked at that store...

Just kidding, that's a little too Devil-wears-Prada for me.

Administrative assistants can do whatever you'd like them to in order to ease your work load. You should become a dynamic team and work well in tandem with each other.

I've been an administrative assistant for a physician and a professional recruiter... job's pretty much the same. Take calls. Do schedule. File. Fax. File. File.


Thank you for this post, Nathan. It's definitely helpful for the hopefuls out there, and the tone is optimistic. I've had fantasy/paranormal/whatevertheywanttocallit authors tell me quite candidly that they had to go through 30-50 queries before they heard even ONE response. This is certainly not a business for the faint of heart. But for the passionate? Most definitely.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I'd aware the #6 can take years. And you can get many agents interested enough to read the full manuscript and even offer revision suggestions...and it will still take many months (and maybe still years).

Jordyn said...

Ah, good post! Question: What are some of the ESSENTIAL questions we should be asking prospective agents when we get "the call"?

Sera Phyn said...

I have a question that is partially related to this post, but mostly not. I apologize in advance for that, I truly do.

You mention connections and referrals, but what if, after you've used up your agent connections, the only ones left are direct to the publisher. What if (and no this hasn't happened yet. It's hypothetical at the moment) is interested and makes an offer and you are STILL agentless? Could you go back to someone who thought it was pretty good and even went so far as to read the full and offered revision suggestions, but rejected it? Is it better in this situation to have someone to negotiate potential contracts or should you just look into hiring a lawyer who was well versed in publishing law rather than sign with an agent just because?

And, if you have any tips for talking directly to a publishing house, I am totally all ears. The possibility is lingering in front of me (hasn't materialized yet, but there is a glimmer of hope) and I recognize that I am completely in over my head. I learned a lot about the publishing business in the last six months, but I'm still a complete newb.

Help? Please?

Nathan Bransford said...


BookEnds has a fabulous post on questions you should ask your prospective agent.

sera phyn-

Yes, I'd say in that eventuality it's fine to go back to some agents or to new agents and tell them you have an offer in hand. If you can't find an agent you could hire a publishing attorney to negotiate the contract itself, or do it on your own and try and find an agent for your next project.

Sera Phyn said...

Thanks! I wasn't sure if there were etiquette rules in place for situations like that or not. I'll keep that in mind if it comes to that.

Do you have any tips for talking to the House? Just general things like the types of questions they ask about a new project? If you don't have the time to go into detail, I completely understand. Just thought I'd pick your brain for all the useful information I could. ;)

Thank you again, Nathan! I really appreciate your help.

Keri Ford said...

Jordyn, Kristin Nelson also did a couple of postings on her blog. I don't know how the questions vary, but here you go:

And for handling when you get an offer and you have materiel elsewhere:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...are there any Publisher blogs out there--like Simon & Schuster acquisition editor blogs as opposed to agent blogs?

Keri Ford said...

Here's a blog of 2 Red Sage editors. They were allowing you to submit an opening paragraph and they'd pick it apart.


Keri Ford said...

ack! sorry, my links are not working for me this evening!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Keri.

Katie said...

Got a quick query question. I've read just about every online query-writing article and (more importantly) blog post, and recent hit up against a new issue that one of you blogging agents mentioned for the first time.

He/she said to let the agent know if you were querying multiple agents. This caught me by surprise, because I thought that almost EVERYONE queried multiple agents at once, yet not one single "this is great" query letter mentioned that it was being queried elsewhere. I figured that this was taken for granted... until that agent last week mentioned it.

So what's your take, Nathan? Should we be somehow informing all agents we query that they are not the only ones we're querying?

Nathan Bransford said...


That's interesting. I just assume people are querying widely so no need to tell me that you're doing so. I guess I can't speak for other agents on this one though.

Katie said...

Okay. Thanks!

Adaora A. said...

Katie- I've heard it too. It's true. I've researched so many agents over the light of my sketchy table lamp and my laptop screen and more then a few agents do say to let them know (in the initial query letter), to let them know if this is a 'multiple query.' If you say it isn't (and obviously mean it), then they will reply quicker because time is of the essence. I think it's a different way of hoping for 'first dibs' on something magical.

Amy Nathan said...

I'm always amazed when agents blog about the crazy queries they get. I'm thinking those are not from the masses that are addicted to the internet, agent blogs, agency websites and writing groups. All you need to do is poke around for a nanosecond to find out what's a no-no.

Thanks for reiterating all this in one place.

Anonymous said...

"If you say it isn't [a multiple query] (and obviously mean it), then they will reply quicker because time is of the essence."

I disagree completely. If an agent knows that s/he is the only one looking at the project, they know they can take more, not less, time to evaluate it, since there is no competition. At the query letter stage, there is no reason to disclose whether or not you've sent the query to other agents. It is assumed that you will.

One asked for a full ms, though, then you will likely be asked how many other agents have it, and to grant an exclusive from that point forward (you should not say who the other agents are).

Ulysses said...

I'd throw in a 6.5:

"Write something else. Don't waste time sitting by the mailbox when you could be writing. If this first manuscript fails to attract an agent, you'll have a second, better one ready."

Anonymous said...

Nathan, you cutiepatootie!

Anonymous said...

Now, all we need to know is how to *become* a literary agent. ;)

Christi said...

I had to read: Book Business, Publishing Past Present and Future by Jason Epstein for an Intro to Publishing class a few years ago. I think it's worth reading, plus, it's short!

I'm working on making connections in the writing world so someone will give me a referral!

melissalobianco said...

Hmm... curiouser and curiouser!

Mr. Bransford, I'm still catching up on (how many, two years' worth now?) previous posts. This may be a bit off topic and you've probably gone over this before ad nausium, but: do you come up with post topics arbitrarily during a given day? Or - knowing the vastness of your following - Do you make a mental list (a lesson plan?) of topics you'd like to roll out on such-and-such a day; say, Thursday, I wanted to treat my ever-growing fanship to a lesson in...? Most of us blog to blog; just to get some stuff off our respective chests. I know you've been known to blog for blogging's sake, but...

it's just that...

well, your benevolence. It confuses me.

jjdebenedictis said...

I would add one thing to point #5:
Educate yourself about scam agents and incompetent agents. Learn how to avoid them. Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware are your internet friends.

Kalynne Pudner said...

Nathan, I've searched the blog and can't find any guidance on the waiting after a partial is requested. What is a reasonable amount of time to wait, and is a follow-up ever in order? Will agents who request a partial ordinarily give a response, or do we assume that no response after a couple of months means no interest? If we have more than one partial out, should we let all the agents involved know this?

(Yeah, I wish one of them were you, Mr. Cutiepatoo-- oops, sorry! Got a little carried away there.)

Nathan Bransford said...


Here's the post you're looking for.

And no need to let agents know you've had another request, only if you've received an offer of representation.

Richard Mabry said...

I'm leaving my "lurking" posture to thank you for this excellent bit of advice. I especially second your strong encouragement to do one's homework and do it well before putting fingers to keyboard for a query.

Glad you gave us this updated set of recommendations.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nathan,
I would love toknow, what the statistics are for writers/writing projects you HAVE signed with to represent in the last year too!

Adaora A. said...

@annon- I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm telling you what the agent themselves has said. Did I come off differently in my post? I am sorry for the confusion if that is the case.

Anonymous said...

So where in here does agent fan-fiction fall? ;)

ORION said...

One thing I might add. I queried widely for my first novel,then went to Maui Writers retreat and conference and found out everything I was doing wrong- LOL
Even though I got requests for partials and fulls for my first novel nobody bit so I started my second and third novel. I racked up 70+ rejections for three different projects. That allowed me to see that something was dramatically different with LOTTERY when I got requests for Fulls to be emailed as an attachment in 20 minutes.
I guess my point is don't focus everything on that first novel. Keep writing the next and the next and go to conferences and connect with other serious writers and authors- I met Jackie Mitchard at a writers retreat. It can be expensive but it's tuition- so is writing novels that might get's all part of the learning process.
Sign up with publishers marketplace and start to learn the language and culture of publishing. Know which editors are where and who's buying what... and remember - it's not personal - it's business...

mkcbunny said...

Now, hopefully you took care of all this research as you were procrastinating while working on your manuscript.


Luc2 said...

Excellent post. I think you could add the step of the synopsis between steps 4 and 5. Most agents ask for a synopsis, and it's in any event a good way to look (again) critically at your manuscript.

Nathan, you had a good post about writing an synopsis, so if you decide to add that step, please add the link to that post as well.

Just_Me said...

How essential are conferences? I'm in the back-of-beyond and we move regularly to more back-of-beyond (or overseas) places. Getting to a conference isn't impossible but costly and difficult. Is it possible to skip that step?

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan--
Long time blog reader here =)
I have a question...An agent recently requested my full (my first!) and it was next to impossible to find information on him, so the request came as a huge surprise. I found his MySpace through Google after I sent him my full, so my question is, would it be weird if I friended him on there? I try to friend as many people in the business as possible, since it's more of a professional page than anything. You don't think it would come off as stalkerish do you?

Red said...

As said before, excellent post. Definitely add it to the "Must Read" column.

Nathan, has anyone ever queried you for different novels? For example, I find myself in a position to write not one, but two novels this year. Would it seem odd to receive two different queries from the same author for two different novels at once?

In a case like that, would it be recommended to send two queries, or just one query describing both works?

Anonymous said...

Being a deity has never helped me much. Sigh.

Nathan Bransford said...


If they're on Myspace they want to be your friend.


Query one at a time and only one at a time. Wait six months to query a different project.

Anonymous said...

Just to add a little to Step 3, because there are some really dumb people out there: Not only is it a bad idea to email random novelists you don't know asking them for an agent referral, it is even more stupid to spam agentless authors asking them for a referral. Some bonehead did that to me. He got my name from a professional authors' association list. If he'd bothered to check out the link to my webpage, he would have seen that all my pub credits were for short stories, not novels. I don't have an agent. This bright spark got my friend's name off the same email list and spammed her with the same request (she doesn't have an agent either).

Becky Levine said...

Nathan, Great post. I THINK I've followed the instructions here to the letter with my MG mystery, except, darn it, I seem to have messed up the part about getting the call. :)

So my question is about the smart, professional, this-is-a-business thing to do at this point: Instead of the call, I've gotten requests for pages and requests for more pages off those. I've gotten nice rejections with compliments about the writing and the premise and the character, but only rejections and with no specific comments or suggestions.

The current plan: 1)Send out no more queries. 2)See if a call comes from the queries/pages that are still out. 3)Meanwhile, go back to the manuscript with critique group and a few fresh critiquers and see if there is a revision angle that will give the story that extra hook/zing the agents may be looking for. (Even though it feels a bit like playing darts in the dark.)

Does this sound sane and/or practical? Or am I missing an obvious alternative?


Anonymous said...

I couldn't read "shining like the top of the Chrysler Building" without suddenly picturing little Nathan playing an orphan in "Annie." Hmm. Maybe you went to an all-boys' school?

Nancy Means Wright said...

I want to add my experience to the how to of getting an agent: With my first adult mystery novel, I set up my English teacher husband as a literary agent. Bought the stationery (he has a different surname), wrote the query letters, had him sign them, and within a few months landed a contract with editor Ruth Cavin at St. Martin's Press. After two books out I fired my husband and found a "real" agent--although my spouse was really getting into the swing of things by then! More about how I did this on my website at Cheers, Nancy M W.

susangpyp said...

I'd also like to add that I sent out a half dozen queries and some of the agents asked questions or made comments that helped me refine it and send to six more who also made comments and asked questions (and some requested the book proposal - non fiction) and I sent it out to another 6.

My process was 6, 6 and 6 with 8 requests for the proposal(2 from the second group and 4 from the last group), 2 offers for representation and I signed with one while it was still be considered by one other and I rescinded the proposal.

I didn't get any requests from the first group though I did have one ask for an exclusive which I denied. I did get good comments and questions that helped me refine it. I am glad that I didn't send out all 18 at once. The agents definitely helped me make it better each time I sent it out.

Anonymous said...

I have such a specific question, I don't know how helpful it will be to others, but I just don't know what to make of this...if anyone has advice, I'd be glad to hear it...

After months of querying, I got an offer of representation (yay!) from a legit agent with sales (though not a ton of them). Said agent had suggested revisions, which I largely agree with, but - for personal reasons will be on a leave and unable to submit to editors until September unless I can finish edits within the next 2 weeks (no can do). The agent said publishing is so slow during summer that it really doesn't matter anyway, but it seems odd to me to commit now for something that agent will take no action on for 4-5 months (might be able to read the revisions during that time, but no guarantee).

My gut is to thank agent for offer and say I'll get in touch when he/she is back in the office and, if we're both still amenable, cement a relationship then. Does this seem reasonable or is it unfair of me to use agent's helpful ms comments without committing to a partnership?

Nathan Bransford said...


Opinions vary on the severity of the summer slowdown, and my basic feeling is that things slow down but don't come to a screeching halt. That said, there are many agents who do wait until fall to kick off a new submission. I know 4-5 months seems like a long time when you're itching to have your manuscript submitted, but honestly 4-5 months is a blink of an eye in the publishing business. Honestly I'd go with your gut feeling with regard to this agent -- the most important thing is for you to be happy with your choice.

Anonymous said...

i asked this at Bookends & am curious about your take, too. When choosing an agent, sales record is a key metric, but how much responsibility does an agent really bear for whether or not a book sells? Is a good agent - like a good query - just responsible for getting the book read or can their pitch really make a difference in how the editor views the novel? What do you make of an agent with satisfied (though unpublished) clients & few sales?
thanks for the great blog - read it all the time, one of the best put there!

Nathan Bransford said...


Oh man, that's a tough question, because there are so many variables. Yes, an experienced agent can help with a sale, and a good pitch letter can definitely get an editor in the right mindset, but ultimately it's the book project that matters. Every agent, no matter how experienced/legendary, has projects that don't sell. So ultimately the most important thing is the book project, and that is what is going to make or break a sale.

What portion of responsibility is the book project and what portion is the agent? I don't know that there's any real way to measure that. It definitely helps to have a good agent, but at the end of the day it's the book project that matters.

As for an agent with satisfied clients but few sales, if they're from a reputable agency it may just be that they're starting out and are young -- it takes a really long time to build a reputation in this business because everything takes so long. For instance, I've sold some works now that aren't going to come out until 2009. Let's say in late 2009 this book takes off and becomes a mega-bestseller. I'll still be the same agent in 2009 as I am now, only my reputation will be greatly enhanced by something I did a year in a half ago. Kind of boggles the mind.

Hope that answers your question -- it's a tough one because I just don't know if there's a way to answer it scientifically. It's all pretyt subjective.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for always taking the time to answer, Nathan. Just confirmation that few sales doesn't necessarily mean bad agent helps. Might make a good post topic sometime...what agents do. We all know we want one, but maybe not what they'll do...editorial suggestions to get book in best possible shape, get reads we couldn't get on our own, handle contract stuff we know nothing about, etc but that, at the end of the day, agent doesn't really sell your book. It still has to sell itself.
Also would be interesting to hear how agents develop the right contacts. I know its probably calls, conferences, lunches, but how do you get the right people to take that first lunch with you? Is there a totem pole of editorial contacts you work your way up as you become more senior & how does this help or hinder your effectiveness, etc.

Anonymous said...

First off, I am so glad I happened upon your website here. I read your revamp on searching for a literary agent. I stepped out on my pursuit of querying after completing my second novel and only received, 'Thanks but no thanks'. However it hasn't deterred me and I have since finished the second book of the series. Coming across your site made me step back for a moment to breath. I can now take the time to do think it it out a little better. I was lucky enough to meet someone that can get me into a publishing house but I don't want to rely only on waiting for the okay to submit. I would like to achieve getting published on my own. I find it was making me anxious about the contact, like have you heard anything yet. I alway would jke about how easy I can sell other peoples stuff but stink at selling myself. I'm learning. Thank you.

Maddog said...

your time and commitment to the starving writers' community is awesome. Thanks for the educational posts.

Michele said...

Thanks! This post is very helpful.

adam said...

Thanks Nathan, everything is a great help.

I'm finishing up my query and had a question I've been wondering about, due to your 'Start with me' line.

Is proximity to an agent or potential agent ever a common issue? (e.g. I'm 3000 miles away from you) You did mention that it's better to know your agent in an organic fashion, so I'm curious about this.

Haha, I used to live in Marin!

Thanks for your time.


Avrinell said...


I'm right before the query portion where i'm working on the polish, and wait... yes, polishing some more. I'm the first to admit, that although I think my story telling abilities to be "Oh so amazing" my mechanics need a little work. nothing terrible but again a little polish.
I was working with an freelance editor but for her to do my whole book its-to be blunt- damn expensive. So yes finally getting down to the questions i have for you. One: is a typed page really only 250words? Two: she recomended that i only have a professional edit the first 50-100pages and then query. Is that wise? Three: I cant think of it, albiet there are books filled with what i don't know, but is there a better way to go about this?
P.S no judging my mechanics based on this blog. LOL

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks so much, Nathan. You have been enormously helpful.

You don't happen to represent cookbook authors, do you? ;)

Gus Gallows said...


I received my first rejection email today from an agent and all things considering, I am not taking it as bad as I had assumed I would. I have read so much over the last few months regarding getting an agent that one lesson seems to be loudest. Expect rejection. Learn from that rejection and try try again. One thing is certain, if you do not try, you will not succeed. You have a 100% rate of failing to get published if you do not submit your works.

At any rate, though pointed and direct, all of those articles were over-kill. Your blog cuts to the chase and I think I have a pretty good idea where I went wrong the first time. Thanks for the advise. I would say I wish I had sent it to you first, but at least this way I can polish my query a bit before you get it. :P

TheAngryArchivist said...

Hi Nathan:
I can see this post being quite helpful for the wide-eyed and independent wannabe novel author.
However, as a self anointed gonzo journalist and lamentative political science blogger, I find it difficult to imagine myself writing a query, partial, or any other such thing anytime soon.

That said though, I was curious as to how many credible and reasonable leads you get in an average day, and just how many of them don’t simply come from pervert brats with TV induced ideas. Given that every techno-savvy teenage party animal and upstart hack photographer keeps a blog these days, I'd wager the number is on order of fives or tens daily maximum? I’d almost be compelled to guess twos or threes weekly.

In any event, I appreciate the advice you offer when stating that a budding author should make contacts with other authors - which is exactly what I've started to do, and I’ve found that indeed (just as is true with my consultancy) referrals are no doubt the best way to make inroads.

In attempting to submit some of my essays/articles/rants to various online writer networks they generally impose specific submission criteria that suggest each work should use third person or academic tone. They also tend to require subscriptions or involve a lengthy process that is likely to turn off prospective talent perhaps more so than it would tend to attract.

Furthermore, they seem to have no interest in reading an author's blog or following an artist’s natural work path to ascertain professional demeanour, quality, taste, humour, talent, and overall marketability of what could be a prospective candidate. They expect the talent to come to them, when I'd contend the best of the best are almost NEVER to be found using such an inverse scouting model.

I find that in this sense, agents may be prone to miss an awful lot of breakthrough talent - given that many awesome writers don’t necessarily know they are one, and they write with pure passion and treat literature as a sacred art. They write more out of need for hobby than for want of money or for notoriety.

Many good authors also write to compliment an existing and successful professional career, and could care less to craft their style according to any kind of formal rule simply to conform to a specific agent’s demands. Or, as is true in my case, they write simply because they are compelled to and for no other reason than that.

All of this having been said, I wondered what sort of lengths you go through (or any of your peers) to hunt down talent yourselves?

That’s my two cents anyhow. Any feedback on the subject is welcome.

Cheers and many thanks from Toronto, ON - Canada. ^_^

Anonymous said...

this is much too complicated, especially cause i am the best writer there is anyways, by far the best, if i may say so myself, tolstoi , dostojewski and the like are kind of ok, 2, iguess, then again, i am so much betta, sooooo veri much

Anonymous said...

On step 3, "Referrals are a great way to find an agent" -- I did get a referral from an accomplished writer who guided me through the writing of my novel during our monthly writers workshop meetings. The result was something we were both happy with. However, the writer's agent turned me down. My question: When querying another agent, would it be helpful to include this writer's name in my query letter? I know the person won't mind, but how about the agent? --Thanks.

Nathan Bransford said...


You can use the author's name if you can count on a blurb, but honestly, unless I've heard a recommendation specifically from that author I tend to take recommendations with a grain of salt. I see them a lot, and sometimes they're genuine, sometimes they're a favor, sometimes they're erroneous. I have to make up my own mind based on the rest of the query.

scriberess said...

Great blog. Very helpful for all writers, generally. Will return for updates. Write on!

"Xetna Konn" said...

Hey... Nathan... um... any advice on how to find writing conventions / conferences, join writing organizations, and how to get yourself published in smaller presses? Or how to get yourself noticed by these presses?

I would greatly appreciate that information.

Thank you. I will check back in about a month, I think. Life calls.

-"Xetna Konn"

thegreymadness said...

Holy shite -

I always thought I would like to publish something though had no idea of the pain and suffering I would have to go through, your step by step description is both a reality check and easy to see why so many never get past step one.

Impressive knowledge of and ability to communicate your field of expertise.

For know I will stay with the psychotic and personality disordered in Mt Eden Prison, it seems the safer choice.


Dara Sorensen said...

Thanks for posting that! I've got a lot of research to do...and I can't forget I have to finish my book :)

I'll remember to submit a query to you whenever my book is done and ready (hopefully in the next year and a half or so).

And great blog by the way :)

Muppet said...

I am so glad that you are doing a blog like this!

Mighty charitable of you, considering most of the time it seems there's some magic formula that the 'out' parties spend hours trying to breakdown and the 'in' parties horde. The art of literary wizarding.

G-d bless you. :)

Shiva said...

Thank you very much for the tips! I am a first time author, but I have worked on my manuscript for the past three years, including hiring a professional editor to go through it for me. It is definitely "POLISHED".

Also, I was curious about referrals. I actually was accepted to a three-week creative writing camp at Stanford, and I had the pleasure of learning from Beth Lisick, the New-York Times best selling author of 'Everybody Into the Pool'. I really want to ask her for a referral, but I read somewhere that it is rude to do so. I also it's actually detrimental to published authors to give out the name of their sources to hopeful authors. Is any of this true, or should I just ask her?

please email me at if you can answer my questions! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Trina Allen said...

Thanks for this post, Nathan.

I am just beginning my agent search for my first young adult novel. So far I've sent out one query letter and got a rejection within 24 hours. I think I'll be needing that drink.

I found to be helpful. It has details about what agents are looking for, recent sales and links to Agent Query is where I learned of your blog.

Marie said...

I have a question which I haven't seen addressed anywhere. All of the agents I've seen blogging are American or British. I live in Northern Ontario, Canada.

Must I (should I) limit myself to Canadian agents? Are agents willing to work with writers who are thousands of miles, and a country, away?

Sudam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sudam said...

Copious, friend really marvellous. I was looking for such great resources. I will take time to digest the resources. But this resources are timely for me as i am facing a vacuum sitting on a manuscript. Will come back soon.

patricia said...

A narrative nonfiction tell all written over many years time coincidently becomes "timely" due to a court case and conviction should most certainly inspire a literary agent to act and respond to the writer immediately. Yet, one does not want to be pushy in a query letter. How does the writer of a tell all keep a lid on their work before the cats out of the bag?
First being pushy in a query and then asking for a non-disclosure?

Have fun answering this one!

Thanks in advance if you do.


Nathan Bransford said...


Except in rare instances, there isn't really such a thing a "timely" in the publishing business as it generally takes a book at least a year to come out.

patricia said...

Nathan, Thank you for your response to the first part. The second part is in regard to a tell all about a celebrity. To send out query letters and give up the celebrities name could end up on gawker or TMZ. Is it customary to ask for a non-disclosure or are all literary agents of the highest ethics and discreet?


Nathan Bransford said...


I'd hint at it and then discuss confidentiality if the agent wants to know more.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

I enjoyed reading all your comments, and all I could think about is my friend Yahminah. She has an awesome concept and has her book already to go, but needs help getting to the next level. I forwarded this blog to her cause I think its a great resource. Thanks for being a source! I highly recommend you check her out.

Good Books said...

Hi Nathan

How does one find the agent of a particular author, any resources online?

for instance I am trying to find the agents of Toni Morrison and Vanessa Steel to get translation rights but can't find who the agent is

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. I can see I have a lot of reading to do.

Zen of Writing said...

I have a question which more properly would be long to "How a Literary Agent Finds You" if there were such a post.

Namely, do agents read online litmags to find writers? There is an argument going on at, the writers' site, as to whether most agents use print mags exclusively, whether it is only a few junior agents who look online, etc.

What is your practice/opinion?



Nathan Bransford said...


Yes, I think they do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insight. But I am confused and somewhat disheartened.
Why would you have me “a writer” inundate myself with the politics of this business? Is that not your grassland?
Yes! The information online is vast, but not unlike reaching your hand into a nest of nasty little spiders.
Or gazing into a kaleidoscope colored with exploitations and misrepresentation. You leave breadcrumbs
for the masses, do we lead or follow? I’m not an aspiring Author, I am an Author, yet published. I don’t want to
“ooze professionalism and knowledge” I just want to write. I want You to ooze at the cost of my literary skill.

Anonymous said...

I have one thing to say. What is you are, say, fourteen years old or so, and you have written a book? I guess you wouldn't belong here on this website, then, but still...

Ally Blue said...

Nathan, this is my first time visiting your blog, and I just have one thing to say before I say a lot of other things: you are cute as a bug, for real!

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, I really do have serious things to say *g*
First off, many thanks for the excellent info. Honestly, I never would have thought of referrals from other agented authors. That's something I might be able to pursue, so thanks for the tip.

So, on to the questions. If an author is already published, how much difference does that make in the search for an agent? See, I came into this industry through the back door. Er. So to speak. I write gay romance of the erotic variety. My research led me to the conclusion that NY would be, shall we say, less than receptive. So I went the e-pub route. At this point, I have several novels, novellas, and short stories out in both electronic and print format through different pubs, Samhain Publishing being the main one.

The point being, those presses do not require an agent to get in. Even though the money isn't bad, I can't quit the day job either. Which is pretty much why I'm considering an agent at this point. I'd dearly love to make writing -- which I consider my REAL career -- a full-time profession.

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether gay romance is ever going to sell that well, how does my personal publishing history affect my chances of getting an agent interested in my work? Does it help? Does it hurt? Does it matter? Are agents even interested in gay romance?

What about an agent's role in general? I know an agent plays a much larger part in an author's professional life than simply shopping around a current ms to different publishers, I'm just not clear on how that works exactly, and I'd love to know more. I think I have plenty of time to find out as it'll be at least another year before I have time to work on anything that's not already contracted (or at least promised) someplace.

Nathan, thank you for all the time and effort you put into helping all the writers out there! You're a doll! I'm definitely bookmarking this blog :)

J. said...

It is quite a helpful peice here, although as one who has spent the last 8 or 9 years trying to find a literary agent and get my foot in the door - I'm considering the idea that either I'll become a published author or I may as well resign myself to self-euthenasia (a more politically correct way to call suicide).

demand said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
anniewicca said...

i am writing 2 books and i am friends with cayla kluver she told me about you in an email he gave me tips and told me whee to find you so here i am i am a meer 14 years old but i am strong and i will stand it nothing to go for what i want!

anniewicca said...

oops i mean she gave me tips

anniewicca said...

I believe that
There's a reason to
Write you a love song today

Broadway Blog said...

Thank you so much for your very informative and optimistic suggestions. I just found your blog and am really enjoying it.

Aparna said...

I don't read "How to find a literary agent" first part, but last one is very good, this is very good article.

Anonymous said...

I find this all very interesting, but... what happens when you don't have the time to go to these writers conferences and all that to make contacts for referrals and such?
I am a mother of two teenage girls and that takes alot of my time and in this day and age, both my husband and I work full time and sometimes part time jobs. Writing has always been very easy for me, but having to get references and everything else is a little much don't you think? What ever happened to just being good at what you do and it being recognized for what it is?
Don't get me wrong here: the information is great, but what happened to good old fashioned talent?

Christine H said...

Anonymous 3/15 5:34: I am in the same boat as you are. Not only do I have a young child at home, work part time and have a husband who does shift work... but there is no way I could _afford_ a writer's conference, let alone find the time (or child care) to be able to go. I want to get help with my manuscript, but I can't afford hundreds of dollars in fees that professional readers charge. It's the old, hopeless, frustrating cycle: I can't get my book published without some help, but I can't afford the help until the book is published.

So, I feel your pain. I feel like I'm spitting into a tornado.

Actually, today I'm so discouraged I'm ready to just delete the whole blasted thing and pretend I never wrote it.

Mrs. Hardy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine H said...

P.S. I know what the response to my last post will be: Writing is a business which you have to invest in, like any other. I apologize for my crabbiness today. Time for a really strong coffee and a handful of Hershey's kisses!

Christine H said...

One more comment... Nathan, how do you know when you are done polishing? Your post implies that authors are in a hurry to get their work out there. I am so terrified of submitting something less than perfectly professional that I can see myself "polishing" for years.

Also, I find that I reach a point where I've been working on something for so long that I just can't see the forest for the trees anymore.

So how do you know when you're ready to send it off at last?

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I studied under a bestselling author and she has been full of praise for my writing skill, you're a gifted writer, etc. When I asked her if she knew the best way to secure an agent she referred me to a website. Should I assume she does not want to refer me or should I ask her directly?

Elenthoniel said...


I have a question for you: you said to query you first if we are looking for an agent, but would you accept a Fantasy with an underlying Christian theme? Or would you just tell me to query you about it...

I'd really like the answer to this question. Please let me know.


Elenthoniel said...

Also, I feel I should warn you that if you check out my blog, all you will find at the moment are several collections of fan work portaining to the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. I haven't done any blogging in forever!

Shelley said...

I'm not sure quite where to place this comment, but I suppose you will see it where it is. I am a writer(big surprize), but there are two obstacles in my way of actually being successful in my attempts to get my work into bookstores. Firstly, I am 15 years old (and therefore not qualified to be taken seriously as an author by most publishing agencies) and secondly, I am from South Africa, where there is not much of a selection of publishers, as far as I know. I published a book through a POD(Publish On Demand) publisher last year, but I would like to publish through a standard agency for my next book. My question is: Would I be permitted to send my manuscript and whatever else I might need to Literary agents or publishers (depending on the country) overseas?

Anonymous said...

This is totally off the subject, but i have a problem. I recently queried Publich Americ, and got a message saying that they wish to see my manuscript. Here's the problem, i hear this company is bad... and i mean really bad! should i still send them my manuscript?

Anonymous said...

Still waiting to hear about the old fashioned talent comment. Sounds like some truth in that statment. In today's world, how can you get anywhere when you already have a full schedule? How do you balance it all?

Anonymous said...

Anon- 4/23 As far as sending an mss to a company with a bad rep- I personally would avoid it. It's better to have no agent or publisher than a bad one. That will follow you around for the rest of your career and you'll have to work harder to get away from it.

Nathan- I just wanted to say thanks for all your blogs. I just recently found them- as I've just recently decided to look into the business side of publishing now that I want an agent. I have to admit that you and other agents are much more supportive than I had been expecting- I've heard a lot of bad things about the publishing world- but really, the agents I've found really seem to want to support new writers even if they don't represent them. I just want to say that it's a relief to a newbie like me.

Thank you.

On another note, how can you really tell if an agent is interested in a specific genre? I have a fantasy series I'm working on, and though a lot of people say they're interested in fantasy, not all of them have represented this kind of work. Should I take to heart the works they do represent or query them anyway if they say they'll represent my genre?


Anonymous said...

I have exactly the same question as Shelley, above.
All of the decent agents are in America - and I'm not. Would there be any problems with querying an agent in a different country?

Nathan Bransford said...

shelley and anon-

Please check the FAQs.

Henya said...

Oh, do I thank thee? Your summary of the intricate navigation of what's involved in getting your book published are priceless. But how do I stop myself from thinking that it's not fair. Simply: writer writes. Writer sends out ms. Writer gets published. Oh well....

Thanks again.

Hugh Perkins said...

Hi Nathan,

Question: to what extent is it useful to try to get exposure by posting short stories freely, hoping to generate some kind of fan-base / referrals?

Obviously I'd like to hope that at some point an agent might just fall in one's lap like this, but maybe this is a pipe-dream?

Trisha said...

Brilliant! Even the fourth time around... Again, thank you so much!!!

web design India said...

thanks u r information

Anonymous said...

Hey Nathan. I love your blog site, and took you advice and quarried you. Anyways I just have a quick question, if I quarried an agent and they told me no, can I quarry them again with a different proposal?

Veronica Schultz said...

Thank you so much for this information! I wish I would have found it before I self published. I'll definitely try to find an agent when I get my next manuscript finished!

lora96 said...

Just discovered your blog today. It is so informative and I love the tone...however, I wish so fondly that I had read this post before sending my chatty, desperate first query letter three weeks ago. Wow. Too bad there's no rewind button.

Dave said...

Hi Nathan, very good site. Here's some (hopefully helpful) perspective to others from another aspiring author - not a celebrity, never-before published:

Well-researched, well-written queries are victories in themselves. I've made it into a game this summer - every solid query counts as a home run. How many can I hit between now and the end of September? (When hockey season begins, I may switch to goals and assists...)

Rejections are not my enemy. They're more like grass stains on my uniform. At the end of the day, I don't want a clean uniform! I want to know I was in the game.

None of this is to suggest quantity over quality. We "queriers" have to discipline ourselves to consistently put our best foot forward in order to improve our stats.

(I realize my sports analogies may die for some of you, but that's the chance we all take when we write from our hearts.)

So brace yourself, Nathan, I'm swinging the bat. Deep drive to center field, and it's heading your way!

hazel said...

I appreciated the sports language Dave used to illustrate queries. He took the fear right out of me. I can approach this as a game with rules that I can win if I master the rules, hone my skills, and play the game until the home run happens.
thanks Nathan and Dave

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

Very informative!

“You wait until you think you are physically going to die and/or commit a drastic crime.”

Yup. That’s about right.

pmrussell said...

Good article. You made some very valid and constructive points.

Tinzley said...

This was very helpful, it's funny because it helps a person not appear to be unexperienced in the industry when they approach an agent. I enjoyed this, I will follow the rules of how to find an agent. I learn from the best.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writting this, I didn't know where to start. I am a up and coming writter, even if the world doesn't know it yet :0)
THanks again

BCNeal said...

You make it all sound so simple. I guess it is when you run it down, but chance and luck are an unstable sorority girl- nagging and impossible to control.

Reading your blog is both amusing and reassuring. At least I'm on the right track (research and blogs a go). Fingers crossed for chance and luck.

PS Heads up, I'm on the query train this week and you're in my cab. Hope you enjoy the ride. :)

Anonymous said...

Let's say you send out a few queries, and you get more than one request for a full. (Yes, it can happen.) What do you do then? Assuming no one mentions the word exclusive, can you send a full to more than one agent at a time?


Sharmistha said...

OK I have a might have been asked before but if so I've missed it so bear with me!

Is it OK/ a good idea to query an agent who doesn't live or work in your geographical area?

I've looked around but there do not seem to be that many agents (established or otherwise) in India, even fewer who are interested in children's books. So, it does not look like I have much of an option otherwise. Besides most agents I've found interesting seem to be based in Europe or the US. Is that likely to be a problem?

Anonymous said...

How important is it to live close to your agent?

I live outside the country, does this matter when you choose your clients?

Web Development India said...

Very Informative post dude.

Perry Robles said...

Grrracias, danke, merci and obrigado to the universe that I finally found you, Nathan!

Queries suck hard, but not in a good way.

Thanks to you I have a clue!

Muchisimas Grrrracias, Nathan.

Ryanznock said...

Don't know if you'll see this, but this post was written before the site redesign. That might confuse some new visitors, because it mentions links on 'the right,' which would now be on the left.

Nathan Bransford said...

Good tip, Ryanznock, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Does one need to get a barcode and isbn before contacting an agent. I've already self published my book, and am selling it on my website, without a barcode. If i want my books to be sold in stores it needs a bar code. do you recommend I get one on my own, or wait until i have an agent?

Anonymous said...

Say, hypothetically of course, that an over-eager writer crafted a query and mass emailed it to every agent that said is into commercial fiction (!). Say, this manic writer got a whole slew of rejections before finding Nathan Bransford's excellent blog with tips on how to send a more effective query...can this author now send his oh-so-much-more titillating query to some of those already jaded agents? Change his name and title first? What to do? The book's good, really!

Alex said...

In response to what you wrote about getting an author to refer to your agent, I've had surprising success in convincing authors to refer me.

Thus far, I've written to historical fiction authors, explaining to them the difficulty in getting an agent to give my query a bit of attention. Most of them have been through the process and have been quite helpful.

Guess I'm just lucky though. With that luck would appear in actually getting an agent though!

Laugfainuir said...

Nathan, the information you have posted here is great and helpful to me. However, I'm a bit puzzled as I've got a manuscript, complete and incomplete at the same time. Complete, as it was written in my language. Incomplete, as I've recently begun to make its English version. And what can you say about Alerts for Writers and some blogs of that kind? Can they be regarded as some reliable sources of information?

B.B. Walter said...


Thank you for this information. Querying agents properly has been a long standing fear (for myself and for most authors, I assume).

Do you mind, Nathan, if I post a link to your blog on my own to further the information?

Also, while I am doing the second polish right now, you shall be seeing a query (and requesting a full, no doubt LOL) from me soon.

Again, thanks!

premkumarrao said...

pecipThanks for a great post. I think a mistake eager seekers of agents make is to treat them all alike. I find that categorizing them by way of priorities for your kind of work makes so much sense.

Juice in LA said...

Ok, so I have followed your blog and the linked blogs step by step, and in response I received 2 requests for full manuscripts. After 4-5 days each agent then respectfully declined to represent me and when I asked why I got "too controversial" and "at times inappropriate" "but please contact us if you write anything else". One was a very well known celebrity book agent, so I hoped that it was just she wasn't willing to take a chance on too much controversy without previously acquired fame.

while these comments lead me to believe my writing wasn't the problem, after the second I could not ignore the concern of too much controversy.

I then queried agents who represent controversial authors, and I am having no success, not even a request for 10 pages.

How do you narrow down the field of people who might be interested in your work when you don't live in New York and you can;t find an agent workshop of conference to take your stuff to?

Anonymous said...

I understand the fact that I should send out several query letters to agents. The thing I have trouble with is finding agents that represent or are looking for horror fiction!! There are not that many agents that I have found that want horror submissions. I buy the Writer's Market books with lists of agents and publishers in them, but the list of agents looking for horror is extremely slim. Is there some other source that lists more agents of horror fiction? Through the Writer's Market book I have on;y found 2 agents that would consider horror. I submitted and I am still waiting, but I would like to submit my novel on a wider basis.

Anonymous said...

Anon Re Horror Fiction Agents:

You could try .
They allow you to search magazines and publishers by genre. I believe they also allow you to search for agents, I'm not sure. But still a great resource for writers!

Hope this helps.

Christina said...

I was sent here from Pimp My Novel and I just wanted to thank you for writing such an informative (and amusing) blog entry on this subject. I'm beginning to research agents and the like as I'm hoping to finish the polishing of the first manuscript of seven this summer. By mid-September I'm hoping to be sending out query letters. I've saved this as a reference.

Thanks again and hope you're having a great day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

I have recently started reading your blog and find it immensely helpful. I am in the process of finishing up a novel that I have been working on for the last two years.

I know you have emphasized on having a 'finished and polished' manuscript before approaching an agent, but you are so engaging with your readers that it gives me the optimism to ask whether you will have the time to consider reading the first five pages of my manuscript? I assure you they have been polished, and polished well!

Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you once again for sharing your insights with so many of us.



James said...

Thanks a bunch! This was really helpful. Also I laughed my ass off at step 7

Terry said...

Thanks for posting this. It's really hard to find information when you don't know where it is.

John said...

Hi Nathan,

Excelent post.

Now agents are accepting email queries, I would like you please update the post to include this when you have time

Tyanna said...

Hey Nathan!

Oh my gosh. I've been trying to figure out the whole meaning ofthis letter but I'm completly stcuk! How can I write one if i really truely don't understand it?

Irina said...

I am serching for esoteric agency, could you help me please.

Anonymous said...

I found a typo on a literary agent's website (no - not yours, nor any connection of yours). I am hesitant to point this out. What do you recommend in this situation?

Gabrielle said...

Hahaha! This morning, I googled information on book editors vs literary agents vs publishers and found you.

I've now been on your blog and making my way down the links on the left hand side (as you suggested) for about 7 hours.

I've learned tons, you will most definitely be the recipient of my first EVER query letter, and the best part - you made me laugh!

Thank you,


Tamara said...

I am very grateful for the information this sight has to offer for I have searched so many others and found nothing close to this. This is most appreciated for the literary world is confusing to me. Thank you for the help and the encouragement.

Shannon said...

So helpful! It makes the entire process seem a bit daunting, but I'd rather be prepared than to go in with rose-colored glasses.

Va Infotech said...

Good information thanks

Anonymous said...

Where can I find information about Partial/fulls responses and status queries. Google doesn't have the answer so I fear nobody does!

arna said...

It is interesting to read such a personable publishing 'how to' soooo.....okey about to query..NOW!

Anonymous said...

This post has been very helpful to me. Thank you!

I wanted to know, if it is acceptable to say "Thank you" back to the agents who read my query, but sent a rejection.

Is this acceptable? Or frowned upon. I feel I should be polite that they read my query!

Nathan Bransford said...


I don't usually mind them, other agents feel that they're kind of redundant and fill up the inbox. Up to you, really.

Bernie Brown said...

How do I "make sure you're very comfortable with the agent before ..."? And when you say, "so ask questions . . . and make sure you're ready," what questions and how to be sure? Thank you.

Bernie Brown

Steven Crawley said...

Hi Nathan,

Thank you for making these heavy articles funny! My eyes bulge, as I behold the terrifying amount of info I need to learn in my quest to complete and publish the fictionalized memoir of my psychotic break.

But, ignorance of much of this was bliss. Now, I’m not sure what I should be focusing on now: finishing the book, writing a query letter, and looking for an agent. I was getting some mixed signals in your articles about nonfiction work. Is it different for a straight memoir, than for a fictionalized memoir? I'd like my book to read like a nonfiction novel.

Here's a quick premise:

A normal family man and Lisa Frank artist suddenly wigs out and starts believing that he's receiving shocking revelations from God. This leads him (me) off on and epic ‘adventure’. His CFO sends him 2000 miles north/east, to attend a global prophecy conference. Unfortunately things digress for him from here into complete insanity, filled with delusions and religiosity.

My wife is also writing chapters about what went on from her perspective. Her husband leaves her stranded with three preschool kids, a broken van and her full time job to go off on a 'spirit quest'. My wife and dad (my heroes) make the cross country drive to come to come get me, even though they know I’m still not sane.

Well at least that gives you some idea. It's a story of psychosis, family, faith and love. Through this book, we want to not only entertain, but also raise awareness of late onset mental disorders like bipolar disorder. My case was textbook in many ways. Apparently going all the way nuts makes it easier to treat you, than gradually just getting worse and worse.

Thanks again for all the info helping us weary travelers on our climb to the summit. The info is overwhelming, but greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...


Not sure whether this is the correct place to post this question but I would really appreciate if you could help me with this.

I am querying to possible agents right now and already have two full submissions and one partial out. However, I am also looking at applying to a graduate program in creative writing and they require that I send a 25 page writing sample with the application materials.

Now, will it be a problem if I take an excerpt of 25 pages from my manuscript to send to the admissions committee? Am I breaking any rules?

Thanks very much for your time and patience.

Nathan Bransford said...


Can't imagine that would break any rules or that an agent would think anything of it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nathan! You really put my mind at peace. Now keeping my fingers crossed on those full submissions...

Pokecaleb said...

So, we don't need to send the copy of the book with the original query, then, right?

heatherjf said...

Know any agents who would be interested in a young English teacher's travel memoirs from teaching abroad in Rio de Janeiro? :)

Love your blog.

heatherjf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cevicheman said...


I have just finished my umpteenth edit of my eleven thousand word short story. I’ve run out of polish, so the next thing I will do is copyright it.

I have read all of your latest revision and much of your blog. Other than that, I am the newest newbie on the block -- day one. I’ve not written to any literary agent nor even spoken to anyone about my story. Your blog’s discouraging remarks indicate literary agents must be like potential employers who get tons of resumes most of which get discarded. I’m disappointed by your comments about the long wait authors must endure before seeing their work published. I would have guessed that good pieces would get snapped up instantly; guess not.

Do you think that offering my science fiction story, would take a faster track if I offered it to the television or motion picture industries? Speed of dissemination is far more important to me than money. While I had the story idea for many years, I had to wait until retirement to put it all down in a computer.

In fact paper publishing my story is less important to me than any other form of public exposure. In the work I express some personal points; reflections of my own thoughts and they are the primary reason I want public exposure.

What do you think?

Ted Herrman

shelldolb said...

What a great informative site. I look forward to visiting it on a regular basis. I have read all the links to the side and feel that I am now ready to venture out again and start submitting my query letters.
I am one of those people in the year 2000 who became so frustrated with all the rejections letters that I decided to go the self publishing route. Although I did sell a few books and landed two book signings, it did not pan out as I had hoped it would.
Now here I am ten years later about to venture out again, but this time with a new outlook on how to approach things.

shelldolb said...

Well, today is the day I think I will take that big step and start sending out my query emails. While waiting to see what happens I will get back to work on the other book.

What is the time frame for a response for an email query? Also, if possible I would like to make you my first victim Nathan. Any and all comments are appreciated. Only thing is I tried to query you last night but it did not go through.

Is there a certain link I am suppose to go to because I can't find it. Thanks.

Mflick1 said...

I am in the process of looking into submitting a Q Letter (MAN ARE THEY TOUGH) and I thought this post was helpful, encouraging, but still realistic. Who knows maybe in a few weeks I will submit you mine!

Mflick1 said...

I am in the process of looking into submitting a Q Letter (MAN ARE THEY TOUGH) and I thought this post was helpful, encouraging, but still realistic. Who knows maybe in a few weeks I will submit you mine!

Anonymous said...

I am working on getting a book published and am starting by finding other books in the same genre. There is one author I found who writes similar stories, but different enough that I don't think it would be big competition. His agent only accepts solicited manuscripts but there is another agent whithin the agency who is trying to build her client list and is aiming for the genre of my book. Would it be correct -- since they're both in the same agency --to say that I'm writing the second agent because my book is very similar to that of one of her coleague's clients? Will this be a draw to the work or will it look like I'm only querrying her as a second choice since my first is not available?

Nathan Bransford said...


Individual agents have different interests, so just because two agents are at the same agency doesn't mean they share interests. I wouldn't mention the other agent, and I'd try as much as possible to research what the agent you're querying is interested in.

ClayMillennium said...

Want to pitch to AOL, APA, BET, Hasbro Studios, Paradigm, CAA, My Damn Channel, Shed Media U.S., Fun Little Movies, WME2 . . . then check out

Anonymous said...

Total bullshit! It's like some cheap commercial selling fast food or something; don't tell you the real story, just that it's good, not fattening. The truth, agents rejected the likes of King, Grisham, and Rowling, and many others . . . it's a crap shoot. Agents talk as if they are lawyers . . . they're not; and most agents, wouldn't know gold if they held it in their hand. And to say that everything has to be polished . . . you're either a story teller or you're not . . . the little stuff, that's bs--that's just agents being lazy and not wanting to put any effort into helping new writers; and I'd bet you if the next great story like the Old Man and the Sea or Of Mice and Men came across Brandford's desk, he wouldn't know what he had!

Jeremy said...

I'm currently in the process of sending out query letters, and I found this really helpful—especially after reading the article that links to it (


Deeba Salim Irfan said...

Informative and an interesting read!

Anonymous said...

Dear Nathan: In a query letter, how much should I stress the reasons for my narrative nonfiction? I really do have a platform as an author, teacher, and human being. My web site is My work (I have four completed novels unpublished)is polished and has been said to be a black man's Red Badge of Courage.Thanks for your blog answers.

Anonymous said...

Waterless Wave author, a novel set in historical Japan says,

Excellent adise! I am doing just is an investment, attend conferences, make friends with published authors and agents but don't bombard them, small acts of kindness like getting them a glass of water during a speaking engagement and cultivating a relationship to learn whether it leads nowhere go a long way rather than hitting them with deperate pitches.

To anyone who has not made the investment in writer's conferences, DO IT! You'll feed off the energy with positive vibes and the connections are worth the money. I say no to the slush pile!! Writing is a craft. Luckily, there is so much to do while waiting to hear back, contests, conferences, polishing it bides the time!

Thanks Nathan! : ) Excellent, common sense approach to getting published.

C.K.Garner said...

Thanks for the updated article Mr. Bransford. I thought the first version was pretty informative, but this one is more to the point. I recently had a friend who has been involved in querying his manuscript tell me that I should never query more than one at a time, that it was a publishing non, yet here you are saying exactly the opposite. I'm going to run with what you have to say in spite of the friend's views on the subject. Bu tit does make me a bit more fearful about engaging in the practice. Can you expand on it a bit?

C.K. Garner

missbliss said...

I would also like to know about the question of sending queries to more than one agent - I would think that it's ok, as long as you have not been contacted for representation yet, and you don't bombard *every* agent at the same company?

Nathan Bransford said...

On querying different agents at the same agency, please see this post.

C.K.Garner said...

Thanks for the update and links for the query questions. I understand ti a bit better, now. So I can query separate agencies at the same time, but check with their guidelines first. I can query different agents at the same publishing house, again check their requirements first, and wait three to six months before re-querying, unless directed to do so. Thanks again!

C.K. Garner

Zoe said...

Thanks so much for this post! It's so helpful. I've just been having some troubles with the 'find an agent' part. I've noticed that it's difficult to tell who is a trustworthy agent and not just someone out to scam you. Not to mention what I've written isn't exactly mainstream... Oh well, I guess I'll keep searching. Although, if you know any agents with a taste for medieval fantasy, I'd love to know!

Zoe said...

Thanks so much for this post! I've just been having trouble with step 2... I'm not exactly in a very easy/comfortable position to find an agent... especially since my book isn't exactly mainstream... Oh well, I guess I'll keep searching!
Although, if you happen to know anyone who enjoys medieval fantasy, I'd love to know!

Twisted Blossom said...

Finally a real post about finding an agent. I needed a reality check about time and patience. I'm definitely marking this page a favorite. Question for you, what if I've found an agent who has published genre similar to mine, should I reach out?

Twisted Blossom said...

It's nice to finally get a reality check on publishing. Ok, so I need to get the polished version ready, attend some writing social gatherings and make connections. These are the exact things I haven't done.

I did however find a publishing company that has published genre similar to mine...would it be ok to reach out?

Anonymous said...

Is there an easier way of discovering who the agent of a particular book is than looking through the acknowledgements? Is there a database somewhere that gives this information?

Ashish Kaul said...

Hi Nathan:
Over eleven years I have been working on this epic set in the subcontinent, a historical novel. The whole concept is BIG. Now try as i might, after deep revisions, I have ended up with 177,000 wprds. Please advise.

Tiffany said...

Quick question Nathan. I am leaving in Costa Rica, and here there is nothing, no literary agents, and just 2 or 3 editions that if you are not Isabel Allende or X other famous author, it’s better if you wrote about religion and how to improve yourself, because besides those subjects there is absolutely NOTHING.
So how can I find an agent in those circumstances?

Hans-Jürgen John said...

Very good article Mr.Bransford!

I just published "How to find an literary agent" this morning on in american english.

While trying to find out if everything is o.k. with my "baby" I found out that your article is better - in almost every respect...

Keep on writing!
Best wishes Hans-Jürgen John / Germany / Switzerland

Tattoo610 said...

I'm currently writing a fiction novel and would appreciate it if you could read what I currently have and give any advice you can. My email is

Dakota Smith said...

I'm currenly writting a fictio novel. I'm only 17 years old, and I already know that I want to be an author.

Please, if you have any tips for a staring author like me, message me at my email:

Visto989 said...

Love it! My name is Travis Newville, and I am a student at Davenport University. I have a few questions about how to get my novel noticed. Are there any classes to help prepare aspiring authors for the business side of finding a literary agent? I have taken writing classes aplenty, and I want to have that extra advantage. Are blogs a good idea or a bad idea for aspiring writers?
This blog was extremely helpful.

tvfreesince93 said...

I have a very exciting project that is nearing the final stages of revision. If I can get this into the right hands, I am POSITIVE that it will sell millions of copies. The market is ripe for this particular project, and I hope I am able to get it to the right people.

As I complete revisions, I have begun the search for information on publication. This post was AWESOME, and I realize now how much work I have yet to do. Thanks for all the information!

Have a great day.

Adam Jacobs

Hans John said...

...wonderful information provided here. Thanks a lot.
I am Hans-Jürgen John from johntext news. For a project on we are looking for socially engaged authors. One author for each country is required to write about the beauty of its country,its problems and possible solutions...

Writing teams are also welcome! Good evening!Hans from Switzerland

Erin Pequeno said...

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to share something I stumbled across while searching agents local to me. This site seems to have a lot to offer

Not sure how up to date it is, but it seems like a good place to start from.



By the way Nathan...while doing a quick scan I found that your name is the only one I saw with "AAR Highly recommended" in bright pink letters haha...fess up, you're the webmaster on this site aren't you... :oP

Anonymous said...

STEP ONE: Become an agent at a prestigious San Francisco literary agency.

STEP TWO: Network with other agents.

STEP THREE: Prid your pro until the quo can't quo no mo'.

Dude. Really. C'mon.

Nathan Bransford said...


STEP ONE: Query several agents I know personally.

STEP TWO: Get rejected

STEP THREE: Send an unsolicited query letter to an agent I don't know.

STEP FOUR: Find representation.

Everyone's path is different - if you want whatever advantages I had become a literary agent!

Jordan Ford said...

I really want published, and I'm prepared to wait to get it done, and I'm prepared for the disappointment of being turned down time after time: But my problem is, who do I send it to? I don't know of any publishers or agents.

Abu Bakr said...

Hey Nathan, the Mr. Smartie. You should always remember that getting represented is not so easy. From the August of the previous year I started my lonely business of querying agents and the business is running till now. Rejections, rejections and Rejections. Nothing else. Although many editors at Penguin and Bloomsbury have appreciated my novel but rejected it.

JCN said...

"Don't Let the System Tell You When to Retire" contact me at jonnyc at ymail if you are interested in the true life story of a rags to riches tale of how to retire early in today's American Dream filled world.

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