Kristina tells us how to find a literary agent:
DO ...Research the most appropriate agents for your project. An excellent book to start your search is “Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents;” you can find specific information about what the agents are looking for, and also some interesting Q & As that will give you an inside perspective on the industry. There are also some good online resources like AgentQuery.com that you may find helpful.
...Ask published friends, colleagues and acquaintances for agent referrals. Referrals are our primary source of new clients, so this is a powerful way to get into the system.
...Visit a few of the online literary blogs to develop a greater understanding of the book industry. Get to know what an agent is and isn’t, and what is reasonable to expect from them.
...Approach agents ONLY when you’re actually ready. This means that you’ve got a fully developed, edited, and polished proposal ready to email over; that you’ve written and edited the manuscript for your book (prescriptive genres generally only need a few sample chapters to go with the proposal, whereas memoir and narrative works you’ll want to have the entire book ready); and that you’ve got the career going to support the book. We love prominent bloggers, journalists, speakers and television personalities because they have established themselves publicly.
...Realize that publishing is an INCREDIBLY competitive industry. You must be innovative, savvy, professional, and a great writer to make it ahead of the rest. Take your time with each document, from the initial query pitch to agents, to each component of the book proposal, and to the manuscript itself. Don’t rush the process and give it your 110% effort.
...Think of the book project as an investment. Consider hiring an editor (many authors feel their ego rise up when an editor is suggested, but most great writers have editors); your book will be at its best, which increases opportunities for being published. Look for an editor that has experience with books.
...Follow up via email with agents if you haven’t heard back within the time period specified on their website. Our agency generally responds within 4-6 weeks. If you don’t hear back from an agent after your follow up, it’s safe to assume that they won’t be offering representation.
DON’T ...Query agents that don’t represent your genre (e.g. submit your children’s book to an agent that represents science fiction).
...Underestimate your role in promoting the book. Stating on the book proposal that you are willing to do book signings or give speaking engagements is not enough; you need to have a career at least partially developed before pitching a book. This is particularly true with prescriptive works, and while memoirs/narrative/literary works are not as dependent on platform, most publishers still want to see that you have the credentials to support the theme of the book, and that you have a public persona. A regional or national journalist with an ongoing column is an example of a good platform for writing a narrative book.
...Make it personal if you don’t hear back from agents after your initial query. While we cannot guarantee a personal response, our agency makes every effort to respond to authors. Many agents do not respond at all to projects that they are not interested in representing. While it may seem rude, it is typically a consequence of overwhelming numbers of queries, lots of work with current clients and too few hours to get everything done.
...Act pompous. Be confident and bring your writing skills to the forefront, but don't inflate yourself either.
...Give Up. Get the resources together that will help you get on the right course. This means connecting with people that have done it before, such as published authors, publishing consultants, editors and ghostwriters, etc. If you really want to be published, believe in your message and have the career to support book sales, then amp up and get the support network around you to make your dreams reality.