Targeting Agents: Make the Best Fit with an Agent Who Knows Your Market, by Donya Dickerson

As a writer, you are probably familiar with the idea of targeting publishers — identifying a press’s interests and successful areas, and sending your work to the appropriate place. You may not realize, however, that you should target agents in the same way. You would never send a science fiction manuscript to a religious publisher, so why send a romance novel to an agent who only represents self-help nonfiction?

There are many benefits to targeting agents. First of all, you’ll save valuable time and effort when sending out query letters. Secondly, you’ll connect with someone who has established relationships with the editors interested in your particular field; who knows the current state of your genre; and who is sensitive to other nuances of your kind of writing.

How do you find an agent appropriate for your manuscript? For starters, go to the Literary Agents search page on Choose the topics that most closely match your work from the Subject scroll-down menus. Select the category of writing under “Represents.” When you’ve established all your search criteria, click on “Search” to call up listings of agents who specialize in the areas you’re looking for and who could best represent your manuscript.

If there is a writer whose work is similar to yours, you can find her agent (if she used an agent) by calling her publisher’s Contracts department. Or check the Acknowledgments page of books similar in topic or tone to your manuscript — many writers include their agents in their public thank-yous.

While some agencies consider any subject, most agents represent a narrow list of specialties. Larger agencies often represent a broad spectrum of material, dividing areas according to each member agent’s interests. If you are interested in exploring multiple genres, having separate agents for each area is not necessary.

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