How to Land a Literary Agent: First, Get a Platform

by: Penny

Your voice must be heard.  There is no greater way to do this than to write a book. If you’ve ever given any thought to seriously landing an agent or being published, I’d like to offer a few tips that will speed up the process.


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First, let me explain, I’m a book publishing executive who writes regularly for the #1 online trade magazine for the media and publishing called  Mediabistro. I also write for GalleyCat, Huffington Post and I’ve interviewed everyone from major agents and editors to James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, and Nicholas Sparks.  I also do something else, I help connect writers with literary agents.

Publishing has changed so dramatically in the last few years that getting published isn’t more difficult, it’s more challenging.  There’s a difference and that difference must begin first with a shift in your mindset.

Once you know what literary agents want, it’s rather easy to land an agent.

Let’s move beyond the fact that you need to write a great manuscript, because you already know that, but did you know there’s something else more important to an agent than ever before?  Your platform. That is your built-in fan base of readers poised and ready to purchase your book. Demonstrate you have this, with at least 5,000 readers, and you can land an agent quicker than you ever could dream possible.

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How do you do this?  First understand, there’s a difference between having 10,000 Twitter followers and having a platform.  Anyone can get Twitter followers.  You can even pay people to add them for you. That’s not a platform.

I don’t know about you but I don’t tweet that often and I definitely don’t read everything every person I follow tweets every day. I am not necessarily a dedicated fan of theirs. If I see their tweet, then I see their tweet. If I don’t, then I don’t.

As my friend, former Simon & Schuster editor Marcela Landres says in her eBook, What Editors Think, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” Think about that difference.

Critchley Podium

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The following are a few examples of legitimate platforms that will have literary agents licking their chops:

1.) An opt-in mailing list of people who read your information regularly.

2.) If you are regularly on television

3.) If you have a web series with at least 10,000 views each episode

4.) If you are a public speaker

5.) If you are a journalist with a column of loyal readers

6.) If you have a regular radio, podcast or internet radio show with a significant audience

7.) If you’ve self-published a number of books before and sold at least 5000 copies of each

8.) If you have a website with thousands of unique visitors each day

9.) If you’re the president of a large association or charity

10.) If you’re a celebrity already in another industry

Author Jeff Rivera in New York City's East Vil...

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Guest post by Jeff Rivera, who is the founder of  With over 100 clients to date, he has a 100% track record of getting at least 10 literary agents to request to read his client’s manuscripts and proposals.


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  • Maria Carlton

    This is excellent advice and I’d like to share it with all my clients – and those who come up to me often ask the same kind of questions that must have prompted you to write this post. Thanks.

  • Paula


    Thanks for stopping by, and we’re so glad you can share this advice with your clients!

  • andrea

    You know I’m not going to be popular with this but I think agents basically want the author to do the selling, marketing and pr for them. So what is there for the agent to do? To find a publishing house? If the author does all that job anyway, why would they pay an agent to find a publisher, they’re capable of doing that as well.
    I seriously think that the problems of the publishing industry are there because people don’t do their job properly, they want the authors do everything.
    I never really got my head around it: if I’m a scientist, do you expect me to create a product that sells or to “get a platform”? Those celebrities you mention have an agent who does the pr for them – an author usually can “only” write. Why do you expect them to do more??

  • Paula


    You touch on one of the ongoing debates in this publishing climate – why do authors need to do so much, and if they do, why would they need or want a traditional publisher? Many authors opt to self-publish these days because of that, others still want the benefits of traditional publishing such as wider distribution that those publishers currently offer. However, as the publishing model changes, we believe the role of agents and traditional publishers will change a great deal… you might want to see this piece Penny wrote for Huffington Post:

    Thanks for stopping by!

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