1) Almost all literary agents are listed in The Publishers Market Place or LMP, a huge, expensive, 1,229 page volume which you should be able to find in a public library. It contains their actual and email addresses, and a brief description of the kinds of book they represent as well as titles recently placed.
2) Approach an agent with both an email and letter that cogently describes your book – the description should not take more than a paragraph or two – followed by a brief bio that makes clear why you have the authority (called a platform) to write the book if it is nonfiction. Or a brief description of your novel in which the premise shouts, “Yes, I would like to read that manuscript.” Whatever you do, skip the hype. Big turnoff.
3) You need to able to send the agent a proposal that includes an overview, a table of contents in which you include a paragraph or two describing the contents of each chapter and two sample chapters if the work is nonfiction, or at least one hundred or more pages if a work of fiction.
4) Conduct a thorough search and list and describe the competition for your book, especially nonfiction, and spell out how your book is different. For fiction, name works similar or genres that were and are successful.
5) A way to find a potential agent appropriate for your work: cruise a book store, select a volume similar to yours and check out the acknowledgment page that often lists the name of the agent for that work. Then in your email and letter write that the recipient represented such and such work which you enjoyed reading and that your work is of the same genre and might be of particular interest to the agent.
6) Provide an estimate of the number of words of the work and length of time it would take to complete it.
Tip submitted by Hillel Black, free lance editor of over 20 NY Times best sellers and member of the Consulting Editors Alliance. Visit http://www.hillelblack.com/.
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