To obtain a literary agent, begin by examining books similar to the work that needs publication and scan the acknowledgements to find their specific agents. Send the agents a proposal and sample of the work with a request for representation.
A literary agent serves as a representative of the author during discussions with publishing houses. Good literary agents have a strong understanding of the publishing world and the potential value of an author’s unpublished work. This allows them to negotiate with publishers to obtain a sizable advance on the work, as well as proper compensation during and post publication. As their sole focus is on getting their clients successfully published, they are also able to handle scenarios such as publisher bidding wars and movie studios acquiring the rights for an adaptation.
It is not necessary for every author to find a literary agent. For example, authors who seek to publish independently or through small presses won’t typically need added representation because they are able to speak directly with publishers to work on contract details. Authors who are publishing nonfiction may also be able to work with publishers without the aid of a literary agent because most publishers release more nonfiction literature than fiction. The high demand for nonfiction means that publishers have fewer reservations about taking on new work.