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Dos and Don’ts of Contacting a Literary Agent

March 16, 2015
Writing and publishing |
Creative Writing Decisions
literary agent Australia

Literary agents or agencies are usually the first point of contact for writers wanting to traditionally publish their work. The role of the literary agent is to represent writers and their written work to publishers, negotiate deals on behalf of the author, and assist in many other aspects of mediation between author and publisher. The services and guidance of a literary agent is invaluable for many authors. Below are some of the most important Dos and Don’ts of contacting a literary agent.


  • Do your research. Be familiar with different genres and sub-genres of writing and be clear about which genre your work falls under.
  • Do research the literary agent (or agency) to whom you plan to submit your manuscript.
  • Do write a polished, professional, well written, and error free email query letter with a personalised greeting. Include where you may have previously met or found them and why you’ve chosen to submit to them.
  • Do mention any referrals, personal connections, or industry contacts.
  • Do keep sending your work out to literary agents or editors.
  • Do let the agent know if your manuscript is a multiple submission.
  • Do attend writing festivals, writing groups, and network with other writers, editors, and literary agents. You must take your work seriously if you wish to be published. Networking with industry professionals is a great way to get a foot in the door.
  • Do start your author platform even before you approach a literary agent. However, be careful with this as you must portray yourself and your brand in a positive light. Start with a simple blog or a facebook page and start building your audience. Share your journey with potential future readers. This is the way of the future for writers now. Some Literary agents and editors believe that writers need to build an audience before a book is accepted or released. This means that if you already have a presence online, even if it’s not a huge one, they see that you are serious about becoming a published author and that you are already willing to do what it takes to market your book and author image during and after publication.



  • Don’t submit an email query letter or manuscript with errors.
  • Don’t take persistence too far. When a literary agent rejects your manuscript, ask yourself why this happened. Perhaps your manuscript doesn’t fit the agency’s list, or your concept has already been covered and isn’t in demand, or you may need to brush up on your writing and or editing skills. When a literary agent declines a manuscript, don’t harass them. It’s unprofessional.
  • Don’t act unprofessionally at any time, especially after receiving a rejection. You don’t want to burn bridges. Stay professional and cool headed.
  • Don’t use gimmicks to get attention. For example, ClipArt, images (unless absolutely necessary), colour paper, unusual font, or anything that makes your manuscript stand out. It’s a tacky tactic and it will only stand out like a sore thumb.
  • Don’t expect an answer straight away. Replies can sometimes take up to 6 months depending on the agency. Be patient and keep working on your next creative piece of work while you wait.
  • Don’t submit your manuscript to more than one person at the same literary agency.
  • Don’t continue sending manuscripts to an agent who has rejected your manuscript. There are some exceptions such as if they have asked you to send more work or unless a reasonable period of time has gone by since you submitted your work and the work is considerably different.
  • Don’t submit to agents who don’t handle the genre you have written in. If you have written a children’s picture book, you wouldn’t submit to an agency that has a strong focus on crime thrillers.
  • Don’t send email queries with a whole list of other agents in the subject/or receiver line. That’s not going to make them feel very important or think you’ve done your research in finding the right agent.
  • Don’t assume your job ends once you’ve found an agent (or an editor). It’s just the beginning of an exciting journey.
  • Don’t give up! Keep working on your writing, network with other writers and believe in yourself.


Have you ever made a mistake when contacting a literary agent/agency or even an editor perhaps? What did you do to overcome this? Have you had success with contacting literary agents or an editor? I’d love to hear your story below in the comments.

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