Finding gracefully

In looking for literary agents, I keep finding an instruction: do your homework. Know how publishing works. Know what agents do and know what a specific agent has represented. I agree; it’s sound sense.

If this works, I’m hoping to find someone to work with for a good long time; I want to feel confident in them. This is work it will help me to do. I would want to know at least whether an agent might like my kind of book and way of writing and values before I sent a query letter. In any case, asking an agent to do work that I should do is the best way I can think of to get turned down, and they would be right to turn me down.

The questions is: how to find out? Some agents I’ve researched give examples of books they have represented, in which case the answer is in part to read the books. But many do not. One agency (one I have a recommendation for) lists nonfiction books but not fiction, though they represent novels.

I know why. I deal enough with people wanting my time, in my own job, to know how this works. Agents want to protect their writers and themselves, and they should. But I want to know more about them and their world than a few articles in Writer’s Digest can tell me. So it’s my job to go looking.

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