There are hundreds of literary agents in the UK, so finding the right one can seem daunting. A good starting point for those looking for an agent is the Writers and Artists Yearbook, but Felicity also has some other tips: “Looking at books that you feel yours is in keeping with, to see who is mentioned in the acknowledgements section (the agent is often named), is a good way to start thinking about exactly who might be the person to direct a submission to.”
Like editors, most agents have particular expertise or experience in working with certain genres or with particular authors. Working out which agents might be most appropriate (and, more importantly, most likely to get excited about your book!) is an important first step. Sending a proposal for a piece of historical non-fiction to an agent who specialises in children’s literature, for example, isn’t going to get you very far. Instead, think about which authors you might compare your work or writing style to, and try to find out who represents them.
Make sure you do some online research too. Felicity adds: “Most agencies are now open to the outside world… they have websites with agent bios and a long list of their clients and what they are looking for. They have Twitter accounts (mine is not very active, whoops) that you can get a great sense of the agent from.”
But it's not just on writers to search for an agent, many agents also actively look for new clients to represent. Felicity says she looks “everywhere” for authors: “In anthologies, via our submissions portal (we get a number each day to my office and I try to read the cover letter of each to work out which I want to prioritise - so never underestimate the importance of first impressions!), via author recommendations, enquiries from authors looking to move, recommendations from publishers who think an author needs an agent, or know an author is looking to move, via first novel prizes, short story competitions, creative writing schools, within journalism, opinion pieces, podcasts, talent from other fields.”
There are so many different routes to getting an agent - the important thing is to use whatever channels you have available to get your work noticed. We’ve compiled a handy list of some of the prizes and opportunities available to writers, which you can find here.