Byrd Leavell Discusses Key Strategies for Finding the Right Literary Agent

Byrd Leavell

October 2, 2021

Byrd Leavell Discusses Key Strategies for Finding the Right Literary Agent

With more than fifteen years in the publishing sphere, seasoned agent and head of publishing at United Talent Agency Byrd Leavell is keenly aware of what it takes to find the right literary agent for your next book.

An agent’s growing list of submissions means they’re facing a mounting workload on a strict deadline. If you want an agent to consider your book, grabbing their attention immediately is an absolute must. Within the first polished 50 to 100 pages, define and demonstrate a compelling development in your plot that is centered around the inciting incident.

First impressions are critical, and without these fundamental elements in place, an agent will move on to the next hopeful author.

Keep your ideal reader in mind throughout the writing and querying processes. Ask yourself what it is that you want readers to gain, and how can you illustrate those gains to a prospective literary agent?

Is it empathy you hope to inspire by sharing a story that demonstrates the plight of others? Or do you want to offer readers the opportunity to simply get lost in your novel, to escape the stresses of daily life?

In essence, know what you want your readers to feel so you can provide a compelling reason for an agent to reach out to you.

Just as no two authors are alike, Byrd Leavell knows that no two agents are all that similar. Their goals might align, but different rules apply. Create a list of agents who represent your genre and study their submission guidelines. Take the time to personalize each query; a one-size-fits-all option won’t work.

While your novel might encompass a range of genres, there’s only one shelf it can sit on. Find the signifying genre and let the agent know in a side note that there are more elements within than initially established.

Agents tend to specialize, giving them the upper hand in staying on top of genre trends, so it’s important to identify a strong genre.

Remember that variation is key; agents like Byrd Leavell don’t want to represent near-identical books. If you’re querying an agent recently linked to a book that closely mirrors yours, there’s little chance they will be open to representing you.

If, however, you happen to simply share the same genre and your story is unique in comparison, they will likely be more receptive.

There’s an abundance of information available about finding the right representation, and it can be overwhelming. But the help you seek could be sitting on your bookshelf at this moment.

Acknowledgment sections will often include the author’s agent. If finding an agent is challenging for you, peruse your shelves and accept a little help from authors who have gone before you.

Essentially, it’s a very tough road and Byrd Leavell encourages authors to be prepared for the inevitable level of rejection that will occur until they persevere and find their ideal agent and advocate.