Find a Literary Agent Who Likes Your Topic

This week's Ask Robin Question:

Robert Frost writes: “I prefer traditional (publishing) and am sending queries. Difficult to find 'war' agents. Have 2013 writers market and guide to agents plus web search. Suggestions?"

Answer: Dear Robert,

Finding the right agent to represent you and your work can be an arduous task. Even without much detail on your manuscript's content, I believe I can give some guidance that will help you (and our other readers).

Of course, you should seek agents most likely to favor your book's topic, but agents who might like your manuscript won’t necessarily list every topic of interest. Unless the specifically say, "No (insert topic) books," you can assume that they might be open to it. Many agents would consider representing  books on a topic, but they don’t want to represent those works exclusively or be inundated with queries.

You’ll find a bigger field to hunt in when you take a step back from the topic and look at the genre. I can’t tell from your question whether your book is historical non-fiction, creative non-fiction, literary fiction, or some other genre. Regardless, you can look for and query agents who represent works in your genre. Agents can be open to a broad range topics if the writing is good and the content is strong.

Good resources to find agents besides the ones you mentioned include: The directory for the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR); Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents; Agents Directory; and The Writer’s Handbook. I pulled much of this list from one of my favorite references, Michael Larsen’s How to Get a Literary Agent. A must read for anyone who wants to go the traditional route.