The bottom line is that if you write for long enough, and produce enough material, and your writing is decent, eventually someone is going to want to sell your work. Literary agents are simply salespeople in the business of selling a product. Although they may appear to be mysterious entities behind cloud-kissing gates, they are just like us, except with sore eyes and constant paper cuts from reading loose manuscripts until the wee hours.
The best way to get an agent is through a referral. If you know someone who has an agent, ask them to read your work. If they like it, perhaps they will give it to their agent for consideration.
The second best way to get an agent is by submitting your work directly to them. Here is how the process works. Get a list of agents off the Internet. Just Google “literary agents” and you will find websites that have endless lists of agents. Another way is to look in the acknowledgement sections of books and find where they thanked their agent. If you are willing to part with twenty bucks for a month’s access, I recommend that you sign up for www.publishersmarketplace.com. They have an enormous database of authors, agents and publishers. You can type in the names of authors you admire or who write in a similar genre as you, and the site will tell you who represents them.
Type an email that contain a brief bio of your writing career, followed by a brief description of your book, and then politely ask if the agent would be interested in reading your work.
Send this email to as many agents as you can. Most of them will not respond. Do not take it personally. They are busy, stressed-out people. Be polite. Be professional. If you want to shine, do so through the elegance of your prose. Do not be crazy. The publishing world is still situated primarily on the east coast, and they are frightened of crazy people. If you want to be crazy, move to California and become a television comedy writer.
Now, here’s the difficult part.
Wait for a response. And while you are waiting, continue writing or you will go nuts. And continue sending out query letters to other agents.
There is a saying “Polish it here and it shines over there.” What this means is that if you continue to do everything you can do, eventually you are going to see results, and they may have nothing to do with all of the work that you did.
If you continue writing and continue sending out query letters, eventually you are going to get an agent because your next-door neighbor accidentally reads the manuscript that you threw into the garbage and she happens to have a brother-in-law who is best friends with J.K. Rowling’s agent.
Polish it here. It shines over there.
That is how you get an agent.