Looking for a nonfiction agent to help you get a contract with a traditional publishing house?

Literary agents will distribute your book proposal and approach the likely traditional publishing houses about their interest in you and your topic. Most traditional publishers require an agent’s vetting of all authors they consider publishing, so agents are important gatekeepers in this part of the publishing world.

Agents specialize in book genres and topics, and some have requirements about how to contact them, just as many publishers do. So you’ll need to do your research before you finalize your shortlist of agents to contact.

Business-building authors should research the topic interests of agents who work with nonfiction authors. If you’ve written a book proposal about a book for your business you want to create, plan to contact at least 100 agents whose profiles specify they work with books in your field, asking if they’d like to see your proposal. Author-agent relationships may last for decades, for as long as your book is in print. So many will only have bandwidth to add 2 or 3 new clients/year, and therefore only five to ten percent of those you contact may respond favorably and ask to see your proposal. Some who read your proposal will offer to represent you and invite you to interview and choose them. Be sure to keep accurate notes about which and when you’ve queried about your proposal and book, heard back from (positive or negative response), gotten a positive response from, sent your proposal to and gotten an indication of interest from.

Your job is to find a good fit with only one, so you’ll want to learn how the “finalists” you consider approach their work and the authors they represent. Many create rules they ask their authors to follow. That person will represent you to the publishers in the very best light and help you negotiate a commitment from one of them to publish your eventual book in exchange for a percentage of all royalties that publisher pays you over time. Be suspicious about agents who require or accept a direct payment – including a reading fee – from the authors they represent because that’s not typical or traditionally accepted in the industry. Take some time to read this excellent article about the norms for finding, choosing and working with an agent, and then dive into these lists of hundreds of agents as you begin your research.

• Ardor Magazine has a 100+ agents on this webpage.

• Jericho Writers’ webpage lists 1,000 agents and links to bios and book topics of interest.

• Ex-agent Mark Malatesta has a database with 1,000 nonfiction agents in the US.

MSWishlist has individual posts from 600+ agents seeking nonfiction projects.

Narrative Magazine has hundreds of agents, and you can search for nonfiction.

• Poets and Writers has a database of agents, almost 200 of whom work with nonfiction authors.

• Publishers Marketplace lists 740 agents.

• Rafal Reyzer has this list of 28 literary agencies who accept first-time authors.

• Reedsy lists over 650 agents seeking new clients this year, almost 500 of whom seek nonfiction projects.

• Writer’s Digest has a list of 20 agents seeking new authors plus links to a 144-page guide to getting an agent.

Best of luck on your search, and let us know of others we should include.