Is it possible to get a literary agent from another country?
It’s a question a lot of writers ask, and it’s a terribly important one if you happen to be from a country other than the United States.
So, when a Write It Sideways reader recently asked me for tips on querying literary agents across borders, I did a little research into the subject.
I’m often asked by people living in the UK and Australia if they could have a US agent as their primary agent — yes, you can. But it’s very important to think about your work and where its natural market lies.
There are some books that are universal (Harry Potter, for one big one), but the US, UK and Australian markets are all very different, and the readers have different sensibilities. A book that is successful in the United States might not be successful in the UK, and vice versa.
So take an honest look at your work, because even though the US market is the biggest, you may be best served finding a publisher for it in your home market. And for that you’d need a home agent.
I’m originally from Canada, but there are only a handful of literary agents in the entire country. I’ve been living in Australia for more than four years, and there aren’t many agents around here, either.
When it comes time to query my novel, I’m hoping to query within Canada and the U.S.
If you’re from a country in which there’s not a huge choice of agents, you’ll probably be tempted to pitch those from the U.S., too.
But are you wondering about what market is best for your book?
Author Mike Wells says:
Suppose you grew up in the USA and now live in Australia. If the book is set in Australia and has an Australian hero, probably it’s best that you have an Australian agent, because the largest reader base (as a percentage of reader population) will very likely be there.
If the book does well, your agent can work through co-agents and sell rights in the USA, Canada, the UK, and all other English-speaking countries, and then perhaps sell translation rights to other non-English language markets.
However, if your book is set in the USA and has an American hero, it may be better for you to have a USA-based agent, as the reader base will probably be greater there…but you would have to consider that helping promote the book from Australia would be difficult.
When it comes to querying across borders, common sense would say:
- Decide which country’s market best suits your book. If you’re not sure, ask your beta readers. Don’t worry about spellings or lingo that differ between your country and the agents’ country (favorite/favourite, etc.). If you’re required to make changes, it won’t be until after an agent actually makes you an offer of representation.
- Research agents within your desired market… and determine if they accept queries from outside the country. You can assume they do unless their submission guidelines state otherwise. For example, The Bukowski Agency in Canada clearly says, “The Bukowski Agency is currently accepting non-fiction submissions from prospective authors who are resident in Canada.” Obviously, if you’re not a Canadian resident, you wouldn’t query this particular agency.
- Query by email. If an agent doesn’t use email for querying, it’s unlikely they’d be interested in taking on clients from other countries. Querying overseas via snail mail would be a terribly frustrating and slow process, not to mention expensive.
If an agent falls in love with your manuscript and he or she feels there’s a place for it within their market, it probably won’t matter where you live. Pretty much everything that needs to be done can be done electronically.
Wondering about the logistics of promoting yourself overseas through book tours or other events?
Nathan Bransford says, “If you are lucky enough to even have a book tour let alone in another country, well, that’s one of those bridges that you cross when you get there.”
Have you ever queried a book outside of your country? What was the outcome? Any words of advice for others in the same boat?