Looking for a US literary agent that specialises in non–fiction? Here’s your guide to finding an agent; learn who they are, what they’re looking for and how to hook them.
Non-fiction Literary Agents
There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.
We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.
After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some non-fiction agents to get you started:
Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!
What Are Non-fiction Agents Looking For?
Ultimately all literary agents are looking for a saleable manuscript. While non-fiction subjects can be varied, agents are generally interested in:
- Celebrity-led projects, anything written or endorsed by a celebrity
- Strong and compelling memoirs
- Exotic travel stories, whether they’re funny or moving
- Popular science
- Narrative-led history
- Biographies, especially if the subject is well-known
- Major new diet or motivational work
- Strong and quirky one-off pieces
- LGBTQ+ themes.
The important thing to remember, is that unfortunately, no one is looking for niche. Anything specific with a narrow market, like local history books or biographies of unknown subjects, aren’t traditionally sought after by agents. You may find that your work might be picked up by the right publisher, but it’s unlikely you’ll get an agent for these types of projects.
You’ll notice that specialist and academic non–fiction isn’t listed here, either. That’s because your best bet would be to write up a book proposal and pitch directly to publishers who specialise in your subject area. You don’t typically need an agent for these.
Few agents focus solely on non-fiction projects. Most agents will build a fiction and non-fiction list, just as they would cultivate a literary and commercial list. The important thing to remember is that it’s the quality of the agent that really matters, not whether they specialise in a particular genre.
Having said that, there are some exceptions. As a general rule:
- Authors of cookbooks, health and diet, or a how-to book may want an agent who does specialise in these areas. It’s definitely not an easy genre to break into, though.
- If you’re looking to work with a ghost-writer to help tell your story, then you’ll want to find an agent that has experience working on similar projects. But beware, very few personal stories warrant the cost of a ghost-writer. If you want to publish your story, then it’s worth writing it yourself – with our help, of course!
Don’t forget you can research agent’s interests by either searching the relevant agency website, or by simply using our database of US and UK based literary agents, AgentMatch, to help narrow down your search.
How Do You Know What Literary Agents Want?
This can be split into three categories: first, know what you need to query agents with.
For fiction submissions, you need to have written the whole book before querying agents. With non-fiction submissions, you can often get away with sending a book proposal, which is basically an outline of the book you intend to write, first.
If your book is story-led (think memoirs), then it would be worth writing the whole book before you submit to agents.
But if your non-fiction is subject based, then it‘s fine to start with the book proposal.
Secondly, deliver a saleable manuscript.
As I mentioned above, the only thing agents are really looking for is a manuscript that will sell well and make money. This means you need:
- Strong, popular, entertaining writing – even if your subject is interesting, if the writing is poor no one’s going to want to read it!
- To write for the market. Obvious, yes, but a surprisingly high number of non–fiction authors don’t know who their intended market is. So, if you don’t know yours, then go to a bookstore or local library and find out.
And finally, get professional help. If you keep getting agent rejections or just want to perfect your manuscript first, then it’s time to ask for help. There’s lots of information out there. We’ve helped non-fiction authors in their writing journeys, and we can help you too. So, get in touch.
Best of luck with your submissions; and remember, let us know how you get on!