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My Review of Noah Lukeman’s How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent

September 30, 2009

I’m a big fan of Noah Lukeman, the President of Lukeman Literary Management. Lukeman has written several very helpful books in which he shares valuable information and advice on how to write well and how to get published.

I’ve read The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile (Simon & Schuster, 1999), and The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (St. Martins Press, 2002). This week, I finished reading his latest book, How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent.

For many reasons I wish I’d read it a year ago, primarily because this book helps an author realistically calibrate his expectations and timeline for getting published. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Unrealistic expectations are likely to lead a frustrated author to give up all hope of ever being published after receiving  rejections from a few, randomly selected agents.

But Lukeman doesn’t only help authors to properly pace themselves. He also insists that they approach agents only after their work has undergone 20 to 40 revisions. The submission of rough drafts is undoubtedly another reason that many authors never get published. Lukeman draws attention to many common mistakes that authors make in their search for representation, and in their relationship with their agent. I recognize many of these mistakes as ones that I’ve committed, and, thanks to Mr. Lukeman, will not repeat.

Lukeman lays out a clear strategy for identifying and approaching appropriate agents, and provides tools for executing this strategy. One of the greatest lessons for me was Lukeman’s emphasis upon the importance of appreciating the odds of landing an agent. Lukeman helps authors reduce the odds by equipping authors to build and fine tune a well-researched database of at least 50 reputable agents who have interest in the author’s genre.

He starts by strongly recommending reading another of his books, How to Write a Great Query Letter, which can be downloaded for free at

Mr. Lukeman remarks that “publishing is not science,” but his book certainly reduces a lot of the guesswork and increases a writer’s chances of success. He provides detailed methods by which authors can exploit and leverage the power of the internet to draw attention to themselves and their writing, and to find a great agent. He provides seven prudent measures by which a writer may negotiate a favorable agency agreement. He also explains what is likely to happen once an author lands an agent. He demystifies the process by which agents submit manuscripts and proposals to publishers. He recommends ways to strengthen the author-agent relationship, and discusses what an author can and cannot expect from an agent, and ways that an author can make best use of his agent. Finally, he addresses the question of what to do if, after taking all of his advice, an author fails to land an agent.

According to Lukeman, his most important message is, “do not – ever – give up. This alone is what separates the professionals from the amateurs, the writers who get published from the writers who do not. It may take 5 years. It may take 10. It may even take 30. You need to dig in for a longer effort, to change your perception of the process from its being a one-time effort for one book to its being a multi-year effort for several books. If you keep writing, if you keep improving, if you hang in there long enough, you will get published.”

I highly recommend buying and reading How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent.

You can learn more about Lukeman and his books at:,,,

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2009 11:27 pm

    Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google your post looks very interesting for me. I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      March 5, 2010 12:23 pm


      Thanks for visiting the site. Sorry I didn’t reply earlier. Your message was sitting in my spam folder, which I failed to check.


  2. October 9, 2009 4:01 pm

    Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      March 5, 2010 12:22 pm

      Hi Bill,

      I’m really sorry I missed your comment. It was in my spam list, which I failed to check.

      Thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment.



  3. October 9, 2009 5:10 pm

    Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

    • Brooks Anderson permalink*
      June 27, 2010 4:49 am

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for visiting my site and bookmarking it.

      I’ve negelected the site for half a year because I got a job. I’ll try to post some new material soon.


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