I want to publish an English language book in the USA as a foreigner. Someone told me that the USA is mainly interested in American subjects, so anything else is quite hard to sell. Besides the fact of what America does towards non-American books written by a foreigner, how can I, out of the buttload of literary agents, find a literary agent that is interested in my book without having to check out all the literary agents? I've tried selling internationally by contacting literary agents nationally, but they have either no knowledge or interest in selling internationally.

The book is psychological non-fiction. It's about two subjects, rulers and mental weakness.

When I search for other psychological non-fiction books to know which agents other authors haven chosen, I get 1193 results under 'non fiction psychological' on 'goodreads.com'.

P.S. Thanks to the comments I understand now what an agent wants and why. A writer who goes to an agent has no name that people know about. No story starts as a bestseller. The first people who'll buy from an unknown source, in this case an author, are the ones who are interested in the subject, not so much because it might be entertaining. Once you manage to make your target audience buy your product, in this case a book, they'll refer it to other people. Other people might be less interested in the subject, but if your product, in this case your book is entertaining, regardless of the subject, the majority will like it and your product, in this case a book, will become a bestseller.

This has been proven in the past, for example 'Philosopher's Stone', you know who wrote that. The book was denied by 12 publishers. The 13th time was successful, because the daughter of bloomsbury, who liked the book, told her father to publish it. 12 publishers denied the book, because Rowling wasn´t able to sell the story to the target audience, so the publisher wasn´t interested.

Since it is most important to sell it to a target audience, for anyone out there who wants to publish there first story some day, be sure that the message that you sent, so your query letter and if required your proposal are professional and conforming to the submission rules of the agency that you sent it to, so sent it to an agency who's interested in your subject as well.

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  • I'm also interested in this question. I'm a British writer who bases some stories in the US. I recommend editing your question to explain what kind of book you seek to publish. It'll make a big difference.
    – J.G.
    Apr 24, 2019 at 14:59
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    Welcome to Writing.SE. Thanks for starting off with a good question. Please consider choosing a user name so we can all remember who you are.
    – Cyn
    Apr 24, 2019 at 15:43
  • I changed "mental non-fiction" to "psychological non-fiction." If that doesn't work for you, change it back.
    – Cyn
    Apr 24, 2019 at 15:46
  • Keep in mind that most psychological nonfiction is going to be more directly about psychology. You might be better off searching for history or royalty (or government). It takes a while to narrow down a list of which agents to query. There are no shortcuts here. It should take you many hours of work over probably a few weeks.
    – Cyn
    Apr 24, 2019 at 16:22
  • It's not just psychological or royalty. In fact, it's not about any royal figure. It's about rulers, so basically any ruling figure, rulers in general. It's about two subjects, mental weakness and rulers
    – user38951
    Apr 24, 2019 at 16:45

3 Answers 3


I highly recommend http://agentquery.com. It's free, searchable by category and oriented towards North American agents. I haven't personally had any luck yet securing an agent through them, but the listings all seem to be legitimate, and comparable to the ones you can find through other valid sources.

I do recommend, however, taking the time to click through to the agency websites, and not just cold emailing on the basis of what is on the site.

In terms of winnowing down the number of agents, the only filtering you want to do is to make sure they are definitely looking for the kind of work you produce. Getting an agent is a numbers game, and the more options you have, the better. Your first step should be to send out query letters --not manuscripts or full proposals --and you'll want to send out A LOT of them. In my experience, a response rate of 1 proposal request to every 15 queries is doing great.

  • When searching for psychology non-fiction I get 184 results. Although it's less than the total of 950, it's still a buttload
    – user38951
    Apr 24, 2019 at 15:58
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    That's a feature, not a bug (i.e. a good thing). Getting an agent is a numbers game. Query all 184 and you'll have a better chance of getting through to at least a few. Apr 24, 2019 at 16:05
  • I did check out the first 8 results, of which 5 I could find information about subjects. As I suspected, all of them give a broad range of subjects, what they want a non fiction book to be about is something that can be applied on any subject you write about
    – user38951
    Apr 24, 2019 at 16:29
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    Again, this is a good thing. If there's one and only one agent, and she represents exactly what your book is about, but she doesn't like your work --or doesn't respond, or has enough projects, or is out on vacation, or is retiring --you're out of luck. You're better off with fifty potential agents who are open to the general ballpark of what you're offering. Apr 24, 2019 at 17:12
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    What kind of advice are you looking for? "Go to 5th Avenue and duck down the second alley. Knock three times and then go wait at the park. The first person who approaches you after that will be the right agent." Apr 24, 2019 at 17:26

Answer: Another way to think about your question is:

How do I get the right literary agent to find me?

For non-fiction, the following details are routinely requested by US agents. Not every time, but these things are requested (for NF) regularly:

  1. A full proposal of the work (it sounds as though you have this covered)
  2. A robust media platform (this is to prove that you have reach, 'followers,' and can sell books)
  3. A track record (i.e have authored pieces in journals, anthologies, or so on. This idea plays into 'platform.' It means you have begun creating a potential market.)

In other words, you might find the perfect agent. But if you are not the perfect client, (if they don't see an easy or at least profitable sale in your work), then there is a new issue for you to deal with. And, some agents refuse re-queries.

It might be worthwhile to put some time toward the things they like to see in a non-fiction query.

  • That's good advice. One problem, I don't have a robust media platform or a track record, because this is my first book. I don't want to sell on Amazon ebooks. Maybe you didn't read my comment, but isn't the story what matters and if you have a well written story you can make a great proposal and I said that agencies were interested in me, but couldn't do international publishing. No worries, I do put quite some time in my work.
    – user38951
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:33
  • @user38951 I think that's the point--it isn't as cut and dried as any of us hope. Think about it from the agent perspective, it is a different game entirely. What will sell? That's all. But you can research how to play the game from their viewpoint, and this might be helpful to do. Arguing that you don't need a platform will ensure to them that you are not someone they want to work with. having a platform makes their job easier=a good thing. Sorry. p.s. I missed that agencies are interested--This is Great! Best luck.
    – SFWriter
    Apr 24, 2019 at 18:46
  • I didn't say that I don't want a platform. I don't have one, but I'm open to creating one if an agency asks me. I've read that a marketing platform will secure the interest of an editor or publisher. This page bizofbooks.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/…, in the last five lines of the 'query' paragraph, says that two agencies responded the day after he had sent query letters to three agencies asking for more. Soon after he had a contract. If you have a good query letter and proposal, how important is it to have a marketing platform beforehand?
    – user38951
    Apr 25, 2019 at 15:48
  • Since the guy in the article had a contract within no time I think that if you don't have a marketing platform that you have to have a great query and proposal. If they see profit in your book by reading your query and your proposal it's a done deal. I really don't see how a marketing platform is more important than the query, the proposal and the manuscript. Without a good query and proposal you won't get a deal, no matter how good your marketing platform is
    – user38951
    Apr 25, 2019 at 16:22
  • @user38951 You're quickly surpassing my knowledge on the subject of NF book proposals. One possibility you might consider is to query good agents that are a decent fit and see if any show interest. If none of them do, you might decide to do more work before querying a 'perfect fit' agent. I know it's a drag and I doubt it's ever a sure shot. (unless you are a top name celebrity or something similar.) My experience querying with fiction is that it is a slog.
    – SFWriter
    Apr 25, 2019 at 16:33

It's not easy, but the core answer is: You need to learn the market.

Being from outside the U.S., or not having an existing platform, might be issues, but they shouldn't be dealbreakers -- lots of U.S. agents work with foreign clients, and a good book on a good topic can sell beautifully.

But: you need to know what else is out there. What other books on similar topics look like; what readers will be expecting from a book like yours; whether anyone else has already covered your precise topic, or something extremely similar. Without those, your book will have a really hard time being a good book for the current U.S. market. You're not going to get all those things right by sheer good luck -- you're going to get them right by knowing those other books, and adjusting your own text and approach accordingly.

That's why Googling "non fiction psychological" is not enough on its own. I suggest you look for books on related topics to yours, specifically. Read some of them; read reviews of others; learn which are considered major works.

Gradually, you'll figure out which existing books yours is most comparable to. And then you can check and see what agency they've gone through.

This might seem like a lot of work -- but it needs to be done, to place your book in a very big market. You'll find that even if right now somebody gave you the name of the most perfect agent ever, the first thing that perfect agent will want is a proposal -- detailing precisely which other existing books your work is comparable to, and how yours is different from what's already out there. So this isn't double work you're doing; it's some of the most important work in querying.

Best of luck!

  • Thanks for the advice. Although I understand what you say and it is important to mention similar works for almost anyone, if that would be the case for me, I wouldn't have to write this book. I don't say this to make me look good, but only to inform you. I don't say this to discuss your answer and I don't expect you to comment back
    – user38951
    Apr 24, 2019 at 19:47
  • "similar" is not the same as "comparable." You want to find comparable books, so you can find out what agents represented those books. If nobody is publishing anything that can even be compared to your book -- not identical, but similar in certain regards -- then you're probably going to have a hard time finding an agent...
    – Standback
    Apr 24, 2019 at 21:10
  • How do I know which books to refer to and which not? How do I know that the books which are comparable have a good name to represent? Besides, how can I make sure that one book is more comparable than another by reading the summary, since I'm not gonna read every book that might be comparable.
    – user38951
    Apr 24, 2019 at 22:59
  • I'd suggest: Start by finding lists of books on related subjects. Read summaries and reviews to hone in on the ones that feel most (a) comparable, (b) interesting, (c) good. Pick (say) 10 of the ones that look most promising, and read them. This is a start -- but do understand, even having read ten whole books in a field you want to publish in, isn't really very much. Read regularly; read widely -- if you want to publish, you need a sense of what else is being published, or you'll be writing in a vacuum.
    – Standback
    Apr 25, 2019 at 7:21
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    @user38951 "all people who send a query HAVE to know about literarure in depth...?" Queries typically contain comps. Have you gone through the Query Shark blog? You'll see the process from the agent's perspective. It's work to create a competitive package--because their are so many aspirants. Highly competitive. Highly, highly competitive. Yes, a good book is key but not sufficient.
    – SFWriter
    Apr 25, 2019 at 14:05

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