If you are trying to get your book published through the more traditional means of an established publishing house, you may find it incredibly hard to get it read by an editor if you’re ‘going it alone’. Most publishers rely upon literary agents bringing them manuscripts, these agents will have developed relationships within the publishing world, have specialized within just several specific genres, have their fingers on the pulse of current trends and understand how to best shape a book for an audience.
So, finding and working with a literary agent will give you a massive advantage when publishing your book, it will help in giving a clear path to not only polishing your work to its most professional version, but also with opening doors to the relevant parties who can make it a success.
Understanding you need an agent is one thing, getting one (a good one that is) is another.
The good news is that agents do in fact need authors, without authors they wouldn’t have a job of course, however, most agents get inundated with emails, letters and manuscripts from hundreds of authors every day, so you have a lot of competition even in getting an agent to represent you.
But first, you need to find an agent
You may or may not already know people within the publishing world, so you might want to ask those you do know if they have any contacts or recommendations. However, if you don’t get any luck here, don’t worry, there are other ways to find agents.
Firstly, you could try several publications which are more dedicated towards the publishing industry, books such as Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, Writer’s Market and/or Guide to Literary Agents both by Robert Lee Brewer are certainly good places to start.
There are also many websites which will give you the details of agents, sites such http://aaronline.org/, https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ and also https://agentquery.com/default.aspx are three sites which have used by many authors and are certainly worth taking a look at.
Many agents also attend book and literary festivals along with writer’s conferences, these are great environments for authors and are well worth going to (even if you’re not looking for an agent), however, it should give the chance to meet with an agent or listen to a talk given by one, this information is invaluable.
You can also look in books which are in your own genre, many will have details within their acknowledgements section, some will list their agents.
Social media is another way to find agents, it can also help give an understanding of their personalities and which would fit your style of writing best.
Once you have a list of agents who are relevant to your genre, you need to start reaching out to them.
But first things first, before you reach out to anyone, your book has to be finished and highly polished, if you send a manuscript (or chapters of one) which are incomplete, in need of editing and full of typos, your chance of success will be zero.
So, before you do anything, get your book edited, proofread, and refined to its absolute best.
Check each agent you plan to contact to ensure that you are doing so via their preferred method, for example, if they only except applications by email, don’t then send a 500 page manuscript printed on letter sized paper through the mail.
You should then send a query letter, this needs to be professional and be a one page pitch for you and your book, you’ll also need to include a synopsis for your novel which should be no more than one or two pages in length. For non-fiction, these synopses are a little more in-depth and should be more substantial in length.
You should also include a chapter of your book, for fiction it is recommended that you send the first chapter, with nonfiction you can send any.
Please remember that most agents will not accept a full manuscript being sent to them at first, send a query letter with samples, when in doubt, always refer to the agent’s own submission guidelines.
Be prepared for rejection, the best authors in the world have had to deal with this, it is normal, however, if you have sent out hundreds of applications/query letters and you’re still not getting anything back, you may want to go to your editor (or a new one) and get it reevaluated for any additional revisions it may need.
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