Finding the right literary agent is the first step to landing a major publishing company.
In the story of my first manuscript, I explain the process
I didn’t know anything about self-publishing or going to a major publisher. Frankly, I was a little daunted by each step. Because of this reason I worked with WestBow Press. They prompt you and explain the whole process every step of the way which was exactly what I needed.
As I do not regret the action, in any way, to hire them, my long-term goal has changed. I now wish to land a major publisher and feel confident based on what I’ve learned about what is needed.
Half the battle is knowing what you need to do. Well, that and having a great story. Without a good story, you have nothing, remember that. Everyone, including readers, literary agents and publishers like a fresh, unique, and well-written story.
This brings me to my second book, Prisoner Within, co-authored with Beth Marceaux. Beth and I have become great friends through the journey of writing, as she was first my editor.
Writing is a lot of work, even for experienced authors and editor and takes time. You may have the entire story, like I did, written and planned, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Writing is the easy part, editing and getting your query letter just right is the tough part.
As a literary agent does not get paid unless they can land you a publisher, they are not interested in a project half-finished or obvious grammatical mistakes.
This means you need to bite the bullet and find a great editor or make sure to offer your best work. That includes your query letter.
A query letter is a one-page letter that tells the literary agent your word count, what type of book and category, short synapses, and a short bio. In short, you have 300 words or less, to get an agent to fall in love with your story so they request your manuscript.Tweet
I’m not trying to scare you or deter your dream, just the opposite actually. I want you to be well equipped with your time and in your thinking, preparing you for the steps ahead.
The experts say to think of your pitch or synopsis as if someone in an elevator asks you what your book is about, and you have one floor to tell them. Roughly about two sentences. You need to make sure it’s striking, fresh, compelling, and unique.
A teen romance between an ordinary girl and a boy who is actually a vampire.
The Da Vinci Code
A professor of symbology unlocks codes buried in ancient works of art as he hunts for the Holy Grail.
A wife (Amy) goes missing, and her husband is suspected of murder. But the sweet diary-writing Amy of the first half of the book is revealed to be a very different woman in the second half . . .
I was just about to write our pitch for, Prisoner Within but that would spoil it for everyone. However, I will tell you this story is the first in a series we’ve named Ordinary Heroes. An Ordinary Hero is anyone who has made the chose to do an extraordinary thing as our main characters do in the first book and others in the series.
But enough about that. No more spoilers :). Besides, you want to know how you can get YOUR work published.
Here are the TOP TIPS I’ve learned along the way that will aid in your journey to find a top literary agent and have the confidence you need to reach your writing goals.
- Know your audience. Nothing is so frustrating to agents than when you have no idea who your primary audience is. If you don’t know how are they supposed to know? The more you know about your manuscript, who you are targeting, and what your purpose is in writing it, then you are more likely to land yourself a top agent.
- Remember it’s not a one size fits all. As each literary agency requests a different type of query letter or separate parts, you need to take the time to understand what it is each is demanding. To do this, go to their submission page on each website and following the instructions they have for fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, etc.
- Have a finished manuscript. Not all literary agents request a manuscript, but if they do be ready before starting to send out your submissions. There is nothing worse than to get a request for more pages or your entire manuscript, and you don’t have them ready. It would be better to wait on the submissions until it is complete.
- Remember, though; it will never be perfect. When you are changing a word and then putting it back, or messing with commas, nitpicking in other words, stop. You will probably do more harm than good at this point. If your plot, loose ends, and facts are all checked, have confidence, and move on.
- Create a spreadsheet to organize who you sent your information to and when. Each agency has multiple agents, and you need to have a way to keep track of them all. Be sure to include special notes such what each agent is looking for like fiction, biographies, etc.
- Have faith in your writing. You need to think positive but also be practical and send your query out to as many top literary agents as possible. One or two won’t cut it; heck 12 to 20 probably won’t get you one. Think big like one 100 literary agents. Note if you don’t hear a response when you’ve sent it out to about 60 you probably need to revamp or reword your query letter as it will make or break your chances in finding a top agent.
- Be sure you note in your spreadsheet how long each agency wants you to wait before sending your letter to another agent within their agencies. Or if they wish to have a follow-up email. This is major as it could make or break your chances with that agency. You are free to send your query letter out to another agent IF you have waited the proper amount of time and IF they have not stated that you would not be a good fit for their agency.
- Be professional. No literary agent or publisher is going to work with a crazy person who can’t keep their emotions under control. Every dealing can be done professionally, whether in person, through an email, and on the phone. That includes arguing when you get a rejection or a, “I can’t believe this is happening,” email when an offer comes. Keep your cool. You can celebrate with your friends later.
- When an agent wants to speak with you, that doesn’t mean they want to offer representation. They have questions just like you and might like to know if you are willing to do an in-depth edit, see if you would work well with them, or several other things.
- If at last, you get an offer, think hard. I cannot stress enough how important your agent will become to your writing career. This person will pitch your work to editors before going on submission; they will represent you at book fairs, call when they have good news and bad, negotiate your royalty rates, and give ideas for your next novel (and the one after that), etc. It’s tempting – and thrilling – to accept the first offer but stop and think.
If you follow these steps and do some more research on your own, you will be well on your way to getting your very own book into the hands of not only a top literary agent but a top publisher.
You can do this, never stop telling yourself that! Writing is one of those things that you have to love. As it takes several edits, untold hours of work and sometimes a year or more to complete one book, you better enjoy it.
Even with all of the work, I wouldn’t trade it. I love writing, as I’m sure you do, so stay encouraged and persevere.
Note: The information above, including titles, story info, and plot have copyright, constructive notice, and are registered. In other words, you should not attempt to duplicate or in any way tamper with the writing.
As usual, your information was great!! My friend, Jim Kintner, has written a series of Christian based poems that he attributes come directly from the Good Lord above. He had two of his books published through Amazon but was talking about finding a new publisher. You sent out your blog and I sent it to him! I met with him and he is now going to research finding a literary agent and go from there. Your information was helpful for him! Anyway, thank you so much. I shared your last blog and several folks liked it! I am so glad to be your friend!!!!!
I can’t tell you how much your friendship means! Also, I am so very excited for Jim. If you don’t know what to do it can be overwhelming, so I’m thrilled the content helped him, and he is encouraged to chase after his next goal. Please let me know how his story turns out and also the name of his books. -Heather