How do I get a literary agent? This is a popular question among aspiring writers, and to be honest, signing with a literary agent is a long and complicated process but well worth it for many. That being said, signing with a literary agent isn’t the only way to get published, but today, I’m only covering literary agents since that was what I was asked when I helped host a writer’s group this past month. Okay, now for the answer.
First and foremost, make sure you have a completed, polished manuscript ready to go. You want to be 100% ready. This means you’ve written, edited, listened to beta readers, edited again, and polished. Now that your novel is ready, you are ready to search for an agent.
1. Research Your Book and the Marketplace
Research, research, research. Understand your book’s genre and two-three great comp. titles. (Comp. Titles = Comparison titles = Recently published books that can be compared to your book, and not huge ones like Harry Potter or Twilight) Think: What books would B&N put my book in between on the shelves? If you can’t think of a comp. title, don’t force it, but honestly, that might be a sign you need to read more. There is always a good comp. title out there.
2. Research Agents and Agencies
Once you understand your book, research agents to see what genres they represent and how to submit to them. MSWL (ManuscriptWishList.com) is a great place to start, but you can also look out for “New Agents” via Writer’s Digest, subscribe to Publishers Marketplace (and Publishers Lunch), or follow agents via Twitter by looking in the Acknowledgements sections in similar books (like those comp. titles we just talked about). An important rule to remember is that agents should never charge you for anything. Agents make money through your royalties once they sign your book. AAR is a great place to verify agencies. So is Absolute Writer Water Cooler. Be diligent and careful.
3. The Query Letter and 1-Page Synopsis
Write a query letter and a 1-page synopsis (and probably a 2-page synopsis, too). What’s a query letter? It’s a one-page business letter that includes your book’s title, word count, genre, comp titles, and a small synopsis, along with why you picked that agent and any publishing credentials you might have. A great way to learn about this process is QueryShark. I’d go as far as to say to submit to QueryShark and see if Janet Reid gives you advice, but definitely try to get advice from credited sources before e-mailing. If you follow agents online, they sometimes open competitions where you can win a query critique. Also, read #tenqueries and #querytip on Twitter. Also, #MSWL is the Twitter version of ManuscriptWishList.com, so you can see what agents are looking for. Do NOT query agents via Twitter. Look up their websites, read about them, and query according to their submission guidelines.
4. Now Query
Once you have a list of agents you’re interested in (and all the necessary materials), query a few at a time (3-4) and see if you get any partials or fulls. (Partials is when an agent asks for 50 pages, while fulls are full manuscript requests.) If not, rewrite your query, and then, try a new batch. If you get partials but no fulls, reevaluate your novel. Use QueryTracker to keep track of who you’re talking to and why and what was said. Generally, giving “exclusives” should only happen if the agent gave you specific rewrites they want you to do, but other than that, shy away from them. Querying is a slow, slow process, and most agents understand you’re querying numerous agencies at once. Just don’t spam and make sure you’re genuinely querying them due to his or her interests. If you get a full, congrats! If you get an offer of rep, double congrats, but in the case of getting an offer of rep, you should e-mail all the current agents considering your work and tell them (whether to close out because you signed or because you have a 2-week limit for counter offers). If querying isn’t working, check out my next tip.
5. Don’t Forget Other Opportunities
This includes pitch competitions on Twitter—such as #PitMad and #PitchWars—and conferences. Here’s a Pitch Competition Calendar. If you can travel, conferences are great tool to network and learn. But there are online conferences as well! If you feel stuck in the query trenches, remind yourself it’s a long process many writers go through, and you will get through it to the other side if you work hard. Querying is difficult, but don’t hesitate to ask for help or hire a credited source for a critique. And, of course, don’t forget my last tip.
6. Finally, Keep Writing!
Most writers don’t sell the first piece of work they ever finished. Most writers don’t even sell their second. Keep writing. It will help you stay focused and moving forward, and if you do get that awesome call from an agent, you’ll be able to share numerous projects. Plus, writers love to write. Give yourself time to continue what you love.
Originally posted in the Facebook writer’s group, Twice the Jennifers
Today I have 4 giveaways, but first, check out my latest interview with Discover New Authors!
Q: It is said that writers will always put a bit of themeselves into whatever they are writing. Is that true for you? Do you relate to any of your characters?
A: Most definitely! Serena in particular is a lot like me. She struggles with memory loss–and so do I–but her determination to keep her friends and family safe is a trait I hold dear to my heart. That being said, we definitely have differnces. Serena is liliterate, and writing from a character’s perspective who cannot read when reading is such a huge part of life was extremely difficult. I also relate to Catelyn’s love for cats and Melody’s playful imagination and Jane’s steady determination, but in the end, all of my characters stand on their own.
Win prizes this Friday on Facebook via CTP’s Sizzling Summer Reads!
You can win a signed Bad Bloods book, Blake’s teddy bear, two skull flower jars, signed swag, and stickers of hearts and snow flakes. Click here to see a photo.
Clean Teen Publishing also announced their July giveaway, and it’s epic! They are giving away a Kindle Fire and up to $200 in cash!!! Check out the details and yes, this giveaway is open for International contestants. They’re hosting a Goodreads Giveaway for Bad Bloods: November Rain as well. You can also win a Bad Bloods eBook through the Bookie Monster right now. What did they think of November Rain? “This is one of those ‘you can’t put it down’ books. Thompson is a masterful storyteller.”
Pre-Order Bad Bloods
November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016
November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016