Most publishers don’t accept just any manuscript from an author anymore, they need to be filtered through an agent. This is understandable because of how saturated the market is right now. That means your first step towards becoming a published author is finding yourself an agent.
It is impossible to overstate how important networking is in the publishing business. Attend book conferences, fairs, and events, and meet as many people as you can. Being able to drop a name or two is always an advantage for you. As well, knowing people who may be able to direct you to an agent is another way to find someone who will be a good match for you.
Write a query letter
To get yourself in front of an agent, your first step is to write a killer query letter, making you an irresistible asset to the agent. Craft a brief letter of no more than 400 words that discusses your manuscript and highlight anything interesting about yourself as an author that may speak in your favour.
Pick and choose
You are wasting your time and agents’ time if you query every agent under the sun. Each agent works in a different area or niche. Do some research to find several agents that work in the niche your manuscript is written in, and send your query to those who are a good fit. You don’t want an agent who isn’t going to appreciate or understand your work.
Do your research
With social media nowadays, there is no reason you shouldn’t have a great understanding of the agent’s preferences, past work, and interests before you reach out to them. This doesn’t include stalking them either. Simply have a look at their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, and their Goodreads profile and see what you can glean from there. These are very public profiles, and it is expected that people will see this information.
Follow the submission guidelines to a T
Each agent has a variety of submission guidelines, and each one is different from the other. Make sure to follow these guidelines as closely as possible. If they are not followed, the agent will likely toss your submission in the trash. It shows respect for their time, and a higher level of professionalism if you are able to submit something that adheres to their guidelines.
Don’t burn bridges
No matter what you do, remain professional. You may get many rejections, you may get disappointed, you may even be really annoyed or angry at someone for the way they respond to you. Maintain your composure. As mentioned, the publishing industry is a who-you-know business. If you are recognized as an over-emotional wreck, nobody will want to work with you. Don’t create a negative reputation for yourself that can get in the way of people wanting to read your work.
While following up is a good idea, don’t jump the gun. You can expect to follow up after three months, but no sooner. Literary agents are often overwhelmed, and it is unprofessional to bombard them with even more emails to read. They may take up to six months to respond sometimes, so be understanding when following up about the fact that they may not even have a chance to consider your first email.
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