We don’t know how many times we’ve already said this. Finding an agent to market the work you want to publish can be daunting. In fact, experts agree it is the most difficult part of the publishing process. You’ve written your story. You’ve revised it a zillion times. You can’t look at it anymore. Now, you think the time is right to let your most trusted friends or colleagues to read it. After countless advice and lots of pondering, you think the time is right to move to the next phase: finding a literary agent. The trickiest part at this level is to learn how to draw the line between your unquenchable thirst to publish and the strategic reasoning, the cool-headedness, the patience that are indispensable elements in the road to literary success or at least to securing an agent. Literary magazine Writer’s Digest has published a recent article titled 11 Steps to Finding the Agent Who’ll Love Your Book. We have put them together for you.
Revise: You understand you’re not ready unless you know by heart a good portion of your manuscript. After countless of revisions, you’re simply tired of it. “Leave it alone for a month, then go back. Make sure your pages say precisely what you meant. Make your sentences sing.”
Read: The perfect way to know if your story flows is to read it—aloud. While reading, if there is something you don’t really want, find out why. “Apply everything you learn to your draft until further ideas ping off it.”
Research: Sharpen your skills at doing research. Research the books that are similar to yours—books of the same subject and also books of similar “tone and style.” Find out what agents that promote types of books like yours. Research Writer’s Digest archives. “Use online resources to sort through the known universe of agent submissions. Learn as much as you can, and start a list. Rank agents in order of likelihood of love match.”
Package: Do not overlook the fundamentals: query letters, synopses, and loglines. Go to writers’ workshops to learn how to write them. If for some reasons, at any giving time during this critical process, you find some things that are lacking in your story, don’t brush them aside. Attack the problem head-on. Keep on revising until your book is polished and “packaged” enough for sale.
Network: Networking is the key to every professional success, and when it comes to getting an agent, this undertaking becomes even more relevant. Find a writer’s group if you have not already had one. It is recommended to belong to a group of writers with the wisdom to guide you along the dreaded path to success. You need to belong to a group of writers of your genre. “Ask at your local library, bookstores, or universities for writing groups or workshops.”
Read again: What this means here is to make sure that you completely understand the guidelines. Read scrupulously before sending off your queries. “Take a look at your list of agents and take note of what they want from your initial query. Getting through the front door is often about playing by the rules. Don’t send anything less—or more—than each agent has asked for.”
Submit: Do not send to a multitude of agents all at once. Send it to at least four to eight agents only. When submitting, do not offer unsolicited information. “Send each a separate email or mailed package (as they requested) with only the information they asked for. Keep things professional. No gimmicks. Save the rest of your list for now.”
Write: After you submitted, it is recommended that you start writing again. Maybe a new novel. Maybe a trilogy. “You need to think about something else and even if everything goes just as you’d like it to on the first book, you’ll still want a new draft in short order.”
Track: Even as rejections are piling, do not get discouraged. Jot down some notes of every reply. “Keep track of your submission results—and learn from them. If you aren’t getting any page requests, your query letter needs work. If you’re getting partial requests but then nothing, your first pages aren’t snagging the reader. If you’re getting full requests but no nibbles, it’s time to take a look at the full manuscript again.”
Submit again: Be relentless. Remember, you had a full list of agents to draw from. This is why you had the list saved in a file. “Submit, again, to four to eight agents only, using every step, every rejection, every encouragement to better prepare your work for the next round (and the next), as long as it takes to find a match.”
Commit: Stay true to yourself as a writer, like a true parishioner. Keep your eyes on the prize. Do not be deterred. “Keep writing. Maybe the next book is the one that will put stars in an agent’s eyes. Of course, that’s not really why you write, is it? If you commit to writing for reasons beyond publishing, it won’t take you long to find the love of your life, in the words right there on the page.”
Remember, writers write not because they want to make millions. They do so because they have something to say. Stay true to yourself, and it will eventually payoff.
Note: Writer’s Digest is one of the best literary magazines out there. You can subscribe to it for a small fee. www.writersdigest.com