Shout out to Aggie for recommending I write this post.
For many the concept of getting published feels like mission impossible. There just seems to be so many steps, considering you have to find a literary agent that will actually want you, convince a publisher that your writing will actually be successful, and everything else that comes in between.
In reality, while getting published can be a very lengthy and difficult process, most of the problems actually arise because people don’t know how to begin. Not knowing where to start can prevent some people from ever starting, and tasks that sound especially difficult like finding a literary agent end up staying incomplete.
While no publishing process is completely identical, there are some general steps in the right direction you can take. Probably one of the most important steps is finding a real literary agent that will agree to represent you, and although this can take time and patience, it can be done. Keep reading to discover few helpful pointers in finding a literary agent.
1. Make Connections
One of the best ways to find a literary agent to represent you is to find someone who knows a literary agent. Having a connection like this gives you someone to mention when you contact said agent, and helps you standout a bit from the other writer’s vying for this agent’s attention. If you don’t know someone who knows a literary agent, try to find one. It is best to start with people who have been published, or are familiar with the publishing business. If you are just starting out, a great way to find someone like this is through social media. I personally am a part of three different writing/publishing groups on Facebook, follow several publishing blogs, and am always on the lookout for people who know more about publishing than me. Once you find a group you can join, get active within it. Post a sample of your writing within the group, ask for advice, or respond to other’s work. Showing people that you’re interested in their work is the best way to get them interested in yours. Once you establish a few connections with people in the publishing business, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone that knows of a literary agent.
2. Research, Research, Research
Once you have a few connections in the publishing world, take the information and advice you’ve received and do some research. Finding a literary agent is important, but finding the right literary agent is even more important. Not all literary agents are created equal and not all are looking for just any material. There are specific agents that only want fiction, while others prefer non fiction. There are also certain agents that are more likely to work with you than others, and you don’t need to waste your time submitting your material to someone that was never going to accept you in the first place. You need to know your stuff, and know what you want. If you are looking to be published just to say you’re published or if you don’t expect or want many sales, you’re not going to want to apply for an agent that may work with big publishers such as Penguin Random House or HarperCollins. If you expect more revenue from your writing, then take the bigger publishers into consideration. Once you know your stuff, you’ll want to start looking for agents that are likely to work with you. To get started, I would suggest looking on publications and websites to find possible agents. A few popular ones are AAR- Association of Author’s Representatives, Publishersmarketplace.com, and LiteraryMarketPlace. While researching agents, really evaluate which ones would be most likely to pitch for you, or that have a solid platform and credibility behind them.
3. Make Yourself Known
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few specific agents, it is best to let them hear of you or see some of your work before you full-on contact them. Once again, social media is an excellent tool for this. Agents will respond better to you if they see you have an interest in authors they’ve worked with, or if you have been referred. Start out by finding some of their authors on facebook, twitter, or other social media platforms. Show interest in their work by liking, retweeting, and commenting, and this should get you a good start to perking their interest. If you can, find someway to incorporate your own work as well, such as maybe dropping a link to you latest blog post or by mentioning in a comment that you have written something similar. Just be careful not to be cocky or to be constantly mentioning your own work on someone else’s platform. After all, the main objective here is to show interest in the author’s work, not advertise yourself. Always be professional and kind in your interactions with other authors.
4. Submit the Right Thing
Once you’ve done your research and put your name out there, you may feel ready to submit your work to an agent. If you are at this point, the key for you is going to be knowing exactly what to submit. Literary agents are busy people and most get bombarded with aspiring authors each day, all wanting their work published. Take time on your submission, and know exactly what they’re looking for. If you submit everything they want the first time around, they will be much more likely to accept you. So what goes into a submission? Ask around, contact those who have submitted before, and find out what they agent you will be submitting to wants. Most agents will want a professionally done synopsis, query letter, and possible chapter samples from your book, or specific excerpts. These samples and letters are designed to show off your work and impress you agent, however always make sure that your manuscript lives up to what you say in your introduction. Lying or exaggerating may look good on paper, but when an agent is comparing what you say to what you write, not telling the true can look very unprofessional. For more information and help with submissions I recommend taking a look at How to Find a REAL Literary Agent by A.C. Crispin. This article outlines the submission process and what goes into finding a literary agent really well.
5. Talk to Your Agent
So, let’s say that you’ve finally come into contact with a few agents. Be prepared that this does not always indicate representation. Agents may contact you for several reasons, and they may not be interested in representing you right away. Sometimes agents will want to investigate you, your writing, see if you have a following, or several other things that may not lead to immediate representation. In this stage, it is really important to remain professional and honest. The agent is forming an opinion of you and your writing and what they think of you can really make or break you in the end. If you end up having what they’re looking for, they may even offer to represent you in the end, so hold out until then. Even if they don’t end up wanting to work with you, they have still seen what kind of writer you are, and this may lead to representation in the future, or information shared among the publishing community. Be prepared for anything, and only say things that you would be fine with other literary agents and publishers knowing. Agents talk and you want to build up your reputation from the start.
6. Learn to Embrace Rejection
You got rejected. The agent that has been in contact with you for several days decided not to represent you, and you feel hopeless. Don’t. Rejection, while it does suck, is actually a step in getting published. In order to get rejected, you had to be in contact with an agent, you had to have received feedback, and you had to of gone through the process of finding an agent. These three things alone will make it more likely for you to be represented in the future, because you know what to expect, and you know what to improve. Take rejection in stride because it means that you may have success in the future.
7. Try, Try Again
After you have been rejected, do not stop there. Keep contacting agents, keep submitting your work, and keep being professional and interactive. Determination is an excellent quality and a vital one in order to get anything published, and agents can appreciate that as much as anyone. Take the advice you were given the first time and use it to improve your submission. Showing that you can take rejection, use it to make you a better writer, and then re-submit will not only improve your confidence, but it will also show potential agents and publishers that you have enough confidence in your work to keep going.
8. Hire Someone
Sometimes, the process of finding a literary agent is something that doesn’t work out. Either your schedule is so busy that it doesn’t allow for it, or you just can’t seem to make the right connections or do the proper research. If this is you, consider hiring someone to help you find an agent. It isn’t guaranteed, but oftentimes having a professional vouch for you, and research for you can improve your chances at getting represented. Look into Grad Student Freelancers or The Guide to Literary Agents blog to look for potential people to hire for the job. As always, make sure you aren’t wasting time or money, and do your research before hiring anyone for anything.
9. Think Before You Say Yes
Congratulations! You’ve found someone willing to represent you. In the midst of this excitement, however, it is crucial that you think through your decision of whether or not to accept this offer. Re-research your potential agent, and make sure that they are really what you are looking for. Re-ensure yourself that they are a legitimate agent by looking through their sale history, or by researching the success of authors that they have worked with in the past. Your first literary agent will end up determining a lot about your future writing career, and they are going to be representing you and your work. Be sure that they will do so professionally and with the attitude of wanting you to success.
10. Be Professional
This goes without saying, but please, please, please always be professional. There is nothing worse than seeing a great book never get published just because someone does not handle themselves in the right way. Everything you say and every action you take when searching for an agent is a step in building your writing career, and reputation. Don’t ever take out frustration on a potential agent or on authors you may be researching online or over social media. One bad experience like this can make or break you, so make sure that you don’t make mistakes along the way.
That’s it guys. I hope you find this guide helpful and something that you can relate to as you work towards trying to get published. I try my best to provide you guys with the best information possible, but, obviously, I don’t know everything; that’s a given. So, I’m going to post a few links below to articles that you may also find helpful as you try to find a literary agent to represent you. Thanks so much for reading, and, as always, feel free to comment and let me know where you are in this process. Any advice I can get is always appreciated!