Steps for Approaching an Agent
So, I happened across a Facebook group for writers and there was a discussion about finding an agent. One of the writers mentioned that an agent to whom she’d submitted had requested a book proposal for her non-fiction book. Her question was:
What is a book proposal?
Perfectly good question. But it shows this writer needs to get schooled on the basics of getting published. (If you’re writing non-fiction, an agent can’t sell your book to a publisher without a book proposal—that’s one of the basics.)
You’re ready for an agent when you’re ready to approach publishing as a business, even if it’s not your “day job.” Spend some time learning how it works. Take a little time to explore the business of publishing, craft a killer query and a knock-your-socks-off book proposal. THEN come knocking.
One of the most common reasons for agent rejections is that the writer simply isn’t ready: they haven’t spent quite enough time mastering the craft of writing or learning about the business—or both. If you’re seeking publication, here are a few things you might want to do first:
- If you’re writing fiction, then you need to write a complete manuscript. If you’re writing non-fiction, research the market and make sure there’s a desire or need for your idea, and begin crafting your proposal along with a few sample chapters.
- Sometime during that process, you may want to attend a writers’ conference so you can start learning about the business as well as meeting other authors along with editors and agents.
- Edit, rewrite and polish your book or proposal. Get critiques if you can. Trade manuscripts with writing friends and get some feedback. Read books about writing and make sure you’ve done everything possible to make your book the best it can be. You may even consider hiring a freelance editor.
- Research the marketplace and decide what kind of publisher is right for you, and by extension, what kind of agent will be right for you. Gather a list of names, your “target” list of agents and editors to whom you will submit. One way to do this is to spend some time in a bookstore, find books similar to yours, and find out who published them and who agented them. You can also use the Guide to Literary Agents or the Writers Market.
- Spend time creating a winning query letter. Then begin sending your queries. Send a few at a time and see if you get any responses or useful feedback in case you need to revise the query. Then continue sending batches every week or two. You’ll get an idea of whether anyone is finding your query interesting.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us what steps YOU’VE found necessary so far on your road to publication. Maybe I’ll learn something!