It doesn’t take a lot of research to learn that if you want to be published in the traditional sense, you need to convince a literary agent to take a chance on you. This can be extremely overwhelming, especially when you set off to write a query letter. If you’re anything like me, while trying to persuade these agents that you are the perfect person to write the next-big-thing book you might unearth some serious self-doubt.
“What if I’m not the best person to write my book? Do I really have anything that makes me more attractive to an agent then the next guy/gal? What if they hate it?”
To all you self-doubters I say, “STOP IT!”
Here are just a few things I wish I had learned before jumping into the publishing ring.
1. Writers write
You’ll never be a perfect author–in fact, I’m pretty sure that’s impossible–but it doesn’t hurt to try. Agents are looking for career writers, not one shot pistols without focus. So don’t let seeking an agent completely monopolize your writing time. You are a writer and there is a very good chance that your agent hunting takes a while.
I finished a first draft of an entirely different book by the time I signed with my agent, Amy Jameson. Ironically, my second novel sold before the first. My point is, agents and book deals will come if you are diligent in making your journey about improving the craft and not beating out Stephenie Meyer for the fastest book deal ever. Keep it about the writing.
2. Narrow your search
There are a lot of wonderful agents out there, but there are a lot of sub-par ones as well. Do your research. Make sure the people you’re sending your work to are reputable and have a history of representing your flavor of book. If you can’t find someone with a good reputation who is passionate about your work then don’t settle, in fact, RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN. I’ve seen several authors find themselves trapped in a quicksand of waiting for their contracts with agents to expire so they can look elsewhere. Don’t let your desperation for success turn into a hasty search. Right now my favorite agent hunting website is Query Tracker, started by my friend Elana Johnson.
3. Agents are people too
Take three deep breaths and relax. Have you ever walked onto a used car lot and seen a salesman sprinting toward you, desperate to make a sale? You get the feeling that the tweed wearing psycho will do whatever it takes to sell you a car, even if it’s a lemon .
If you’re not careful, you might come across as that salesman to the agents you’re soliciting. Be patient with them. If they say their turn-around with queries is four weeks, wait five before sending out that follow-up email. In your query letter be confident in a humble sort of way and professional. Remember, they’re not only looking for a great writer, but a partner in a business endeavor. Present yourself as someone that they would enjoy working with, then let your writing ability do the rest.
4. Don’t give up
Success will come to those who persist and continue honing their craft. If you never stop trying, you never fail.
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