I get emails every day asking for advice on getting published or getting an agent. This is the post for people needing an entry-level introduction to publishing.
Congratulations on your decision to pursue publication. As a literary agent, I’m not able to help you until you’ve created the appropriate materials:
→ If you’re a non-fiction writer, you’ll need a full professional book proposal, with three sample chapters (this must include the FIRST chapter). (See How To Write a Book Proposal)
→ If you’re writing fiction, your manuscript must be complete, edited and polished; you also need a one-sentence hook and a one-paragraph pitch.
Once you have your manuscript and/or proposal ready, you need to prepare a query letter. You then begin sending your query to agents. (See How to Write a Query Letter. You may also want to see all my posts on query letters: HERE.) Don’t attach your manuscript or proposal to the query; you’ll send that only if requested.
Please don’t contact literary agents with random questions, requests for advice, or asking for an education on how to get published. Approach literary agents with a query letter once you have a properly prepared manuscript and/or proposal. Don’t phone agents, or write them asking for a phone call.
Sounds simple, right? It is, but you’re still not ready. You stand very little chance of being published until you immerse yourself in the world of publishing to learn as much as you can about how it works and what to expect. If you’re serious about publishing, you’ll need to treat it as (at least) a part-time job. Or maybe an internship, since there’s no pay at the beginning.
*Resources To Help You*
For lots of links and resources, see my post: All the Publishing Information You Ever Wanted.
Magazines: I suggest subscribing to Writers Digest or The Writer.
2013 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
My post on How to Find a Literary Agent
Consider attending a writers’ conference (or two):
This is one of the best ways to get a crash course in writing, publishing, and book marketing. Check out the Shaw Guide to Writers Conferences.
Resources for CHILDREN’S and ILLUSTRATED books:
Resources for CHRISTIAN publishing:
The most comprehensive book for Christian publishing: Christian Writers Market Guide by Jerry Jenkins.
For Christian writers’ conferences, READ THIS.
*Are You Ready to Query?*
Wait! Most agents have a website (and/or blog) on which they list their Submission Guidelines. As you use the resources above to identify agents who might be right for your work, it’s important to read their individual guidelines and submit accordingly.
*Attention Non-fiction Authors*
→ Be aware that author platform and credentials are of primary importance. It may take years to build the kind of platform necessary to interest an agent or publisher. Read all my posts on platform HERE.
→ You also MUST thoroughly examine the comparable books already available on your topic, and be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Does your book say anything that is fresh, unique, and not already well-covered in books within the last five years? If not, go back to the drawing board. Find a fresh hook or angle.
→ Does your topic typically require credentials or degrees to be credible? If so, do you have them? If not, ask yourself what you DO have (besides personal experience) that overcomes your lack of credentials. Are you really funny? Do you have a blog that gets 5,000 hits a day? Have you won awards or major accolades in your subject area? Make sure you have something special to recommend you to a book-buying audience. If you don’t have it, go create it, or give up the idea of traditional publication.
*Attention Fiction Authors*
→ The word count of your novel is important and can make the difference between being considered or automatically rejected. Read Colleen Lindsay’s comprehensive overview of expected word counts.
→ Please do not send the first draft of the first novel you’ve ever written. It’s important to study the craft of writing fiction, as well as getting outside help in editing and polishing your work before calling it ready. You may want to join a writers group or get a critique partner.
*The Final Word*
Don’t try to take shortcuts or do an end-around the system! If you truly want to publish, you’re going to have to work for it. All the resources are available and many of them are free of charge. Now get to work!
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