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. Before approaching literary agents, you’ll need to create 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.
→ Do you need to know How to Find a Literary Agent?
→ A great title is an important aspect of attracting an agent’s or editor’s attention. Here’s how to create a perfect title for your book.
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 Google it – there are hundreds of posts online about query letters.) 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.
*Resources To Help You*
An indispensable guide to publishing: Writer’s Market.
Magazines: I suggest subscribing to Writers Digest or The Writer.
Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents by Jeff Herman
These help you find the right agent and even keep track of your queries: Agent Query and Query Tracker.
These help you make sure you’re dealing with reputable people: Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors.
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:
Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing
Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
Resources for Children’s Writers
Children’s Book Insider
The Purple Crayon
Books about children’s publishing
Resources for CHRISTIAN publishing:
Click here for a list of Christian literary agents.
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*
→ 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*
If you truly want to publish with a traditional publisher, all the resources are available and many of them are free of charge. Good luck!
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