Friday, August 24, 2012

Securing a Literary Agent

Aspire to land a book deal with a major publisher? A good literary agent will get your foot in the door.

I always aspired to land a book deal with a major publisher but had no idea how to go about it. So, while working on my first novel, I would occasionally take a break from writing to research how to go about getting picked up by a major publisher. I googled everything I wanted to know and even purchased a few books to learn the ins-and-outs of the publishing industry. After seeing what it took, I concluded that the first step to landing a book deal with a major publisher was securing a literary agent.

Why an Agent
Oftentimes, agents have the ability to get your manuscript into the hands of an editor at a major publishing house, because they have pull or have established relationships with them. Some agents may represent more than one writer at that publisher. Their knowledge of the industry will mean that any contract you sign will be the best possible under any circumstances. Since the agent is the middleman between the writer and publisher, the publication process can go a lot smoother and small issues can be resolved. For this reason, publishers are willing to be flexible with agents to avoid complications.

Agents will negotiate the best deal possible and ensure the correct amount of royalties are paid on time and in full. They work in the author's favor, because they make a percentage off of authors' royalties. This percentage is anywhere between 10 and 20 percent, depending on what is negotiated between the author and agent.

Preparing to Find an Agent
Your goal will be to convince an agent to give your book a chance. The query letter, synopsis, bio, and outline of your book will serve as marketing tools to get your foot in the door. The way you describe your book should be so appealing that it will sell a person on wanting to read your book, an agent on wanting to represent you, and a publisher on wanting to publish your book.

Submission Process
All agents have submission guidelines you must follow for their consideration. Follow their instructions and do not send more or less than what they ask. At the very least, they will request a query letter, and if they like what they read, they will request the first few chapters or the entire manuscript. If not, they will explain to you why they do not want to take you on as a client.

Grow tough skin and be prepared to get rejected, because more than likely, it will happen. Most literary agents reject projects because they do not feel like your book is the right fit for them. This does not mean you have a bad story. Agents choose projects according to their own personal taste, so don't take it personally. You might have a manuscript for a self-help book, but this agent only prefers contemporary fiction.

However, you are guaranteed to receive a rejection letter if you have errors in your query letter, synopsis, bio, outline, or manuscript. So, be sure everything you send is well-polished.

Where to Find Agents
There are several resources available to help you on your quest to finding a literary agent. In the beginning, you may look for any agent, but finding the right agent who represents the type of books you write can save you the headache of being rejected so much.

Online directories for literary agents list hundreds of agents who are taking new submissions. Most directories provide the agents contact information and their submission requirements.

Your favorite authors probably mention their agent's name in the acknowledgments section of their book. Use this to your advantage and look them up.

I also recommend Writer Digest's Guide to Literary Agents. Not only do they list hundreds of agents and their submission requirements, but they also provide valuable tips on preparing your query letter and what to expect during your quest to finding a literary agent.

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