How To Get An Agent
The greatest myth in publishing is that it’s hard to get an agent.
If you have a saleable book, its easy to get an agent and its easy to sell it. The better the book is, the easier it is to acquire an agent.
All agents need books to sell, which means that they also need writers. New writers get new agents every day. Here are some basic guidelines on how to get a literary agent.
The Key To Getting A LIterary Agent
Ninety percent of your success as a writer is dependent upon how good your writing is.
Read that sentence again.
Take a look at your book. Is it any good? Being able to evaluate one’s own work is extremely difficult (see my article on How To Analyze A Story).
If you need help, give your manuscript to someone who knows how to recognize good writing.
One of the best ways to know if your manuscript is any good is to acquire John Truby’s course on Story Development.
Is Your Book Saleable?
Just because you’re a fantastic writer doesn’t mean that the book will sell. For a book to be saleable, it needs to have a unique premise which has been developed properly. Ninety percent of writers fail at the premise. Either the idea isn’t good, or the idea is good, but it’s been done before (cliche), or the idea is good, but hasn’t been developed properly. Also, since eighty percent of novels and ninety percent of screenplays are rejected because of poor structure, your book must have great story structure.
Assuming that your fantastic book is something an agent can sell, here are the steps to take when looking for an agent:
1. Finish your novel. You’ll need to finish your book before you look for an agent.
2. Research. Aside from researching the publishing industry, you will need to look for the right agent to send your query letter to. Here are some resources:
- AAR – Association of Author’s Representatives
- Literary Market Place
- Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents
3. Write the query letter. This needs to be professional. Don’t brag about how great a writer you are or how your book will be the next big thing. Don’t write query letters longer than one page. Spell the agent’s name right! Don’t send a query for a romance book to an agent that represents mysteries. Be brief. Your query letter should contain only three paragraphs:
- An introduction, describing why you’re contacting that particular agent. Example: “I’m looking for an agent for my first fantasy novel, TITLE, complete at 90,000 words.”
- A mini-synpsis. Describe your entire story in three to nine sentences.
- A brief biography, describing why you’re capable of writing a novel, along with relevant credits you may have acquired.
4. Be persistent. Send out ten queries. Wait a month for replies. Then send out another ten. Wait. Send out ten. Wait.
5. Ask yourself again, “Is this book any good?” If your book fails to attract the attention of an agent, go back to your writing. It can take years to develop your skills to the point where you can produce a saleable book. Get the two best books on writing: “The Anatomy of Story” by John Truby and “Zen And The Art Of Writing,” by Ray Bradbury.
What to do now
One of the best ways to get a literary agent is to network at writer’s conferences. Talk to authors, editors and publishers. Make absolutely certain that your book is FANTASTIC and then send out query letters. Be persistent.
Don’t give up – ever.
– Mark O’Bannon