Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Get an Agent: Part Two - Research

This week I’m going through the steps of getting published. You can start from the beginning here: How to Get Published.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, the most important thing you should know before you send out your queries is that legitimate agents don’t charge you a thing. No fees. Real agents make money by selling your book and taking their 15%. Until they sell your book, they make nothing. Please, don’t get scammed. Preditors & Editors is a good guide to check out agents you’re not sure about.

Now, how to find the perfect agent for your work.

You want an agent who is open to new clients and interested in your genre. The top websites I recommend for researching agents are: Agent Query and Publishers Marketplace. Agent Query is free. Publishers Marketplace is $20 per month. It is well worth buying one month to use their database of book deals for research. After that, you can see if you want to keep your membership going or not. I still have a membership even now.

Using AQ, you can generate a list of agents. Then use PM to see who else the agent represents, what deals they’ve made recently, and perhaps what they are currently looking for (they may post this on their website and/or blog).

Make a list of all the agents you’re interested in. This could be 20, it could be 100. Prioritize them. Don’t email all 100 agents at once. Do 10 at a time. This way, if your response rate is very low, you can change your query letter and perhaps get a better response from the next 10.

Some agents want queries via email, some want them via snail mail. Some agents want a query only. Some agents want a query plus the first chapter. Send the agent what they want.

In the next installment, I’ll go over the ups and downs of the Query-Go-Round and the most important thing you can do while you’re on it.

These are only the websites I used in my search. If you know of another good one, add it in the comments! :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Get an Agent: Part One – The Query Letter

This week I’m going through the steps of getting published. See yesterday’s introductory post: How to Get Published.

Many people believe you have to know someone to get published. And, sure, celebrity book deals do nothing to dispel this myth. But the truth is, most book deals are made for people who had no previous publishing connections. They just wrote a great book. Then they wrote a great query letter. The query letter grabbed the attention of an agent and the book made him/her want to take you on as a client. That’s how it worked for me. I had no contacts. No special publishing secrets. I just didn’t give up and I kept on writing.

Before you start this process, you should will get rejected. Everyone gets rejected. You might get rejected 100 times. That 101st query letter could score you an agent. Or you may have to shelve this book that you’ve poured your heart and soul into and start again with a new one. That’s why this is a tough business. You need to have thick skin. You. Have. To. Want. It. I’ve read that the average number of manuscripts people write before they score their first deal is four. Sure, some people sell their first book. But others write ten before they sell. And you don’t know what your magic number is going to be. (My magic number? I signed with my agent for manuscript number three, but that one didn’t sell. Clarity was manuscript number four.)

With those caveats done, let’s move on to your query letter. The purpose of the letter is to sell you and your book to an agent. The letter shouldn’t be too long. One or two paragraphs about the book and one paragraph about yourself. Be sure to include basic info on the book (genre and word count). And for the love of all that is holy make sure it’s written well!

I highly recommend getting your query letter critiqued by fellow writers. Some sites where you can do that include Query Shark, the WritersNet forum, and the Absolute Write forums. (I'm sure there are more sites, too. If you know of any, please post them in the comments!)

AgentQuery has a great page on How to Write a Query. It really is a must read! Lots of details and links to query letters that worked.

Have a kick-butt query letter written? Great! Now you need someone to send it to. So tomorrow, in the next installment, I’ll discuss researching agents and how to find the perfect agent for you.

Monday, June 28, 2010

How to Get Published

So I’ve started working on a FAQ to include on my website. One of the most commonly asked questions authors get is, “So how do you get published?” And the answer is a little too long to include in the FAQ. So I’m answering it in detail, here on the blog, spread over five days.

(Note: there are many ways to get published, but I’m focusing on the way I did it. The traditional ‘write a book, get an agent, get a book deal’ way. Even though it took me 10,000 years, that’s how I did it.)

Step one in getting published: write a book. Seems obvious, but I’m serious. Don’t worry about agents or publishers unless you have a completed novel. According to my made up statistics, a gazillion people say they want to write a novel. Out of this gazillion, only 1% will turn the TV off, stop talking about writing a novel and actually start it. And out of that group, only a small percentage will actually finish a novel. So before you start worrying about query letters and book signings, see if you’re in that small percentage who can even finish a book. (I was guilty of this myself for a long time. My recommendation for a cure? BIC. The well-known, well-loved butt in chair method. It works.)

You’ve finished your book? Awesome. Reach around and pat yourself on the back because that is a huge accomplishment! Even if nothing else comes from this, even if it never gets published, you have finished a novel-length manuscript. That. Is. Awesome. Go out to dinner and celebrate.

Now, set the book aside for a week or two. Don’t even think about it during that time. Then return to it, fresh and ready to edit. Send it to trusted, honest, knowledgeable critique partners. Then revise and edit again. Lather, rinse, repeat. When you think it’s in the best shape you can get it in, it’s time to get an agent.

How do you get an agent? For that, you’ll have to come back tomorrow!