One of the toughest parts of writing and selling your book is landing a literary agent, but it is possible—and it fills us with joy every time we see it. Literary agents are very busy and they often feel as if they’ve seen everything you can throw at them. However, there are things you can do, and others you can avoid, to increase your chances of gaining representation.
Write the best book you can. It may be obvious, but it’s also the most important: If you don’t have full confidence in your work, it won’t show through in your correspondence, and your prospective agent won’t get excited about it. Make sure your manuscript is great from the very beginning—agents often only want to see the first chapter or even the first five pages, so you’ll be out of luck if your book doesn’t really “get going” until thirty pages in.
Stick with it. Don’t give up. You may feel ready to throw your hands in the air and abandon all hope after your fiftieth submission—but there’s always a chance that your fifty-first could be your winner…or your fifty-second. Get back on that horse and write an even better query letter. Speaking of…
Write a great query letter. It’s one of the hardest parts of the process, but it’s one that you don’t want to do halfway. Since it’s one of the first things every agent looks at (and sometimes the only thing), it’s the one single factor that decides whether he/she continues on to your sample pages or if your work winds up in the “round file.” Check out our Free Publishing Tool Kit for tips on how to write the best possible query letter.
Get your word count right. This is something else your prospective agent is going to be looking at very closely, so make sure it’s at the front of your query. Every genre has a different sweet spot. If your book’s a fantasy, agents are thinking of a number between 80,000 and 150,000. Non-series mysteries generally run 75,000 to 100,000. See more genre word counts here.
Follow submission guidelines. As previously mentioned, different agents will want different materials. Some will ask for your whole “packet”—query letter, synopsis, and sample pages—some will just want your letter, some will want 50 sample pages, and some will want 10. We’ve even seen a few that just want one. We know you’re proud of your synopsis and your manuscript, but if they don’t ask for them, don’t send them. No matter how much you think it’ll help your submission, if you’re not following the guidelines, it will only hurt your chances.
When preparing your book and query packet for submission to literary agents, it’s important to remember that they are looking for great projects and for red flags. Before hitting “Send” on your e-submission or putting your submission in the mail, try to evaluate your submission objectively. Have you followed submission guidelines perfectly? Is your book adhering to standard guidelines for its genre? Have you written a professional query letter? Have you proofread everything in your submission packet? If anything looks awry to you, you can guarantee a literary agent will spot it immediately. So put your best foot forward, and ensure that literary agents see your book in its best light.
Thank you to Writer's Relief for this very informative and interesting guest blog.
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