Almost every author you’ve ever heard of, even the bestselling billionaires, got their agent the same way: a cold query letter. That includes J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, Dan Brown, Ken Follett… They didn’t know anyone in the publishing world either. Just like me. Just like you.
What You Need Before You Look for An Agent
Before you even begin compiling a list of agents you’d like to query, you need to have one of two things:
- A completed fiction manuscript, or
- A completed nonfiction book proposal
Perfectly completed. Not a rough draft, not halfway done. You do not want to waste your one shot with the perfect agent with a MS or proposal that isn’t perfect.
Do not fib about the completeness of your work. Knowing how long it takes for agents to get back to you, I started querying before I was done with my first book proposal. I didn’t expect an agent to contact me right away, and when she did, and asked me to send her my proposal, I was caught. Thankfully, it was a Friday, and I told her she’d have it on Monday. I’m an insanely fast writer, and I did manage to get it done, but at the expense of three days’ sleep and lots of sanity.
Know Your Genre
Most of us just write what’s in our heart or comes to our head. That’s fine. But after it’s done, agents and publishers will want to know how to categorize it. You need to know what genre your work fits into. Pick one, even if it seems like your story fits into three. The best way to do this is to imagine which section at Barnes & Noble your book would fit in.
Ready? Good! It’s a 4-step process from here:
You know how they say finding a job is a full-time job? Finding an agent is the same way. It takes some work. But if you approach it like a job, with organization and research and your best performance, you will be successful.
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