How to get a literary agent or publisher.

I was going to post a review of the three best YA novels so far this year today, until I received an odd email. (Don’t worry, the review will be up next week!)Instead, I think we need to review the steps for getting an agent or publisher.

1. Write the best book that you can. That means multiple revisions. Polish it until you can’t find anything else wrong with it.

2. Send it to your critique partners/ beta readers. These can be family, friends, people you meet on writing forums, etc. Just make sure that they will give you the unvarnished truth. This is not the time to spare your feelings. It is their job to point out what’s wrong with your book. You don’t necessarily have to take their advice, but if more than one person points out the same thing, I highly recommend you change it.

3. Make more revisions based on feedback.

4. Do a final read-through, checking for typos, inconsistencies, etc.

5. Reasearch literary agents and pick fifty. Out of those, pick ten to send your query letter to first. You can find more on selecting agents here. You can find resources for selecting an agent here.

6. Write an excellent query letter. You can find more info on this here. This is the first post in an in-depth series explaining how to write a query letter. Read them all.

7. Write an excellent synopsis. More info here.  Again, this is the first in a series of posts. Read them all.

8.  Put together your query package. Make sure you follow the agent’s guidelines. Personalize your query to your specific agent.

9. Make sure your manuscript is completely ready to send in case you get requests.

10. Send your query and wait patiently for responses. This could take up to eight weeks or more. Some agents are no-response-means-no agents. This means after a period of time, usually eight weeks, you can safely assume they said no. Keep track of who you send it to and what their response is.

11. Start your next book immediately

12. Do not give up after a few rejections. Statistically, it takes somewhere around 200 rejections before a writer signs with someone. If you do get only rejections, after the first ten or fifteen you might want to revise your query letter. Something isn’t working. This is why we send our letters out in small batches. Fix your letter and try again. After several hundred rejections, you need to move on and query your next project.

The steps are the same for querying publishers, except there aren’t as many as there are agents. I would send my query out in batches of 5 or so. Also, publishers can take a lot longer to respond.

This is the process, people. There is no way around it. This is the way it has to be done unless you go to a writing conference and meet agents directly. You also could get a referral from a writer friend you ALREADY know. This brings me to the odd email I received.

I know this is scary and hard and frustrating. I know it seems like it takes forever. I’ve been there. But I am not a literary agent. I am not an editor. Please do not randomly email me and ask me to go over your manuscript and pass it on to my agent. There are legal issues with that. I can’t do it. I also won’t open your attachment, because I don’t know you and there could be a little ninja assassin virus hiding in there.

Go get a good critique partner if you need help. I actually have four. I couldn’t have made a wiser decision. (Thanks, Aimee!) But please don’t email writers you have never met and ask for a referral. It isn’t professional. Remember, writing is a business. Act professional!

4 thoughts on “How to get a literary agent or publisher.

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