Unique Ways to Land an Agent
So your manuscript is finished! As an emerging author, you can benefit from the support of a traditional publisher. But don’t overlook getting an agent first.
Your chances of finding a publisher are significantly better if you have an agent. Although agents typically take from 10—15% of the author’s earnings for the book they represent, they know the marketplace and the editors publishing manuscripts like yours. Moreover, an editor at a publishing house will read your submission sooner, even months sooner, if it’s represented by an agent rather than submitted “over the transom,” that is, sent without an agent as an unsolicited submission by the author. Agents also have experience guiding an author’s career and clout negotiating the fine print in a contract, such as the advances, royalties, and author’s rights.
So how can you get an agent? There are several ways to search for one. Of course, knowing someone who knows someone is best. But another way is to search the internet for “literary agents.” You’ll find a directory of agents online. The number of agents is legion so make a list of only those interested in your genre, especially if they’re seeking new clients.
Another way is to go to bookstores. About once a month, my husband and I go out on a date to a bookstore in the mall. While he amuses himself looking at the magazines, I check out the authors with new books in my genre, historical mysteries. Often they identify their agent in the acknowledgment section of their books.
In any case, be sure to call each agency first to check that the agent is still with them—agents do move around—and then include with your query letter exactly what each requires for a submission, often a 100 or 200-word synopsis, an author bio, and some sample chapters. Agents and publishers want to make money. So in your letter, be sure to tout the commercial potential of your manuscript—in other words how it’s unique—and mention how yours is both similar to and different from a book they represent.
By all means approach publishers over the transom, but for every submission to a publisher, send one to an agent as well. As long as none of the agents or publishers insists on an exclusive submission, send out ten, five to an agent and five to a publisher, and then, upon each rejection, immediately submit your manuscript to the next agent or publisher on your list.
Yes, you will get rejections. No matter how good your work, you’ll likely be rejected many times. But remember each opinion is subjective. Someone else could love it. So be patient and persistent. Some bestsellers, such as Catch 22, A Confederacy of Dunces, and The Celestine Prophesy were rejected many, many times before being published. To keep track of your submissions, you’ll need to keep a log. I keep a copy of each submission in a folder with a log listing the dates of contact and the action taken on each date.
So, as an emerging author, while you search for a publisher, search for an agent as well. The support you gain in engaging one will be well worth the money it costs.