Despite the emergence of self-publishing, many writers may still find it necessary to go through the traditional method of finding a literary agent and having them assist in getting their work published. However, this raises multiple questions for less experienced authors: what does a literary agent do and how do you go about finding a literary agent?
The job of a literary agent is to function as a representative for the author. Generally, an agent reviews a manuscript or a pitch for a given book and then seeks out a publisher that would publish it. Due to the extensive work of seeking out publishers and editors, literary agents are often paid by a percentage commission from a book’s total sales. This normally ranges from 10 to 20%. Although it isn’t vital to publish your book through a literary agent, it certainly has its benefits. Most agents are often seasoned veterans of the publishing industry and have a massive amount of connections to various publishers, getting your foot in the door for a potential book deal.
The next thing that you may wonder is how to find a literary agent. One method that has become increasingly popular is usage of the Manuscript Wish List hashtag (#MSWL), which uses social media as a means for literary agents to request what sort of manuscripts they are seeking to add to their portfolio. It gives writers insight into what type of genres they might specialize in as well.
Another great place to look is Poets & Writers’ Literary Agent Database. The largest nonprofit organization for creative writers has created a directory of established agents in the industry with a list of notable authors they represent. Additionally, Poets & Writers’ database includes search filters to help you find agents in your genre quicker.
Researching your potential literary agent is crucial, as you want to ensure that you’re not only not wasting your time, but also not wasting theirs as well. Be sure to review their profiles, submission guidelines, and #MSWL multiple times before the next step, submitting a query letter.
Writing a query letter is the final step in being able to get a literary agent and usually the most intimidating. Some general query letter tips:
- Personalize your letter. Successful query letters should acknowledge the genres that the literary agent has been successful in having published in the past.
- Explain your credentials. List previous publications if you have been published before (even in a college literary journal or newspaper). If you graduated from a creative writing program or have participated in workshops, that is valuable information as well.
- Sensationalize the plot and details of your book. Imagine that you’re writing a pitch to try to convince a reader to pick up your most recent novel. What is going to convince them to engage with it? Use plenty of descriptive words and propose questions for the reader that they will want to have answered.
- Proofread your letter. Read it multiple times to ensure there are no spelling errors, that you aren’t submitting the query letter to the wrong person, and that all your personal information is listed correctly.
After submitting your query letters, it’s best to step away from it for a few days and give the agent some time to digest the information you’ve provided them. If your proposal is appealing to them, they will reach out to you. It’s important to not consistently reach out to them after submitting a query letter, as their time is precious and, odds are, the best literary agents receive plenty of query letters in the course of any given week. With the query letter now in their hands (rather, inbox), you should feel a weight is off your shoulders as you wait for them to respond. Follow-ups are not necessary and generally frowned upon.
If all of this seems a bit too intimidating or you want to be in control of your destiny, you’re in luck! Self-publishing is the fastest and most convenient publishing method. When preparing your piece to be self-published, make sure that your book’s cover design is eye-catching and the manuscript is properly formatted. Our 10-Minute Guide to Self-Publishing provides further guidance and gives you a solid base to work from.
At eBooks2go, we offer a variety of self-publishing solutions that include eBook conversion, editing, marketing, print publishing, and more, at reasonable rates. With a staff that is passionate about writing and literature, we would be thrilled to help you take on your next project.
Call us today at (847) 598-1150, or visit our website for more information. We look forward to working with you soon!