Well, we’ve reached the end of NaNoWriMo.
I wish I could say I finished an entire first draft — I didn’t. I did write about 20k words of a new YA contemp that I’m super-excited about, but I didn’t finish it. As the semester wraps up this week, I’m hoping to devote some more time to writing. My goal is to reach a complete draft by the end of 2013.
Anyway, now that NaNo is over, I thought I might start posting some information about how writers do what they do and, more importantly, how they get there. This will be a series of posts and I hope to cover the following topics as clearly as possible:
- How to get a literary agent
- How to write a query letter
- How to write a synopsis
- An agent is interested! Now what?
- I have an agent! Now what?
- The Process of Pitching Books to Editors
- How Editors/Publishers acquire books
- What can you expect when your book is purchased by a publisher?
I’m sure there will be more topics that I will think of as we go along. For now, though, I’m going to start from the ground up.
You’ve completed a novel. Congratulations! If you want to go into traditional publishing — this means the kind of publishing that involves publishers and editors, who buy the rights to your book — than this will begin to help you navigate the steps to get published.
Disclaimer: If you are interested in self-publishing or Print-On-Demand publishing, I’m not the person to ask because I’ve never done it. However, there are plenty of resources out there for you and I encourage you to use them!
Step One: The first thing you want to do, before you look into getting an agent, before you even begin writing a query letter, is to set your book aside for a period of time so that you can distance yourself from it. The length of time is different for everyone — it might be 3-4 days or a week, or longer. But it’s important to read your manuscript with fresh eyes at least one time before sending your work out to the professionals. Trust me, I know — this is HARD. When the book is finished, you just want to send it out there and get it read. You want validation. I get that. But the chance of you getting that validation is much, much higher if you take a breath, set the book aside, and come back to it.
Step Two: Re-read your manuscript — every word. You might find mistakes this time that you didn’t notice before. What’s more exciting is that you might get new ideas for additions or changes. Embrace those ideas! This is the beauty of the revision process.
Step Three: When you have reached the point where you are sure that you have a final, polished project, it’s time to start researching literary agents.
What is a literary agent? And why do you want one?
Well, an agent is one of many important people in your publishing life. Some people consider them gatekeepers to the publishers, but I consider them the keys to the publishing door. A good literary agent is like an editor, a cheerleader, a lawyer, and a teacher — all wrapped into one. When an agent agrees to sign you, you have a much greater chance of reaching the right editor and publisher for your work. An agent’s job is to know what editors are looking for and where your work will best fit.
(My agent is Suzie Townsend and you can visit her blog here: http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com)
You can look for an agent at a handful of great sources:
1. Agent Query: http://www.agentquery.com
This is a database of agents and their interests/genres they work with, along with what they are looking for now.
2. Guide to Literary Agents (A Writer’s Digest Blog): http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents
Chuck Sambuchino makes it his business to know what’s going on in the world of agents and his word is good. This blog is updated multiple times a month.
3. Publisher’s Marketplace (www.publishersmarketplace.com)
This is a subscription only site, so you’d need to pay for access. However, it shows you what agents are most successful at selling which type of writing and gives you an idea of where your work might fit into their portfolio of authors.
You should make a list of multiple agents that you are interested in working with, along with their email addresses, and the specifics they ask for (query letter only, query and 10 pages, etc.)
Next Post: How to craft a query letter that will get you noticed!
*All GIFS were borrowed from Nathan Bransford’s AMAZING publishing post, which you can find here: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/08/the-publishing-process-in-gif-form.html