2018 is your year. Anything’s possible. Here’s how you’ll get an agent this year:
You’ll do your research.
While sending your book out to as many agents as possible increases your chances of getting published, you want to make sure that you’re sending it to agents who are actively seeking books like yours. That means that the agent: a) represents your genre, and b) is open to submissions. Sending your book to agents who don’t meet these requirements is a waste of your time and energy, and it’s also a waste of your emotion when they turn it down. The publishing industry is rife with rejection already, so there’s no need to add more to the pile by sending your book to someone who isn’t right for it.
How do you know if an agent is right for your book? Research the hell out of them. The best place to find current information about an agent’s interests and whether or not they’re open to submissions is on the agent’s website. There are other websites like Manuscriptwishlist.com that have more detailed bios and submissions list. And MSWishlist.com has a collection of #MSWL (manuscript wishlist) tweets from agents and editors.
Another way to find agents who are looking for your kind of book is to read other books in your genre that you feel are similar in topic and/or style, and then look at the acknowledgements in the back to see who represented it.
Even googling the agent can sometimes provide you with interviews they’ve done or blogs they’ve written, which can give you a better idea of their interests.
And of course, there are book resources like the Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents and the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents.
You’ll continually develop your craft.
You might keep getting turned down because you just haven’t found the right agent yet. Or there could be ways to improve your writing to help you get to that next step.
There are a multitude of ways to develop your writing craft. Here are a handful:
- Read books on writing.
- Read agent blogs on writing.
- Read books in your genre and analyze them in terms of writing, characters and plot and compare them against your own book. (I know it’s hard to be objective about your own book but try.)
- Attend conferences where you can get feedback on your writing from agents and editors, or do contests where you win agent critique (sometimes a part of conferences, sometimes posted on Twitter, etc).
- Join writer’s groups or get beta readers (ideally people who have been published by traditional publishers. Everyone has an opinion that is valuable, but the closer you can get to traditional publishing experts (like authors who’ve been traditionally published and successful, editors or agents) the more likely that feedback will bring your writing to that next step.)
You’ll work on your platform.
How much of a platform do you need to get published? It depends on what genre you’re writing in. If you’re writing nonfiction, you need to have a serious platform to break into the market. If you’re writing fiction, you don’t necessarily need a platform, but it will definitely help you if you have one.
How will you build your platform? There are many ways to go about it. Here are some ideas:
- Increase your social media following.
- Create a website, blog or podcast that offers valuable content to potential followers.
- Drive traffic to this website, blog or podcast by interacting with other bloggers/podcasters/websiters who focus on a similar topic and becoming a part of their community.
- Create a viral video.
- Give speeches to large audiences on a regular basis.
- Make connections with others in your field who can offer some kind of marketing assistance. (For example, if you know another author in your field with a large Twitter following or email list, see if that person will promote you to their followers in some way.)
Find your niche and build your platform there. Every little bit of platform helps.
In conferences, in Twitter pitch parties, in writing groups. Whichever medium you prefer, engage with others about your book. Writing is a very solitary, very personal activity, and it can be difficult for some writers to bring others in to the insular world of their writing, or for themselves to go out and join with others, but the benefits make up for whatever discomfort that comes with making the personal public.
By joining in conferences, you learn more about the craft of writing and the expectations of the publishing industry. You may even get to pitch your book to agents and editors, who can then request to read your manuscript. And if it’s a conference that offers advanced reading appointments with agents and editors, you can get feedback on your writing from industry professionals.
By joining in Twitter, you get connected to massive writing community that is majorly supportive, and dialed in to the publishing industry. And if you join in Twitter pitch parties, you get the opportunity of pitching your book to a sea of agents, getting requests from them, and getting your manuscript read more quickly.
By joining in writer’s groups, you get feedback on your writing and the support of others in the same position as yourself.
Here’s to 2018: the year you get an agent!