My #1 top tip for authors who are approaching agents and publishers is:
Present yourself as a professional author.
That means a one-page query letter (sometimes 1.5 pages but that’s unusual).
And, for nonfiction, a book proposal with sample chapters.
For fiction, authors should create a two-page (single-spaced) synopsis and a half-page or 1 page biography at a minimum. Also consider generating a two-page (single-spaced) marketing opportunities sheet. This should provide ideas that you have for marketing the book yourself, all things that can be done while the publisher markets to bookstores.
Traditional publishing is growing again. Sales are up, ebooks have become another channel rather than the death of books, and disruption is creating beneficial changes. Here are 7 ways to make an agent or publisher say, “Yes!” to your manuscript.
1. Write a fantastic manuscript. Tap into your passion and write something that relates to that. You’ll produce a much better manuscript that way.
2. Run the manuscript through beta readers. Use your writer’s group, friends who are readers and writers, or a professional editor to spot those critical flaws you’ve missed because you’re too close to the story.
3. Create a professional query letter (see Dec 18 post for more).
4. Create supporting submission materials. For a nonfiction book, this is a book proposal. For fiction, this means a bio that includes your platform, a synopsis, and an overview of marketing opportunities the author can fulfill. Juvenile fiction and nonfiction needs an author bio as well as an overview of current trends, additional books from the author, and marketing opportunities.
5. Contact the right agent or publisher for your project. Rather than blasting out hundreds of emails, select one agent or publisher every day to contact. You’ll also save yourself time in the long run and eliminate a lot of frustration.
6. Approach agents before you approach publishers. Once you’ve submitted to a publisher, agents generally can’t resubmit on your behalf. A rejection is a rejection in the minds of the publisher. Don’t sink your agent’s ability to represent you to their full network before you even begin. Help an agent say yes by letting them do their job.
7. Keep moving foward. Mention your next project…then stay busy with it while you wait to hear back.
In the twenty years I’ve been connecting authors with agents and publishers, I’ve rewritten a lot of query letters. The most common flaws that keep writers from capturing an agent or publisher’s attention are:
–Lack of a tagline. This is a single sentence that encapsulates the protagonist’s journey, the story’s universal appeal, the audience, and the category. Although queries can succeed if they don’t have taglines, the agent/publisher will have to read the entire first paragraph (or more) before their interest is sparked. That’s too long. Taglines captivate in ten words.
–Descriptions that confuse and/or fail to evoke an emotional response. The one or two paragraphs that describe the story need to relay the protagonist’s journey and the universal aspects of the story. In order to do this, these paragraphs must be clear, concise, and evoke the emotional tone of the story. Too much detail, inclusion of details that aren’t important at this initial review stage, and the wrong details are just some of the ways the description fails to open the door.
–Skipping any information about the author. Writer’s don’t have to be celebrities to get book deals. They do have to make a connection with the agent or publisher, however. This works two ways. First, it makes the agent or acquisitions editor a champion for the manuscript. Second, it proves that the author can find ways to connect with readers.
Avoid these three common flaws and improve your chances of being offered a contract.
This is a great article about how to change one agent’s no into another agent’s yes. I love the list of what each comment actually means…it’s realistic, and is something every author should understand.
Just last week a client of mine asked me to rewrite the query letter he had created for a juvenile manuscript. I had ghostwritten the story so was intimately familiar with the project and its potential impact on young readers today.
He sent out the new version of the query letter and received a request for sample chapters in less than 24 hours.
This author has never won any awards. He does not have other publications to his credit either for this age group or for any other, including adults. He doesn’t even work fulltime in anything remotely related to books, publishing or the media.
And yet he has what agents want: a strong story with current topical appeal that fills a void in the market.
If that describes your project, send out your query today! If you’re having trouble seeing how your project is unique in today’s market, please let me help.
Here’s a reminder about the upcoming query letter class. The usual rate to write a query letter for a client is $295. Revisions to existing query letters often cost $225, so this workshop is a great bargain!
Did you know that your query letter is every bit as important as the opening pages of your novel?
It’s your first opportunity to show your writing skills to a prospective agent or editor, and you need to make it count!
Laine Cunningham’s clients consistently garner attention from the nation’s top publishers and agents.
During this workshop Laine discusses the three important elements to inject into your query so you can get published. Fiction and nonfiction authors writing books, stories or articles will benefit from this class.
Location: Center for Excellence,
3803-B Computer Dr. Suite 106,
Raleigh, NC 27609
Saturday, March 9 Time: 1:30-4:30pm
Fee: $55 (Early Bird till March 1st)/$75 after
Click the link below to register for this awesome class.
Laine has presented workshops and lectures for The Loft, the nation’s largest independent literary organization; the National Writer’s Union; The Writer’s Workshop in Asheville and writing conferences across the country. If you want to learn how to impress an agent or editor, I will see you there!