Publishing is the goal of many writers. The chance to forever have one’s words immortalized in print, the opportunity to share one’s ideas, one’s stories with the world, is often thought of as the pinnacle in the life of a writer. To become an author.
So, how does that happen?
Well, as you know, it doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of effort and hard work. And, to be honest, some luck, as well.
We met with Tom, a promising writer, this week. His already-published book about a Wisconsin deer hunt places the reader in the crisp air of a Wisconsin winter, the fragrant wood burning hot in the woodstove. Really a solid story with a remarkable sense of place.
So, why wasn’t it selling?
We discussed some realities of the publishing world. The first one being that 98% of published books never sell more than 5000 copies. Ever. Most sell far, far less than that. His publisher was small (as is, presently, trenton house publishing), which most often equates to getting a book published, and you’re pretty much on your own. Some basic marketing is done, yes, but the reach of such a publisher isn’t vast, its connections neither deep.
So, we talked about querying an agent. Years ago, writers could present their works directly to publishers. Now, however, with everyone in the world seemingly with a blog or a laptop, publishers, out of necessity, have to be more choosy. An agent, then, acts as a gatekeeper, of sorts, the first hurdle to clear in the hopes of landing a big publishing house. If you are able to secure an agent, it’s primarily up to them to get you published, and subsequently marketed.
So, how does someone get an agent?
Writing a solid query is key. There are numerous guides to do so available on the web. The queries noticed include 1) a hook; 2) a compelling summary; 3) your bio and credentials. Make sure it’s to the point and includes a variety ways to reach you (even including social media, if appropriate).
Research agents. Do a search for literary agents accepting submissions. Check out print sources (such as the Writer’s Market franchise that now includes a guide to agents). Find one, or as many as possible, actually, that seem like a good fit for your work. Then send out your query. Always make sure to follow requests: i.e., if it asks for “QUERY” in the subject line, if it asks for a couple pages of the manuscript. Don’t give the agent a reason to reject your work before they even see it.
And don’t get discouraged. There are a lot of writers out there doing the same thing. The key is to do it better, more persistently, and with the belief that you’ve made your manuscript the best it can be and that now it’s time to share it with the world.
Some resources for query letters and agents:
How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter | NY Book Editors (good info, but most queries are now done electronically)