You’ve written your manuscript. You’ve fine tuned and edited every last word. It’s your best work. Now what?
The publishing world continues to get more and more competitive, but there is still hope. New ideas and authors are always welcomed, but you may need a little help getting noticed by publishers. In fact the majority of publishing houses are now only excepting solicited manuscripts. So now you have one more step before seeing your name in print, finding an agent.
Literary agents are extremely helpful in maneuvering the confusing realm of publishing. The contracts and copyrights are a lot to handle alone, plus your agent will have a vast assortment of connections that will make finding the right publisher for your book easier. To get an agent I recommend buying the Writers Market or the Guide to Literary Agents, it is a little on the expensive side, but totally worth it. The comfort of knowing you are querying an agent that is reputable is important. If you aren’t interested in investing in the Writers Market, definitely go to Publishers Marketplace and browse for an agent that fits your manuscript.
After you have found a slew of agents you feel could adequately represent your book it’s time to query. Every agent has a specific preference about how to receive a query so be sure to check out the agency’s website and follow instructions to the tee. These agents are getting hundreds of queries a week and it is easy to be ignored if you haven’t followed protocol. Now that we are entering the digital realm many accept queries via email, but some still want snail mail so be sure if you are mailing a query to include a stamped self-addressed envelope.
First step, make sure you address the query to a specific person. Agents don’t want the run of the mill, copy and pasted queries. Each query needs to be directed to a specific person. Mentioning how you found the agent is a nice touch. The first paragraph is a good place for this. You should also include the name of your manuscript, word count, and genre.
Next comes the summary. This is the part you have to nail! Give the hook and back story, but don’t give it all away. There is a fine balance between a detailed synopsis and telling the entire story. I’d suggest having a non-friend/family member read the query and see if they then want to read the book.
Finally, give your credentials, and why you think they are the perfect agent for you. Also be sure to thank the agent. It never hurts to be polite. Also if you don’t have too many publishing credentials don’t sweat it. Just explain why you are the right person to write this book. If it is a medical drama, the ten years you’ve spent as a nurse are extremely important to add!
Keep it short, your query shouldn’t be longer than a page!
If you want more information on queries check out Pub Rants, it is run by Kristen Nelson, an agent in Denver. She does a great job of explaining what was great about queries she has excepted.
Remember it all goes back to your ideas. If you have great ideas and feel passionately about your manuscript you will find an agent for you. Don’t be swayed by the rejections, keep at it and someday you’ll see your book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.
Note: If you find any agents online run them through editors and predators before submitting any work. Also if anyone ever charges to read a manuscript DO NOT SEND IT. Agents are paid by their companies to read manuscripts, it’s their job. You DO NOT have to pay them.