If finding an agent was like finding a Starbucks, it would be too easy, way too easy and we all know most things in life isn’t easy. The agenting/publishing world is no ‘oya del Dia Blend’, which in Starbucks terms means: balanced and approachable.
Unfortunately, in publishing there is nothing balanced as situations constantly change to suit the now or trend market. If, say, women’s multiculturalism fiction is en vogue, the shift will be to seek manuscripts that fit that target audience. Now that doesn’t mean other genres of writing is left by the way side. They are of course publishers that specialize in other areas of work, but the point here is, publishing is always in constant change.
Agents also work in a similar vein and concentrate their efforts to suit the market. There are those who have good contacts in the publishing world, but alas, this does not mean a publisher will like your work simply because an agent has submitted it. So in all fairness to any agent who sends you rejection letters, (agents should supply the original rejection letter showing the publishers letterhead) they are actually doing the legwork.
Further, currently, most publishers rarely accept unsolicited work, so if you have problems with agents, the next step might be to market your works yourself. This is a time-consuming process, as you would need to scour such avenues as the Internet, writers’ magazines, book conventions and conferences. However, you must do what you must do if you are serious about getting your works published. And a word to the wise, create a presence on the Internet. Agents and publishers want to know that you have an audience.
Then too, they are those unscrupulous agents who promise more than they can deliver. Be very aware, do your homework, and do not be afraid to ask questions and seek proof of clients whose works have been published. Further, don’t be afraid to approach new agents and small publishers. Many are looking for first-time writers and the small presses would generally consider reading manuscripts if queried properly.
Now then, how do you proposition agents? When submitting a fiction manuscript for instance, you generally need to submit a proposal package. Most agents prefer to be queried first, though they all have varying guidelines. Follow them. There are also specific formats that must be adhered to if querying by snail mail or electronic mail.
Your proposal package usually consists of the following:
Cover letter/Query letter. This is your pitch, so it must be pukka and formatted accordingly. This is very important as you are selling you and your idea(s) here, and first impression is paramount.
Synopsis. This also must be the best it can be, and formatted correctly too. You are selling your idea turn into a tangible book. Some agents request a long or short version, so writing technique is needed here.
Consecutive sample chapters. Usually the first three.
Chapter by chapter outline. Not always required, but have it ready in case it is called for.
Bio / acknowledgements. Include here a bit about you and any previously published work, if any.
Endorsements. If applicable, include.
Presentation is key, and sometimes is just as important as the writing itself as unsavoury as that may be. This means get your manuscript formatted according to publishing standards.
Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock. ~Author Unknown
Write It, Work It, Publish it!
© 2009 Cherry-Ann Carew
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Cherry-Ann Carew, aka The Power Writing Coach, Editor, Best-selling author and Founder of Writetastic Solutions is passionate about helping aspiring fiction and non-fiction writers bring out their creative expression to write their books. Learn how her coaching and editing services can help you at www.writetasticsolutions.com.