I have fabulous news for authors who have written their first book. Unlike screenplay agents who hide in dark nebulas surrounded by forcefields and are guarded by feral lobsters, most literary agents are open to submissions! Sure, some have rare submission windows during an artichoke moon when all the planets are in alignment and it’s an odd leap year – but you can send them queries!
The bad news is, there are a lot of literary agents worldwide – thousands of the little critters. So, who do you send your masterpiece to?
Luckily, most list the type of manuscripts they want to read on their website. Unfortunately, all add a caveat to their list like, “But I love to be surprised, so send me anything really, lol!” This leaves you in a quandary. Should I really send my sci-fi horror comedy to the agent who only likes cookbooks? The answer is, of course – always yes!
In hindsight though, I may have had more luck with, ‘Lasagne, I Cooked’ instead of, ‘Death Zombie Androids from Youranus.’
Do your research! Each agent has their own set of unique, bizarre requirements. One will request the first 10 pages of the manuscript, a stool sample, and a recording of your opera-singing talents. The next will demand 500 random paragraphs and a quest involving rare sprouts and a possessed viaduct in Sweden.
They all want to feel special like it’s always been your dream to be represented by this agent who you’ve never heard of before. Most are quite the jealous type. They expect you to wait at least 3 months before querying anyone else, even if they never respond. Therefore, you must make it appear as if you are writing to them personally when, in fact, you are querying 60 agents at the same time. You must get their name correct! Starting off with Dear Sandra when you are querying Bob will only work if Bob goes by the name Sandra on weekends.
THE QUERY LETTER
The query letter should include the entire story condensed into a single paragraph, your entire writer bio condensed into a single sentence and the amount of success you’ve managed to generate without an agent condensed into a single word. They want to know the number of followers you have on social media, the URL of your website, and your bank account details. Hold on a second, I think I’ve been scammed!
All of the above (minus the bank account details) need to fit on one page of an email with the manuscript sample sent as an attachment, pasted into the email, inserted into an online portal, sent through the post, or transmitted via telepathy – whatever their bizarre requirements are.
Then you wait for AN ETERNITY – after which, they either say thanks but sod off or completely ignore you. The latter is known as Ghosting and is a horrific experience. It’s not like being haunted, at least with a good old-fashioned haunting the spirit is giving you attention. Ghosting is like they’ve dropped out of existence simply to avoid you.
Once every artichoke moon, an agent will request the full manuscript. When this occurs, make sure you are sat down and hooked up to a life support machine as your heart will explode with excitement. Then, 3 months later they will say nice things about your manuscript and politely tell you to sod, or Ghost you.
If you fail to secure the services of an agent, have no fear. You can cut out the middle person and approach some publishers directly. It’s pretty much the same routine as approaching an agent only publishers go out of business a lot more often than agents, so you must be quick on your feet if you want to get that rejection in!
When all else fails, there is the literary equivalent of falling on your own sword and self-publishing. Keep your chin up though, self-publishing is a more viable and respected option than it used to be.
The first thing to realise is that the publishing part of self-publishing is simple. You can publish anything with ease! You can scan 300 sheets of toilet paper and publish that if you want. All you need to do is make sure it is in the right format for Kindle, Tablets, Kobo, Mobo, Sobo, and other eReaders that may not exist. You then upload via free online tools and congratulations; you have published your first novel!
It won’t sell anything, but you’ve published it.
The tough, insurmountable part is getting the word out to people who might be interested in the type of stuff you write. Self-Publishing is one of the few moments in your life when you reconnect with family members and friends you’ve lost touch with. It leads to beautiful conversations like “Hey! Long-time no see! Well, lol, guess what? I wrote a book! Yeah, me writing a book! Crazy, right? Anyway, I was wondering if you’d buy it and leave me a review? Hello? Hello? I think my Zoom might be broken.”
Even offering it for free won’t be enough to entice your most loyal compadres to click a button and gain you a 5-star review.
There is a solution though and I’m going to give you the secret to success for self-publishing in a single sentence.
Are you ready for this?
Here we gooooooo!
You need to gain a lifetime’s worth of experience as an agent AND a publisher, apply all of their marketing know-how and spend the best part of your life savings on advertising.
You become a celebrity first!
Whichever path you choose, good luck!