Allow me to recommend a book for all you writers out there floating around in cyberspace. Or don’t, but I’m going to do it anyway, so there.
How to Get a Literary Agent, by Michael Larsen, AAR.
In spite of that somewhat prosaic title, the book itself is a veritable goldmine of information that until now, I had missed in all my sheer ignorance. The book details the process of getting an agent, what goes through an agent’s mind, what publishers are looking for, and a whole lot more. I am convinced that reading this book prior to starting the process of agent-fishing will save me a dramatic amount of time and effort, if not a large number of rejections. In fact, I am sure that this book will take a machete to the number of rejections looming in my future*. And here is why.
1. The average fledgling writer, when searching for representation, knows little to nothing about the publishing industry or what agents are looking for, and thus commits any number of small but fatal mistakes. Larsen tackles a plethora of these head on and addresses how to avoid making them.
2. The average fledgling writer does not know how to write a successful, professional-sounding, hook of a query letter. Larsen describes how to do that, as well.
3. Agents get an overwhelming number of poorly thought out queries and submissions. This makes the really good ones stand out like a Yankees fan in Boston.
4. Many (if not most) fledgling writers don’t take the time to ensure that their manuscripts have been edited and proofread prior to submission. This is to say that they don’t have them proofread or edited by people other than themselves much of the time. A good revision probably saves ten rejections in and of itself.
5. People seem to have a problem finding appropriate agents for their type of work — or they don’t make the effort to check at all and simply send out queries addressed to “Agent.” Hm. I wonder why that doesn’t work.
6. Many writers (myself included before I read this book) would never think to include any ideas about promotion, their financial and personal goals in regards to their writing career, or any rationale about why their book will sell.
Reading this book has completely altered my outlook on this entire journey. Instead of simply polishing up Primeval and Elemental this summer, I am going to extend my goal to some new and intimidating territory. I am going to start treating my writing like a business. This means that I am going to sit down and clarify what my personal, financial, and craft goals are. I’m then going to draft a business plan and sketch out the steps I will begin putting in place for the promotion of my books. I’ve already purchased my domain names, so that’s a heaving sigh I can officially allow to escape.
Anyway, Monsieur Larsen has given me a new perspective from which to work, and a concrete game plan I can use to solidify the foundations of this journey and get it off on the right foot. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.
It’s going to pay off.
*This is not to say that I will not be awash in a sea of rejection; I’m certain I will be. It’s inevitable. Like the cockroaches of my building that are rapidly encroaching on my living space. (Shudder.)