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 How to Sign With a Literary Agent 
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Post How to Sign With a Literary Agent
Title: How to Sign With a Literary Agent

Author: Suzanne Falter-Barns

If you're interested in publishing a book and gaining a market
presence and income from it, you'll need a literary agent. They
are the grease that keeps the oft-rusty wheels of publishing
moving. Every day, they eat lunch or talk to editors and
acquisition people in publishing houses all over the world, all
the while pitching them on the new hot 'properties', as your
manuscript will be called.

Generally speaking, you need an agent (though there are literary
lawyers and others out there who would disagree with me.) I've
had four agents, some fine, one useless, and one downright
criminal (though eminently likeable.)

Here are some tips I can pass along that will help your search
for this important part of your team.

*Make sure you're selling something marketable. It could be
you're the only person out there who wants to read about your
Aunt Tillie's days as a pickle packer. Before you approach an
agent, find out what problem your book solves and who it will
appeal to. Research similar titles on and look for
gaps in the marketplace. Go to bookstores and see what's hot
(and what's not.) What's not is on the remainder shelf; what's
hot is placed up front and center, with massive piles of the
book in sight. Give an agent a good reason UP FRONT to get
excited (before they even read your mss)

*Make sure your book idea or manuscript is in top shape. There
is no substitute for excellence… it helps! You've got to have an
awesome concept, and an even better title.

*Make your book proposal as professional possible. (Book
proposals are only for non-fiction books, those other than
novels.) You'll want to include a lot more than just what the
book's about. You'll need to include any market research you've
done on who'd buy the book, ideas for unusual places the books
could be sold, or ways to tie it in with 'special sales' (that's
pub-speak for big wholesale orders) to certain industries, or
connections with your workshops, speaking gigs, web site, etc..
You'll also want to include an impressive bio, merchandising
ideas, a sketch of the competitive marketplace and publicity
ideas. (If this sounds daunting, worry not. See my blurb at the

*Establish your credibility. If you're writing fiction, let them
know you've either had unique life experiences that will make
your book especially interesting to the media. (If you're
writing about your white water rafting exploits, did you have a
great experience related to this you could spin on air?) If
you're writing non-fiction, are you a PhD or do you have a
masters, or lots of great professional experience? It's tougher
to sell a great book written by someone who's got no credentials
in the field to back them up … but it can be done.

*Hook up with a star. Can you get a celebrity endorsement, or a
testimonial or foreword from a highly placed industry star? This
will help an agent feel they can sell your work.

*Find the niche no one has explored. They're out there, even in
your chosen field. This is especially true for non-fiction,
though niches apply to both genres. The best niche comes from
your own passions and interests… what's really You?

*Do not send your manuscript! Send a one page letter describing
your project and why you are the person to write it, plus your
proposal (non-fiction only) or a few sample chapters of your
manuscript (fiction.) Offer to send the rest right away if they
are interested. Make sure everything is spell-checked, double
spaced, with correct margins, etc..

*Hand pick the agents you submit to. DO NOT SEND MASS MAILINGS
TO AGENTS. It won't work, and is a waste of time and money.
Instead, research who to approach and pick the 5, 10, 20 or so
who actually sell your type of work. Agents stick to niches
themselves, and one way to find that niche is in various
resource guides like Writer's Market, the LMP (Literary Market
Place … in all big libraries), or the Writer's Digest 2002 Guide
to Literary Agents. (I have several other techniques I share in
my Self Help Author's Crash Course, which is on sale at the
moment. See below.)

*Make your letter great. Your pitch will be placed in a pile
with the other cold submissions that arrived that day (maybe 25
-50) and an assistant will thumb through them, spending about 10
seconds on each one. This means if you have a personal contact,
you mention it in the first sentence. Trim your description of
your book into a meaty, mouth-watering paragraph. Add a bit on
why you are the person to write it. And BE SURE to let them know
you hand picked them, out of all the agents out there, because
of the great work they've done for authors X, Y and Z. In fact,
you predict they will have similar success with your property,
as they did with Book X they just sold to Q Publisher, etc. In
other words, make it personal, a little witty, and smart

*Don't use old contact info … and call to see that the agent
you're contacting is still at the address you have before you
send anything

*Don't ever pay an agent to evaluate your book. This is not how
standard agents work, and is illegal.

*Give the agent one month to evaluate your work. Then follow up
by phone or email. Many will tell you how they like to be
contacted in guides such as The Writer's Market and those listed
above. Continue to follow up, until such actions are ridiculous.
You'll probably get some kind of response, especially if you're
letter is great

*Follow up and ask for referrals. If you're lucky, you'll get
the intended agent on the phone. They may seem interested, but
just won't commit. (A standard line is "I'm not taking on any
new clients right now.") So ask if they know any agents they
might recommend, or someone who is expanding their operation.
Then send a thank you note if their info has been helpful.
Agenting is a small world, and many people stay in it for life.
They'll remember when you reappear at their door years later.
And this time it may open

*Be persistent. You may have to go through several lists of
hand-picked agents, before you get the bite you need.

*Work your personal connections. Be exhaustive, thinking of
anyone you know who might connect you with other agents, or even
authors. Most authors will want to see the project you're
pitching, and may not feel comfortable sharing their contact
with you… but many may.

About the author:
For information on how to create your own publisher-ready book
proposal that agents will sit up and pay attention to, drop by
Suzanne's site, http://www.getknownnow and get her free listing
of 25 Top Self Help Literary Agents.

To reprint this article, please use with this bio box in tact.
Thanks! ©2005 Suzanne Falter-Barns LLC.

This article was posted by permission.

Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:54 pm
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