Getting an Agent: Three Vital Steps
I’d love to know about like…the usual process you have to go through to get a manuscript in order for sending off to an agent?
One of the coolest things about young writers is the eager desire I see in so many of them to get their work out there, get it seen, get it published. This desire is shared among a lot of more experienced writers, but there’s something about seeing young people being so passionate about something that’s really awesome.
However, a lot of young writers are so eager to see their work in print they miss a lot of really vital steps in the process and only end up with rejection. Rejection is hard for anyone, but for that eager young writer – often blind to some of the realities of the world, and especially the publishing industry – it can be destructive. To help sway some of that rejection, and maybe give a little encouragement, here are three steps every writer should take to get their manuscript ready for publication and find their agent.
1. Write Something – and Edit It
Surprisingly, this is a step that a lot of writers seem to want to forget, but 10 out of 10 agents and editors agree it’s the most important step of all. Unless you’re an “expert” writing a non-fiction piece, no one wants an unfinished piece of fiction or poetry. If you’re not an author working with an agent you’ve had for multiple books, no one wants a “book proposal”. They want something finished, and they want something polished. This doesn’t mean no typos; this means meaningful revision that sharpens character, plot, and language. Revise once, twice, three times, and then when you don’t think you could possibly change anything else – revise again. Get other people to look at it and give you their opinions. The more polished your work is, the greater chances you’ll have getting an agent to want it.
2. Publish Something
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to get an agent to publish your work. Agents work with book-length works, meaning novels or collections of short stories and poems. To publish short fiction or poetry, though, all you need is a list of magazines and journals and an email address. Having a resume of previously published work is the best help in getting a longer work published. It shows others have recognized you as talented, as well as that you’re going to be a marketable author. So publish widely and publish often!
3. Do Your Research
Not every agent is going to be interested in the kind of work you’re producing. Agents are specialized, which is why they’re good at their jobs, but that means we have to put a bit more work in on our parts. Consider your own work, how it can be categorized or marketed as, and then consider agents who are interested in the same things. Submitting your epic fantasy romance to a strictly literary fiction agent is going to get you rejected no matter how good you are. Agents are listed in various directories, such as Writer’s Market (for mostly US-located agents, literary journals, etc), and all their submission information can be found on their websites. Look at the work they’ve helped published in the past, as well, to show what kind of stuff they like to work with. Targeting agents who are looking for the type of work you’re producing is going to be the biggest help in getting your polished work actually put into print.
After putting together a list of agents comes the ever-daunting query letter, which is what’s actually going to get you published (after your talent as a writer, of course). But that’s a blog for another day, so keep coming back for more answers to your industry questions!