During our meeting this evening, I shared advice about how to get published. Here are my notes; I cite my sources at the bottom, so thanks to the websites that helped me to shape this presentation.
Ekphrasis Publication Workshop
Rule Number One: NEVER, ever, ever, ever pay anybody anything up front, or ever.
- Write at least a complete first draft of the book.
- Revise, revise, revise, revise. Get beta-readers, then revise with their suggestions. Do a reading, then revise with those suggestions. It should be finished and polished before you query.
- Find an agent.
- Look up the agents of successful authors whose books are like yours
- Network, network, network; do you know anybody who can introduce you to an agent? Go to conferences, readings, etc. get your stories published in journals, become involved with writers’ blogs and online writer’s communities.
- Real agents don’t advertise.
- Real agents don’t charge upfront fees.
- Real agents list books they’ve agented on their websites, and you’ll recognize the names of the publishers that bought the books.
- Being a member of AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) is a positive sign for an agency.
- Real agents don’t insist on all client interactions being electronic.
- Real agents don’t offer to edit for a fee.
- Real agents don’t sell adjunct services to their clients (websites, illustrations, business cards, flyers, brochures, photos, marketing plans, etc.)
- Real agents don’t submit books to vanity or non-advance paying publishers.
- Look at their submission guidelines and follow them precisely.
- Send the agent your stuff!
- Write a query letter. You are trying to accomplish two important tasks with the query:
1) You are trying to make the plot/subject of your book sound awesome
2) You are trying to show the agent that you write well
- 1st paragraph: Start with a catching hook. Include the book’s title and genre. Give the length and state that it is complete. One-line “elevator pitch.”
- 2nd paragraph: 25-100 word “verbal snapshot.” Vivid, memorable.
- 3rd paragraph: What’s unique about this book. Also why this particular agent would be interested in it; compare to other successful books they have represented. Include a personalized tidbit about the agent in the query to show you did your research.
- 4th paragraph: your credentials. writing credentials, life experiences if relevant, academic degrees if relevant.
- 5th paragraph: polite, business-like sign-off, with contact info and list of materials included or attached.
1) Too long. (250 words to one page)
2) Trying to include a synopsis of the book instead of a “sound bite.”
3) Telling too much about yourself and your life.
4) Telling the agent how much friends and family loved the book.
5) Telling the agent what to think.
6) Making your writing experiences look like credentials when they aren’t. What if you have none? Don’t mention credentials at all.
7) Writers who inform the agent that the book they’re submitting is the first book in a 12 book series they’ve spent the last ten years writing.
- Include a resume of relevant experience only if requested.
- Write a SYNOPSIS. Write in the present tense. Names of characters in caps. Give spoilers. “Long synopsis” or “outline” means about a paragraph per chapter, so it will be long (7-10 pages). A “short synopsis” means 1-2 pages.
- Include whatever they request: first ten pages? First chapter? First five chapters? Whole book? Make sure to format it carefully and submit it as a .pdf. “Send the agent exactly what he or she asks to see. No more, no less.”
- Simultaneous queries OK. (talk about requests for exclusives)
- Remember Rule Number One: NEVER, ever, ever, ever pay anybody anything up front, or ever.
- Send it out, send it out, send it out!! Receive rejections, revise, and do it over and over.
- Rule Number One: NEVER, ever, ever, ever pay anybody anything up front, or ever.
- Talk about self publishing and vanity presses.
“How to find a (Real!” Literary Agent” by A.C. Crispin
“How To Find A Literary Agent” by Nathan Bransford
Other random books nearby on the shelf at Barnes & Noble.