Finding an agent,  Getting Published

So You Want to Be an Author…

I just got off the phone with a cute girl who is starting this crazy publication journey.  She wanted to know where to begin, but really there is too much information for one phone conversation. I wrote a giant email for her and decided to turn it into a blog post for all of you who are interested in the same process.
Ten BASIC Steps to Getting Published
1.  Finish a manuscript.  That’s the most important step!  No agents or editors will look at an unfinished story.
2.  Revise with help.  Get a beta reader (or three).  A beta reader is someone who is willing to read your story and give you feedback, and you do the same in return.
I found my first beta readers on Absolute Write.  They have a beta reader forum that’s a bit like a dating website.  You look for someone with similar interests, ask them a couple of questions, see if you’re compatible and then you can swap manuscripts.  Other places you can find beta readers (sometimes called Critique Partners or CPs) include:
  • Nathan Bransford’s (a former agent and current author) Critique Partner Forum
  • Your local library
  • Bookstores
  • And by following author/writer blogs. (I found one of my favorite CPs by following her comments on one author’s blog back to her blog.  You may call it stalking if you wish, but I’m not the least bit scary).
3.  Write a query letter.  Condensing your novel into 180 to 250 words is not an easy task, but luckily there are a lot of really smart people out there who have made this process a little simpler.
One of my favorites blog posts on this topic is from Nathan Bransford (again), How to Write a Query Letter.  Once you’ve gotten the synopsis portion of the letter written, there are a several places where you can post your query and get feedback from others.
4.  Research agents (this step should be happening at the same time you’re working on No. 3).  The best place I found to research agents is QueryTracker.com.
You can search for agents that represent your genre, visit their websites, follow them on Twitter, get a sense of what they like and who they are before you send them a letter.  Their website will also tell you their submission guidelines (how many pages they do/do not want to see), what type of stories they are currently looking for, and how to personalize your letter so it attracts their attention.
Click here for a link to my agent’s submission guidelines so you can see exactly what I’m talking about.
5.  Send out your query.  I wrote a blog post on my query process here.  I used a sort of scientific approach and tested different queries on different agents.  My actual query is at the bottom of the post.
6.  Pray really hard.  Wait.  Start a new story.
7.  Get an agent!  (Celebrate!!)  Unless your manuscript is perfect, and it probably won’t be, then your agent will send you revision notes and you’ll revise to their tastes.
8.  Create a sub list.  I left this part up to my agent because she had a much better handle on the market, different publishers’ catalogues, and editors’ personalities and tastes.  But you may want to check the acknowledgement sections of your favorite books.  The editor is always mentioned and if your story is similar (but not TOO similar) then they may like your writing too.
9.  Pray really hard.  Wait.  Start a new story. 
10.  Get the call from your agent that someone is interested in your story!  Just because an editor likes your story doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make an offer.  There are several stages beyond the editor (acquisitions, marketing, and maybe the publisher) before a deal is made.  But if you’re talking to editors then you’re so close!!  Here’s a great post on what happens to your manuscript once it goes on submission.
If you have any other questions or want a specific step outlined in detail, let me know!  I’d be happy to post on it for you.
AND…have you entered my giveaway?  Scroll down or click here!

Author, baker, mother.

4 Comments

  • Lexa Cain

    Your tips seem a little on the optimistic side. Many writers write 5 or more novels before getting an agent. Many never get an agent. Just sayin’…

    I love your new authorly picture! I never knew you were so young and gorgeous! 🙂

  • Becky Wallace

    @Lexa: Very true!! That’s why I included the “Pray Hard” step. Sometimes it takes a miracle to get an agent, let alone a book deal!!

    And I’m not so sure about young OR gorgeous, but the pictures didn’t turn out horribly. I’ll keep them. 🙂

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