Even before drafting those query letters, synopses, and book proposals, there are several important ways to prepare for pursuing traditional publishing. While you are still editing your manuscript, take a little bit of time out of each day to prepare for querying literary agents and publishers, and the process of chasing down someone to publish your book will go much smoother when you are ready.
If you have just begun thinking about traditional publishing or if you researching literary agents in general, check out this fantastic and thorough blog post by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: How to Find a (Real) Literary Agents. This article provides information on the function of literary agents, how to find the right one, and how to query or submit to them.
So if you want to be traditionally published, here are four simple ways to prepare before you start querying
1. Make a list of 3 to 5 literary agents or publishers
Preferably before you start your last round of edits, figure out who your top picks for literary agents or publishers are. If you want to query a publisher, make sure that they accept unsolicited submissions. This means that you do not need to have a literary agent to submit. Most big publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so if that is the case for one of your top picks, then focus on finding an agent instead. Also make sure that the agent or publisher represents your genre!
Tip: There are lots of ways to find literary agents and publishers. Try reading through the acknowledgement section of books in your genre or use a search engine specific such as AgentQuery or QueryTracker. Check out of the link from SFWA for more ideas.
2. Follow them on Facebook or other social media
Following agents and publishers on Facebook and Twitter allows you to casually get to know them and their preferences better. Many post tips and hints about the stories and queries that they like best. All post about the books they are currently working on (see tip 4 for why this is important to you). And to a certain extent, social media allows you to get to know the agents personally. Personality does matter when choosing an agent. You will not only be working with them as business partners, but since writing is very personal, you need to find someone who will really love your genre, premise, and style.
Tip: Don’t be a stalker! Go ahead and comment on posts that truly excite you, but don’t comment or like constantly– especially for a short period of time (aka a week or two before you query them). Ask yourself if you are commenting just to get their attention or check off a box. Especially for a teen author, an obsessive presence can come across as immature and desperate.
3. Follow their blogs
This is even more important than Facebook. All of the agents on my list post writing tips and– even more importantly– publishing and querying tips on their blog. What is a better way to impress them with your manuscript or novel than by knowing exactly what they like?
Tip: Also consider following their published authors’ blogs. You will find fewer publishing tips on these, but you can learn more about the types of personalities and books that they represent.
4. Read several of their books
Do a little bit of research (once you have found their blog or website, it is not hard) to find a list of the books that the agent has represented or the publisher has published. Pick a couple books that are in your genre and published in the past year or two (the recenter, the better) and read them. If you find yourself underwhelmed, considering looking for a new agent or publisher, but if you genuinely become a fan, don’t hesitated to let the author know and comment on the author’s blog.
Tip: Reading books previously published by the agent or publisher that you are querying is a great way to impress them, but don’t over exaggerate and be honest about what you liked or even disliked. Also most query letters include several comparative titles, these books make great comparative titles since they show the agent/publisher that your book is similar to what they like to represent. However, make sure you compare in meaningful ways that show you have read the book or else this can come off as a cheap trick from someone who doesn’t actually like or has even read their books.
By taking these simple steps before you start querying, you can make the querying process much smooth once you start. If you already know what agents you want to query and their preferences, you have a huge advantage while editing your story, and when it comes time to query, you will already know what to do rather than panicking and researching last minute.
Are any of you guys seeking traditional publishing? Would you like to see more posts like this in the future? Now that I am more focused on traditional publishing; I’d be happy to share what I am learning.