Getting An Agent And Publisher For Your Novel, by Andy Briggs
For the purposes of this article, I am going to ignore self-publishing and focus on mainstream publishing.
There are plenty of “How To…” books out there. I had read a lot of them myself and I grew convinced they all deliberately left out vital chapters or included information designed to lead you down the wrong path. I mean, why would the author want any more competition from the likes of you?
So, here are a few tips I stumbled upon. Tricks that would be obvious in any other business, but people never apply to publishing. And that was the first tip. If you want to write for the sake of the art, then do so. Don’t expect to get published – and if you do, then you have reached creative nirvana. I don’t write for the art, nor do I expect to be published – I write because I enjoy extracting stories from my head and getting them on the page.
If you want to be published, get an agent. Most professional writers have stacks of rejection letters from agents. I had so many I could wallpaper my house. You must remember that it is, initially, a numbers game. If an agent works with 100 clients, then they will not look at your work because they simply can’t cope with 101 clients, no matter how masterful your work is. You will automatically receive the dreaded rejection letter.
Agents don’t like you approaching more than one agency at a time. This is because they don’t want the risk of a rival getting hold of your work first. So ignore their request – but if they ask you, of course they are the only ones looking at your work. You wouldn’t send a job application to one company at a time, so don’t do it with agents.
Once you get a rejection, don’t worry. Send your submission off again a month or so later to another agent within the same agency. Repeat. What you are looking for is a chink in their submissions wall. If one of their clients leaves and another dies – then there are two spaces suddenly available. Sometimes agents upscale. They drop the bottom 10% of clients who are not earning and take in fresh talent. In any of these instances, the work that now comes across the table will be read – probably by an intern, but read nevertheless. This is when you generally get detailed feedback. Sometimes the criticisms can be stinging – so ignore them. Unless you get the same criticism twice, in which case you might need to open your eyes and address it. If you are exceptionally lucky, they will take you on, or you might get the annoying: I love this, what else have you got?
That is a phrase that can kill a career. That is assuming you want a career, in which case you need to write more than one thing. If you have spent years peddling your teen-zombie novel, then the chances are that the market is now awash with similar novels and they’re looking for something new. You should have written something else – preferably something very different. If your teen zombie novel isn’t working, then don’t bother with your teen werewolf book. The more you write, and the more varied the subjects, then your chances of getting published increases. It’s just like the lottery – more tickets does statistically improve your chances, but not if you have two tickets with the same numbers.
Ideas are cyclical. Your teen zombie novel might not sell now, but shelve it and watch – zombies will be back in vogue in maybe a decade or so.
Finally, never pitch your opus as a long running series. It is fine to say your books can become a series, but publishers are looking for each book to be self-contained. If your story is a twenty part series, why would any publisher commit to buying them all if book one doesn’t sell?
Imagine, an agent finally bites and says: “I love your writing, but we can’t sell teen zombie books right now, what else do you have?”
If your reply is: “I have the sequel!” – then head shame-faced for the door.
Andy Briggs’s author website: www.andybriggs.co.uk
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