Something happened today that made me decide a few things need to be addressed for authors out there trying to get agents and/or published. Someone asked how to get an agent and/or published, and I answered them. When I read their reply, I went back to read their original post and saw, to my astonishment, something I had missed earlier, something I had assumed differently. See, this was a forum specifically for authors seeking agents, but their question said they don’t want money, they just want the “support” of an agent.
That’s a waste of agents’ time, folks. If you have no intentions of following their rules and/or making money, don’t waste their time and yours by querying. And that’s what his answer was. He was an artist who would do whatever, however he wanted with his art. OK. That’s fine and dandy, but no agent is going to support any author. They’re going to represent professional authors.
So for those of you out there dying to be a professional author, here are some basic do’s and don’t’s:
- Do your homework. Aka, read every article, blog post, book on the topic. Soon you’ll be able to skip the bogus and go straight for the true, tossing the garbage left and right over your shoulders. This takes years, yes years, to learn, and you still won’t learn it all. Like ever.
- Finish the book. Publishers don’t give advances for partial books, and agents will toss you in the trash without so much as a rejection letter. (This is for fiction only. Non-fiction is a completely different world and is not discussed here. If you are specifically wanting to pitch a non-fiction, this post may help you some, but is not directed towards you in any way shape or form) If an agent gets really bored and feels really sorry for you, you might get a letter that says, “Finish a book before querying.”
- Self-edit the book. Go over the book. Over and over and over the book. Publishers and agents do not want your rough drafts. Instant rejection without reply.
- Buy the latest copy of the Writer’s Market, preferably in your genre, if available. These can be found at the library too sometimes.
- Don’t post your book online. I know I post WIP’s. Those are just tiny snippets of whatever I’m working on. There are people who post their whole book online and then ask for representation, and get this, with a link to where their book is posted online included in their query. Biiiiig no no. No one wants to publish a book available for free elsewhere. (This was what “the artist” wanted to do.)
- Don’t pitch to publishers until you exhaust all your agents. Agents can’t sell a book to a publisher that’s already turned it down. (Most publishers don’t take unsolicited manuscripts anyway.)
- The literary world is small and has a memory. Don’t burn your bridges. If you continuously insist on querying agents/publishers that don’t represent your type of work, in a way they specifically ask people not to, or without being professional, when you finally do write the next best-seller, it’ll be thrown in the trash without being read.
This is by no means an answer to every question. Nor is it meant to be. But it will get you started. If you are unwilling to follow these rules, don’t query. There’s nothing wrong with posting your beautiful literary work online for the world to read, print it on a T-shirt, I don’t care, but don’t waste an agent’s time by querying them if you’re not serious as a professional author. Please.