You can go the self-publishing route if you want, but if you want to get picked up by a traditional publisher you’re probably going to need an agent. Once you’ve identified the best agent for you there are somethings you should definitely never say, and there are certainly ways to ensure that your query is the very best it can be.
Before you can get to this point, however, you need to identify an agent that suits you.
Identifying a legitimate literary agent;
First things first; ensure the agent in question is legitimate! There are many new authors so eager to land an agent that they will not only query agents who are a poor fit for them, but also agents who are not even genuine!
How ca you tell if an agent is legitimate? Well, first and foremost they will not charge a reading fee, they will not take fees upfront (if they do they will usually include a clause that states they cannot take any further upfront fees without your written consent, though, so check that out), and they will not refer you to fee charging editorial services. Legitimate literary agents make their money through commissions earned when they sell your product to publishing houses. The usual fee ranges between 10% and 20%.
Be wary of any agent that contacts you out of the blue; if you have not solicited them and
do not have a large social media following or platform its likely they are scammers.
Finding the right agent for you;
When you’re thinking about querying an agent you need to consider how they fit with your genre, your style, and your goals. Most agents will specialise in either fiction or non-fiction, commercial or literary, informative or narrative, and of course many specialise by genre as well.
You should be looking for agents that have represented works similar to your own. Start by compiling a list of agents that state they are open to books in your genres and field, and then do your homework. Yes, this means more research.
No, you can’t get out of it. Here’s how it can benefit you; just because an agent is open to your kind of work does’t mean they are the very best fit for you. Try to find out some of the following information before you query (or rule anyone out);
- How many deals have they made?
- How many within the last two years?
- Do they sell to a variety of publishers?
- Which authors have they worked with?
- What kind of advances have they negotiated?
You may not be able to find out all of this information, but you will surely find out some, and this will not only give you an idea as to whether this is the correct agent for you, but you’ll have an idea of how to personalise your approach when you do query them.
Once you have your agent single out, you’ve written a kick-ass query (and of course your manuscript is ready), all you have to do is write up a one page synopsis and you can start querying!