As if my naiveté in this industry needed more evidence, I present this: Until quite recently, I hadn’t even started thinking about obtaining a literary agent.
If you want to be an actor, you get an agent. If you want to be a director, you get an agent. If you want to be any kind of model, you get an agent. They are the gatekeepers to the world which you want to enter. So why did I not think about one until now?
I had become quite focused on the idea of self-publishing the novel. That’s in no way a bad thing, and many people are finding great success on that path. But I made myself a promise to try the traditional route before going it alone.
But I didn’t research exactly how one does that. In fact, I just assumed you send manuscript samples around town and stuff happens. Like magic. But that’s not how anything works ever.
So how does a writer-in-training get an agent?
Good question. First you need to know a little more about your story. Can you describe it in a few sentences? Consider this your elevator pitch to the agent. You need them to get the whole idea and be on board before reading a single word.
Next you include a chapter (depending on the agent, this can be more or less) and you make sure it POPS. I mean, you need to have the best few pages ever. If you aren’t confident in your ability to hook an agent, how can you hope to hook a new reader? It’s tough love, but you need to write and rewrite that first chapter until it dances off the pages.
Then, research the crap out of your prospective agent. Write them a query letter that is personal, informative and shows you are professional. Spend time looking at which authors they represent, and which genres that already work with. You want someone who is familiar with your style, but isn’t overwhelmed with copycats. If you don’t stand out amongst their current clients, they might forget you.
Finally, and this is the most important thing to know, you will get rejected. You will get rejected a million times. This is one of the most crucial steps in being a writer, and it is the most decisive. Out of 100 people who say they have a great idea, only three or four will get here. And two of them will lose hope after receiving their first rejection letter. A third will leave after the tenth note.
You have to persevere. You have to believe in yourself and your book. If you want it published, the self-publishing route is always open. But if you think it is destined to be in the hands of a talented agent, grow some thick skin and get it out there.
I have just started the very beginning of this phase, and I’m sure rejection letters aplenty are to follow. The point is, I am not going to give up until TGW is a reality. It’s consumed a large portion of my life, and not in a bad way. I cannot wait to see it in hardcover. I can’t wait to sign my mom’s copy and act like a big shot for 5 minutes.
But more than that, I can’t wait for my first rejection letter. I’m going to frame it and keep it above my desk so that I always remember: You can make it better.