We here at D & G get all sorts of interesting phone calls about matters big and small. Questions about what types of books we represent, which agent you should query if you have a sci-fi middle-grade space fantasy novel, questions about cover designs and copyrights, and…well, you get my drift. Occasionally, we pick up the phone and hear a first-time author say, “I’ve just finished my novel and I don’t really know what to do next.” It is to all those who have just put that last period on the last sentence in their novel that I dedicate this blog entry.
There are countless writers just starting to learn about getting an agent, writing a query, sending a submission, sending a 25 page sample vs. sending a manuscript, and everything else that comes along with getting their book published. Once the writing is done, you may feel like the hard part should be over, but the task of learning how to get your book published is a challenge in its own right. If you’ve stumbled upon our little blog, you are already at least aware that there is a lot more work ahead.
It can be confusing, but not to worry, it’s not difficult getting started – sometimes all you need is a gentle push in the right direction. First off, you’ll want to continue doing what you’re doing now – gathering information. You may want to take a trip to your local bookstore or go to Amazon.com and pick up a book on publishing. You also might want to comb the internet for sites and blogs (like us, for instance). The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. Not all the information you will read and hear is accurate but, for the most part, learning the basics can be very useful and will make the process less confusing.
Another excellent way to gather information is to sign up for a writer’s conference. There you meet with editors and agents and can learn invaluable information firsthand. Often there are pitch sessions, during which you can speak face to face with an agent and pitch your book in person and panel discussions, where you can ask questions.
Once you have as much information you feel you need to get started, you’ll need a query letter that you’ll be sending to agents. There is a lot of information out there on query letters, but as our own Miriam Goderich has said in the past, there is no such thing as a perfect query letter. For more help on how to draft a query you can visit Miriam’s post on the topic.
Once you feel comfortable enough to begin the query process, you’ll have to gear up and do some more research. There are many agencies out there and they’ve all got different submission requirements. Some ask that you only send a query letter, some will ask for a query, synopsis and sample chapter. Many agencies are now accepting queries by email, whereas others will still ask that they be sent by mail only. You’ll also want to research which agents are interested in which genres. Online guides to agents and books such as the 2008 Guide to Literary Agents are helpful in that they offer information on all of the above. You can click here for a link to our submission guidelines. http://www.dystel.com/submit.html
Try to avoid common query mistakes. We’ve seen many a query that are addressed to us, but made out to another agent. In other words, taking the time to proofread your query is well spent.
Once you’ve made your submissions, be patient. Many agencies have a huge volume of submissions that they need to read through and it can sometimes take a while for them to get through them all.
And lastly, if at first you don’t succeed… well, don’t get discouraged too easily. Oftentimes what an agent chooses to represent comes down to a matter of taste. That doesn’t make you any less of a good writer, and you don’t want an agent who is not passionate about your work. The more excited about the project they are, the more effective an advocate they will be of you and your project.