Updated March 2023
Every book author dreams of landing a literary agent and getting a publishing contract. Of course, the first step to accomplishing this is to write a really good book! But at Writer’s Relief, we know there’s something more you can do to make your manuscript even more appealing when you’re trying to get a literary agent: Make the agent’s job easier. Help your literary agent by making it easy to pitch your book to publishing houses! When you take steps to help your literary agent help you get published, you boost your odds of a literary agent—and a publishing house—saying YES to your book.
What You Can Do To Help Your Literary Agent Sell Your Book
Write a strong manuscript. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the most important part of selling your book! Make sure your book has strong writing, characters, and plot. If your agent suggests any revisions, be sure to give them thorough consideration and make any edits that improve your manuscript. Proofread diligently. You want your manuscript to be as clean as possible to make a good first impression! Double- (even triple-) check your spelling and grammar, and format your manuscript to publishing industry standards. If you can, hire a professional proofreader. Writer’s Relief can help—our proofreaders are top-notch! Hit the right word count. Each book genre has its own recommended word count. Though there are notable exceptions to these rules, never assume that’s the case for you. And remember, it can be especially tough to break word count norms as a first-time author. Curate a solid social media presence. For editors, deciding whether or not to take on a book isn’t just about great writing; it’s also a game of numbers—potential sales numbers. You’ll look much more attractive to publishers if you already have a strong fan base via social media. Agents and publishing editors will see your loyal fans as a ready-and-waiting audience eager to buy your books. Have a strong author bio. Are you uniquely qualified to write the book your agent will be sending to editors? Are you an expert on your subject matter? For example, if your murderer is a baker and you went to culinary school, knowing your way around a mixing bowl will benefit your manuscript. Having publishing credits will also go a long way in supporting your book. A strong author bio is a good selling point for fiction and nonfiction alike, and can help tip the odds in your favor when your book is shopped to publishers. Know your audience—and the market. It’s your agent’s job to know the literary market, but you should also do your research. You want to make sure your project is potentially marketable and suits the tropes of your genre. Knowing classics in your genre as well as what’s currently popular is imperative. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The best agent-author relationships are partnerships that have openness and honesty. Your agent can’t help you unless he or she knows what you want! How often do you expect your agent to give you updates on how the process is going? Do you want to know exactly what editors say when they pass on your book? Communication with your agent is key to your success! Avoid being a pest. While it’s good to have an open line of communication between you and your literary agent, you don’t want to become annoying. That’s not how to work with your agent if you want to have a good relationship! Remember, they have other clients and are also busy trying to sell your books to editors. If it’s been a few weeks and you haven’t heard back from your agent with answers to your questions, you can follow up (nicely!). But don’t call, text, and e-mail just because you haven’t received a reply within an hour.
If you’re still at the querying stage trying to land an agent, definitely do not pester the agents to whom you’ve sent submissions. Making a pest of yourself now will only show literary agents that you’ll be needy and difficult to work with—traits agents and publishers don’t want to deal with. Make yourself available. Many writers are procrastinators by nature, but it’s important not to procrastinate with your agent. If you’ve promised your agent a new draft by a certain deadline, be sure to send in the work on time, or explain why you need an extension. And if an editor asks for more materials, or wants you to do some revisions, or wants to talk to you directly, be sure to respond quickly! Build a reputation in the publishing industry as a reliable writer. Be patient. Sometimes waiting while your literary agent submits your book to publishing editors can take even longer than your own process of submitting to agents. Though it can be nerve-racking to wait while editors review your book, remember your agent can’t make editors respond any faster. By following these tips, you’ll make your query much more attractive to literary agents because it will be easier to sell your book to publishing houses. You can boost your odds of getting published by helping your agent help you!
QUESTION How are you prepared to help a literary agent sell your book to publishers?
This is a great article. It has all the ins and outs to get an agent. It was very well put together. My congratulations to the writers.