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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Literary Agents & Publisher Selection.

Now you have reached the stage where you feel your manuscript is ready for submission, hopefully you will not be lulled into a false sense of security.
KEEP checking it through for errors, and places where you can polish it so that it flows and shines.
By now, you should have a completed a synopsis. (Better still, several versions!) Why?
Some Publishers/Literary Agents prefer a short synopsis, in as little as 200 words.
More commonly, they will vary between 1 - 3 pages.

So, if you made your notes as I suggested while writing the book, go over each chapter heading and review it, picking out the portions that will contribute to your synopsis.
What does this chapter tell me, and how does it tie in with the overall theme of the book and main/sub plots.
How much of that is essential to explaining briefly what the story is all about.
You need to ensure you construct a brief, punchy review that grabs their attention and will not let them go until they satisfy their curiosity by demanding to read your manuscript.

That standard needs to be achieved for a short synopsis, a longer one, AND an alternate version you may wish to include in the beginning of your second book if your story is part of a series.

(HINT) - When I was constructing mine, I looked at what some of my favorite authors did with their stories and followed suit.
If it's good enough for international best sellers, learn from them!

So, you've done that and now have to decide how to proceed. There are 2 schools of thought!

Literary Agents.
Agents can be said to act as a level of quality control.
An established Agent with a proven track record is in the business of earning a living from authors, so obviously they only want to take on the best concepts/stories, and those offering the best prospects, because if they don't, they go hungry!
A good agent will offer suggestions for improvement to make your manuscript more saleable, and will know the right Editor to approach at the right Publishing House.
If they secure you a deal, they will then negotiate the best deal for you, as they earn a living from a cut of your earnings.
Afterwards, dependent on the contract you have, they offer varying degrees of support re marketing, websites, advertising etc etc.
When you make your selection - remember it's down to you - but I feel its best NOT to waste your time & energy writing to every well established agency.
Be clever, direct your efforts to those who handle your genre and have a number of successful authors on their list who write your kind of story.
Follow their guidelines exactly, otherwise you face the real risk of having your work recycled to the bin.
Then be patient.

Publishing Houses.
Some only receive agented submissions - (and you can't blame them) - agents act as a quality control filter, and some awful drivel does end up on their desks. seriously!
However, some (Big houses included) accept a direct approach.
Whatever option you choose, again, follow their guidelines to the letter.
Act wisely, some of the massive publishing houses have many different departments, and you will be a very little fish in a huge ocean.
By all means try - but be realistic.
Concentrate on publishing houses who either specialize in your genre, or who have a busy department/wing selling your kind of story.
Not only will you improve your chances, but some smaller houses may even offer brief feedback.
IF they do, take it on board.
DO your homework. Find out when they start accepting submissions for their lists. (Remember, publishers work a year to 18 months ahead. If you submit late in the day, a position you may have been in the running for might have been taken by someone else applying at the right time).

(HINT) - Keep an eye out for new publishing houses who either specialize in your genre, OR, who have just opened their doors to new genres.
They may be looking to fill their books with quality stories, and new authors.

Again - be honest with them.
If they do not want multiple submissions, play ball. (You mess with them at your peril)
If they don't mind, let them know, and assure them you will not then try to play tabletennis with any interest they show against someone else!
Then be patient.

In the meantime, keep refining your manuscript and prepare yourself for rejection.

Think about it, Stephen King started early as a budding author, and if the plethora of tales on the internet are anything to go by, was rejected again and again.
Look at him now.
J K Rowling (YES, THE J K Rowling) was said to have taken 6 years to put her story together and then was rejected12 times, before a small publishing house in the UK took her on.
Look at her now.

These well known names are not alone in being rejected, and neither will you be. You'll join the class of "hard knocks".
But they, and others, are a great example of what COULD happen to you, and through a smaller publishing company at that!

At the end of this series of tips, I will actually highlight my own experience - hopefully it will be something you can relate to, as it will show the value of directing your efforts at the right targets, and the benefits of being honest and open.
Also, it will reveal the real benefits of the smaller publishing houses who treat you as a human being, and someone they want to support.
(But thats for later).

Next time - handling rejection and what to do to stay positive.
See you then.

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