Guest Post: What A Literary Agent Can Do For You (And How To Get One)

Hey guys!  Please welcome the staff for Writer’s Relief as they discuss what a literary agent can do for you, and most importantly, how to get one!  (Which I will be working on soon, so I’m super excited to have them here with me on the blog!)

Can you send my writing to publishers?

We get this question quite often here at Writer’s Relief. Many writers—whether they’re experienced or new to the craft—think the right way to get books published is to send them directly to the top publishing companies. The truth is, nowadays you’ll find that major publishing companies that take unsolicited work are few and far between. This is where a literary agent becomes invaluable.

Agents are the go-between for writers looking to get their books published. They have extensive knowledge of the publishing business, and that inside information is a crucial step toward having your book land on the right desk to be read by the right people.

Why Are Literary Agents Necessary?

Promotion. For some writers, self-publishing can be lucrative, but others might find self-promotion difficult to handle. Experienced agents have spent their careers making connections with the right people, and it’s those connections that will help your book find a publisher to call home. And once your book is published, your literary agent can offer advice on post-publication issues.

Profits. When your book is accepted by a publisher, you need to make sure the proposed contract is a fair one. Your agent will act as the liaison between you and the publishing company. Agents know all the technical publishing jargon, and they know whether or not a deal is acceptable. The last thing you want to happen is to finally have your book published and on the shelves, only to find out you’ve been stiffed on the royalties or—perish the thought—a pseudonym has been applied for you!

How Do I Make My Query Stand Out From The Crowd?

Before you can start talking about contracts and profits, you need to get a literary agent! Here are a few tips to set you apart from other submitters.

Start Out Strong. The beginning pages of your book are crucial when querying for agent representation. If an agent isn’t drawn in by the first few pages, he or she won’t be sold on the idea that the rest of the book is enticing enough to become a best seller. Skip unnecessary prologues and character histories—get to the heart of the story. Don’t expect agents to trust that the story picks up in the second or third chapter. Literary agents are reading with the mindset of an average reader: If the agent isn’t drawn in within a couple of pages, neither will customers be at the bookstore. So reel them in with something exciting and intriguing, then take a step back and show them how and why those events, settings, or characters came to be.

Keep It Simple. Keep your query letter concise and professional throughout. Just as in the opening pages, you’ll need to skip the lengthy backstory and get to the meat of the story right away. Focus on just one or two characters and the main features of the plot line. Stay away from even mentioning secondary characters who aren’t pivotal to the main plot; they’ll only muddy the focus of the query letter, and you’ll risk losing the agent’s attention.

Your bio should be focused on your education, career path, publication credits, and information that will make the agent think, “This person is qualified to write this book.” If you’re writing about war and you’ve spent time in the military, mention it. If you’ve studied with well-known authors, mention it. And if you’ve had excerpts or related essays or short stories published in literary journals, definitely mention it!

About Writer’s Relief:

At Writer’s Relief, we stick with the traditional model of gaining agent representation prior to publication because we know how confusing the publishing business can be. Whether you’re submitting to literary agents or editors, Writer’s Relief can help by doing as much or as little of the submission process as possible.

Since 1994, we’ve been collecting information on which agents are the best in the business, and we work with you and your individual style of writing to give your book, short story, essay, or poem the best chance of acceptance.

If you would like to learn more about how Writer’s Relief can help you submit to literary agents or get your work published in literary journals, contact us today!

Question: What techniques do you use to start your story off with a bang?

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