4. Have I built an author platform?
What does your personal brand look like? As an author, being able to show an agent – and later on, a publisher – that you have an audience and a platform for your writing can go a long way when it comes to a final decision on whether or not your book will get published. Maintain an author website as well as a few social media platforms where you post your writing so that you can start to build an online audience of followers and readers interested in your work. The more of a platform you build, the more publishers and agents will understand that in addition to being able to write a quality book, you can also help them market and sell it, too.
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5. How much have I thought about the book I want to write?
Depending on your book’s genre, some agents will ask that you have the first few chapters finished before they consider taking you on as a client, and others will ask that you have the entire book written. It won’t look very professional if an agent asks you to send the entire book and you’re forced to admit you only have half of it completed. While it’s possible for nonfiction writers to get a publishing deal with a detailed book proposal, fiction agents almost always require a full manuscript. No matter your genre, if you are only in the idea phase of what your book should be about, you should take a few steps back and focus your energy on writing and outlining, not querying.
6. Have I considered self-publishing?
While it might seem like the only way your book will ever get published is to find an agent and have them pitch it to different publishers, it’s important to take a step back and consider what other options you have – and what’s important to you. What are your goals for your book? If your dream absolutely involves seeing your book at Barnes & Noble or to be nominated for the National Book Award, traditional publishing may indeed be the path for you. But if you just want to get your book out into the world, find readers, and maybe make some cash, it might be a better idea for you to self-publish and sell the book yourself on a platform or even your own website. Before you decide whether or not you want to pursue traditional publishing, explore both options, speaking to authors who have gone down both paths, and see which one is a better fit for your work and for you as the author.
7. Do I understand an agent’s role?
One of the biggest misconceptions about getting a literary agent is that once you begin working with them, magic will start happening. Remember, just because you find an agent who is interested in representing your book does not mean they can guarantee that a publisher will buy it. In fact, once you and your agent start working together, it can take weeks or months before your book (or book proposal) are ready for publishers’ eyes. The role of your agent can be more than just being your “book deal broker,” however. Oftentimes, agents will guide you to make sure your manuscript fits what they believe different publishers are looking for at that time. Your agent may very well give you edits to take care of before she thinks it’s ready to send out. Once an agent starts sharing it with publishers, she will report the feedback back to you. Once deals are on the table, your agent will help negotiate to get you the best offer; she can also help you make sure you are choosing the right publishing house if multiple offers come in. Another common misconception is that once your book is sold, agents go out of the picture, but they remain there to help guide you through the writing and editing process, make sure you meet your deadlines, and assist you with creating a book marketing plan.