I started marketing my first novel to agents and publishers when I had finished a one-page synopsis, the first chapter, and a vague idea where it was going. Although the response was encouraging, I learned fast: finish the novel. No agent or publisher would even consider it unfinished.
It took two years, and when it was ready for submission, I figured the work was done. Was I ever wrong.
I now had to find a publisher—not an easy task for a first-time novelist. Most publishers consider only manuscripts submitted by an agent or those they’ve requested after meeting the author at a writers conference.
Completed manuscript in hand, I learned another lesson: There is no one-size-fits-all query letter. One agent wanted a one-page synopsis—another requested six-pages. One wanted the first 50 pages. Another asked for the first three chapters.
Two asked for the full manuscript, but one wanted it submitted electronically, while the other wanted a hard copy.
Use the Market Guide
When I realized my manuscript wasn’t going to be snatched up by the first agent I contacted—or the second, third, or fourth—the real work began.
List of potential agents in hand, I went to the Preditors and Editors website and crossed off those that weren’t recommended, starred those that were, and noted whether the agency had verified sales to royalty-paying publishers.
I then visited each agency’s website, spending hours reading carefully and noting:
- Tone and appearance: Did the website appear professional, yet friendly?
- Agency information: I read history, agent bios and genres each handled, clients, recent sales, and contact information.
- Author information: Some sites gave excellent resource information, such as how to write a query and how to make a pitch—workshop-quality stuff.
- Submission guidelines: These told me exactly what they wanted and how they wanted to receive it.
Next: How to prepare and keep track of your submissions.
Michele Huey takes time from working on her current manuscript, a historical fiction, to find a cozy corner and read. She also writes an award-winning column, is a Christian Writers Guild mentor, and preaches for a small congregation between pastors. Visit her website and her blog.