This morning I bumped into a friend at work who I know has written a thriller he wants to get published and he was telling me the struggles he’s having getting an agent. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I have encountered similar problems. So here I’ve put together a few tips that might just help you.
1 Write a good book.
This might seem like a given, but as a structural editor I’m often the first person other than the author to see a manuscript, and I can assure you there are a lot of bad manuscripts out there. I’ve seen loads where the author thinks they’ve got a gold mine on their hands and I can see within a few paragraphs that what they actually have is… well to be kind… fool’s gold. Whatever you might think, you can’t tell if you have a good book, only someone independent can do that, we all need feedback. Feedback isn’t always easy, no one wants to hear that they aren’t Shakespeare, but it is the fire and freeze which will temper the raw iron of your idea into the sharpened steel of a sword that will cut your way to the top. Remember, an editor’s feedback will cost you, yes, but you won’t burn any bridges with an editor, send a bad book to an agent and they may never look at you a second time, and how much will that cost you?
2 Present a Polished Product
The book needs to be good, but it also needs to be polished. I once did a sample chapter for a book I loved so much, where I saw so much raw talent in the author, that I actually offered to edit the whole book for free. If any editor ever makes that offer to you – take them up on it – say yes – this doesn’t happened very often and if you find a professional who loves your work that much – use them! The reason I’m mentioning this is that the author went on and published the e-book as it was. I brought that book (it was only a couple of quid) and read it and oh my God was it ever in need of a good edit! In other words, he went to market with a product that wasn’t ready. Agents are a market and there are a lot of people looking to sell them product. There is little enough profit in writing or promoting writing as it is, so agents want to see something that has been worked on to make as publication ready as possible before it gets to them. You have to stand out from the crowd. If you believe in your product – prove it – invest it in, edit it, polish it.
3 Build an on-line presence
This is both easy and incredibly difficult. There’s nothing especially hard about setting up a social media platform, nor indeed several of them. What’s difficult is keeping it all up to date. It’s difficult to know what to post where, and you don’t want to be posting the same things in every outlet. There is plenty of better advice on how to do this stuff than I have on offer, and it’s easy to find. What I can promise you that an on-line presence is important and you need to build one. Why? To get yourself noticed (agents will look) and to build up an audience receptive to your writing. Even if you get an agent, you still have to get a publisher, and even then, you’ll need to do a lot of your own publicity and marketing, so you might as well reach as many people as possible by building a following early.
These are basic pointers, but it’s surprising how few people actually bother with these things. If you want someone else to take your writing seriously, you need to take it seriously. You want to be a professional, act like one.