Getting Your Work to an Agent or Publisher--What To Do and How

Want your book mainstream published? If so, you need to know how to get your manuscript into the hands of an agent or publisher in a way that won't get it tossed before it gets read.

If you're just starting this process or questioning whether or not to get an agent, see the video on the right under So You're Writing a Book, Part 2.

Once you decide you want an agent or publisher, you need to find some! There are 3 ways I can think of to do that:
1. Go to a writer's conference and meet some in person.
2. Google for lists of agents who accept the genre you write.
3. Order the Christian Writer's Market Guide. They have a whole section of agents and a whole section of publishers.

Next, if you're trying to get an agent or publisher to consider your book, you need to know what they're looking for. Go to that agent or publisher's website, find the "submissions" tab, and do EXACTLY what the website says they want, no more, no less.



1. A great query letter. See: How to Write a Book Proposal Query
(Here is a sample of mine if that will help: Sample Query)

2. A thorough book proposal. Some publishing websites have book proposal templates you can download and use, or you can create a general one and then modify it to each publisher you send it to. (Rachelle Gardner has a great blog post on what makes up a book proposal here: How to Write a Book Proposal)

3. A one-page.This is everything they need to know on one-page. A very short synopsis of your book, marketing plan, bio, and contact information. I'll dig deep into this next week!



You'll likely be introducing your work to an agent or publisher either by e-mail or in person. Here are tips for how to do each well:

For e-mail, you want to keep it concise:
1. Your e-mail is your cover/query letter. Usually you send only the query in your initial e-mail, but have the book proposal ready if they respond asking for it, so you can get it to them before they forget who you are! =)
2. When sending the proposal, send only one Word document attachment. This document will be your book proposal with your one-page included, unless the agent/publisher does not want a one-page, in which case, don't add it at all. Again, look up their submission guidelines and follow them implicitly.

IMPORTANT: Don't clutter it up with extra attachments, a bunch of photos, or anything else extra. Agents and publishers are very busy. You want them to find the information they need to make a decision about your work, not to end up tossing it because it was too hard to find the facts amid all the extras. Many, many proposals get rejected simply because the author did not bother to follow the submission instructions. It's worth taking the time to do it right.

I drew flowers and vines all over the manila envelope the first time I sent a book to a publisher. Bad idea!

If you are meeting an agent or publisher in person, you will want to do things a little differently. Again, if you can ahead of time, look up exactly what they are looking for in a submission and do that. For an in-person meeting, you may want to create a folder that includes:
1. A one-page. If a publisher leaves a conference with 20 book proposals, they may be too tired or busy to go through your whole book proposal anytime soon, but they might look over your one-page to see if they want to delve deeper. I'd recommend doing this in color.
2. Cover/Query letter
3. Book Proposal (again, follow that agent/publisher's instructions exactly)
4. If you have any marketing experience, you can include that, such as newspaper clippings, tear sheets (published pages torn from magazines), book reviews, etc.

Put everything inside the folder except your one-page. That will go on top, or can be handed to the person at the end of your time with them.


Whether by e-mail or in person, you want to present something professional and concise. It will be a good thing later on if, whether they accept or reject this particular work, they remember you in a positive light.

Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? It is. That book proposal is a whopper of a project. However, someone mentioned once that if you spend weeks and months writing your book, why have it rejected just because you don't want to take a few days to create a proposal that sells? Good point.

A book proposal is like an interview on paper, and your query and one-page are like your initial first impression when you walk into that interview. You may be fully qualified for the job and have a great personality, but if your clothes are wrinkled and you didn't bother to brush your hair, you're likely not going to get hired. In the same way, putting the time and effort into making a great proposal and especially a great query letter is important. It is the thing that introduces not just your work, but you as an author.

Forgot to brush my teeth! Oh well, it's all about my book, right?

Have you had any experiences meeting agents or publishers yet? Have any questions come to mind? Please post them below and hopefully I can either answer them, or maybe even create another blog post with the answer (if I know it, that is!).

Happy submitting!

NEXT WEEK: How to make a One-Page

Subscribe to get my weekly blog post delivered straight to your inbox. 
(It's the top box on the right, just put your e-mail address in!)

No comments:

Post a Comment