Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to get a literary agent in 45 days

There is an Internet initiative called the Boundless Living Challenge. The aim of the challenge is to take 45 days to change an aspect of your life. You blog on the BLC forum and get encouragement and support from the Internet community. Your goal can be as small or as large as you want, and the challenge is to help people make their life better within a support network of friends.
Very few things can be changed in 45 days, especially life long ingrained behaviours, but it is a long enough period of time to take those first steps towards making the difference.
I signed up for the first challenge, full of enthusiasm, but unfortunately when the start date came around I felt too over whelmed to take part. However, I did not forget about the idea and I started planning what I would do for my 45 day challenge. The fact that it would be writing related was foremost in my mind. The light bulb went on over my head without much thought.
'I know,' I said. 'I'll get a literary agent.'
My plan involved writing a new killer book and getting an agent to represent it within the 45 days. How could I manage to achieve this in 45 days when I haven't in the last two years, you may ask? Well, as I said I didn't put much thought into it and I thought if I was going to do the challenge I might as well aim big.
With my initial idea in hand, I went on line to do some research. Exactly HOW plausible was it to get representation in 45 days without a completed manuscript to hand?
'Wait, Inkpot,' I hear you say. 'I can tell you the answer to that already, there is no need to do endless searching.'
As you tried to tell me, the answer was not very likely at all. There was light at the end of my research tunnel, however. I came across this very friendly and informative post on Neil Gaiman's blog (one of my favourite writers). This in turn led me to the SFWA writer's beware blog, another invaluable resource, and from there to numerous other blogs and sites, the subject of which is for another post.
This long preamble leads to these rather brief set of rules (sort of) which I believe will lead me to be successful in my (not quite) 45 day challenge to get a literary agent : -

1. Forget about the agent, you aren’t going to get one without an offer of publication from a publishing house.

2. Before you write, do market research into publishers to find out who is publishing what.

3. Write a book that is GOOD, brings something original and new to the market and hasn’t been seen before (I know, common sense but easier said than done).

4. Get as many short stories published as possible in professional magazines. What do I mean by professional magazines? One that pays at least 5c per word, has a circulation of over 1000 readers and has been published consistently for at least a year. The SFWA gives a list of publications it considers professional on its website, which is great for genre writers.
5. Once you have completed points 1 - 4 it is time to look up the guidelines for publishers on the sfwa website of qualifying houses and submit your killer submission package to compatible publishers.
That is my current game plan. I must do some more research to see exactly how you get the literary agent after receiving an offer of publication, and whether they are really worth it.
What do you think? Have I missed out on any valuable points? Let me know!


Anonymous said...

sounds good!! planning and focus- hard initially but good foundations will lead to the snow balling effect- (mixing methaphors- another of the many reasons I will never be a writer) Keep up updated

Basir Seerat said...

haveing a great idiea and flowing at all with feeling distance.
wonderfull blog i love it

The Dude said...

hey, great post and killer advice. being in a similar situation myself, I can appreciate this, truly.
like the blog, will definately be dropping by!

Sandie said...

I write good book lol...think that may be one of the most important steps right?

Valpot said...

Great plan and best of luck with it!

I can do point 1 very easily, and point 2 with a little effort -it's 3 and 4 that cause me problems!

Inkpot said...

Hi Anon. Don't worry, I'll keep you updated.

Hi Basir, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Thanks Dude. Hope the advice will be of help to you. Good luck with your comic.

Not as important as you might think, Sandie. :) Thanks for giving me an idea for another post.

Yes, points 3 & 4 are hard Valpot, but having read your work I know you can do them easily(ish).

ALC said...

Inkpot, I am rather curious about where you came up with item 1 on your list: 1. Forget about the agent, you aren’t going to get one without an offer of publication from a publishing house.

Did this come from the SFWA or writerbeware sites? Because if it did it seems to contradict everything else they've said.

Agents don't wait for publishing houses to recommend clients for them. They judge solely on the merits of the writing.

That said, don't put so much weight on such a rumor. Just write the best manuscript you can, polish it to a high shine and then start submitting. You'll do just fine.

You are right, however, about keeping an eye on trends in the market. In order to be published, one's work must be of the variety that is in demand in his/her genré.

Best of luck.