You’ve done it. You’ve finished writing a book.
After you celebrate the completion of what was most likely an amazing, difficult, anxious process, you are ready to get back to work to get your book out into the world so that others can enjoy what you have been working on for so long.
The thought of having to pitch your book to a literary agent or publisher may make you more nervous than the writing process and completing your book ever did. Book pitches can be tricky things, and you may have to pitch a book to many literary agents before you find the one for you.
Traditional publishers work with literary agents, and your book deal hinges upon not only your writing skills but whether you can find an agent who likes and believes in your book idea.
This article will help you gain information about how to find an agent who will listen to your pitch and read your manuscript. We will also cover how to pitch a book to a publisher or pitch a book proposal.
Tips on how to find the right publishing company to help launch your writing career and boost book sales when you go the traditional route will also be shared.
How to Get a Literary Agent’s Attention
There are a lot of different things you can try to get the attention of a literary agent. You’re looking for a book deal so that your story is not only published but also gains enough following so that the publishers are interested in publishing more books written by you.
Finding the right literary agent can make all the difference. If you just wanted your book published and do not care about sales, you can go with self-publishing. But if you choose to go the traditional publishing route, you’re going to need an agent who believes in you and will work hard to get you a worthwhile book deal.
Writers need more than good luck to find the right agent. Writers need to be able to pitch their book effectively.
Prepare Query Letters
When your hunt begins for a literary agent, it’s usually a good idea to start by writing letters of query to as many literary agents as you can. These letters are meant to be sent to a literary agent or editors.
The purpose of these query letters is to sell yourself and your story.
You have to convince the agent that you are a good writer, that your story’s idea is marketable, and that backing you will be profitable for the agent.
You have to do this in a limited amount of space because literary agents are very busy. You also have to do this well because the best literary agents get a lot of these letters. You don’t want yours to end up on the slush pile, collecting dust and going nowhere.
You usually only have a few words in which to include a bit from your manuscript. Each literary agent is slightly different. Be sure to check the guidelines for each literary agent you’re interested in scouting, and stick to the guidelines.
You may have to chop up the same section of the manuscript several times to keep to the word count limit before you send them to separate literary agents. Doing so, however tedious this task may be, is worth it so that you don’t get your story sample thrown out immediately.
How to Write a Great Query Letter
A query letter is not an easy thing to write. It’s not the same as writing a book. When you are writing a book, you are taking your time to describe scenarios, give life to characters, and make the plot interesting to the reader.
In a writer’s market, your letter to an agent has to be short, to the point, genre-specific, and the writing has to be punchy and notice
1. Do Your Research
Look into each literary agent that you are interested in working with. Look into authors that the agent has previously represented who have published books, and see if there are any who are in the same specific genre that you write.
If you write narrative nonfiction, you don’t want to pitch your book to agents who primarily represent authors who write science fiction. It will help if you looked for agents who represent published authors who write nonfiction books.
It’s also important to find out how many other books the agent has successfully pushed through and gotten published. Publishers often work directly with specific agents they have established relationships with, so knowing which agents have connections to a publisher will help you choose who to pitch your story to.
If they have an online profile with reviews, read those reviews. Just because an agent can get a writer published, it doesn’t always mean that choosing that agent is worth it.
Make sure that you sell your ideas to agents who care about the story, the author of the book, and want to work as a team to get a good publisher deal.
It is also good to note how much actual experience an agent has in the field. The vast majority of major publishers already work with established agents, and you don’t necessarily want your first book published with an inexperienced agent.
Even if a novice agent can get you a book deal with a publisher, it doesn’t mean that it’s a deal worth taking. Look for someone to represent you and your writing fairly and develop a marketing plan that will benefit everyone.
2. Name Drop
If you know any other authors who publish books through a specific agent, or if you have a co-author on your own story who knows authors who publish with that agent, name drop those authors.
It may sound a bit self-absorbed, but your writing may help you to get noticed if, in your letter, you mention that you know a writer that the agent has worked with and that you have some sort of connection to them.
It’s not always what you know, but who you know, that can help you get ahead with your story.
3. Execute a Great Book Pitch
When you pitch your book to an agent in your letter or even in person (which is rare), you need to keep a few things in mind.
First of all, these agents get sent and handed book pitches all day, every day. Your book pitch needs to stand out. Otherwise, you won’t find an agent who has the time to read it, and your manuscript will die in a pile of other manuscripts that weren’t enticing from the start.
You need to keep in mind that book pitches aren’t designed for you to tell the entire story to the agent. You also aren’t asking the agent to read the entirety of your story. You are giving them a blurb.
A few hundred words are all you have to convince someone that you are worth investing in.
The Elevator Book Pitch
The term “elevator book pitch” refers was coined because agents don’t have a lot of time to read the stories that authors pitch. As such, you have to reel in an agent in a short amount of time, with a small amount of content. Your book pitch should take no longer than the duration of an elevator ride.
The elevator book pitch is essential to build the curiosity of the agent. If you orchestrate a good elevator pitch, then within just a few minutes, you should describe your book’s tone, genre, the main character, and main plotline within just a few hundred words.
If you can’t come up with a decent elevator pitch, then you can either resign yourself to being an author for your own pleasure or consider self-publishing.
4. Sell Yourself, Not Just a Book Idea
In your query letter, be sure to mention any accomplishments you have achieved in the past to the literary agent.
If you self-published anything, if you have won any writing awards or scholarships, when you started writing, when you completed your first book, and whether you have a second book in progress.
All of this is done in an effort to sell yourself as well as your story. You are giving a personal and professional proposal at the same time that you’re giving a book proposal.
Follow Literary Agent Guidelines
You can have an amazing book idea that puts Tolkien to shame, but it won’t matter if you don’t follow the guidelines for submission set out by the literary agent. A literary agent won’t entertain a book pitch that doesn’t follow guidelines.
Make sure that you look over any specific rules or guidelines for book pitch submission and follow them exactly.
A literary agent may get a dozen letters a day, each containing a book pitch and claiming to be the best book idea ever thought up or written. The first ones tossed are the ones that don’t follow the guidelines.
Choose Good Comp Titles
These are references that you include in your book pitch that give a literary agent an immediate idea of what the story you have written is about. This works better with a fiction book than a nonfiction book.
Your book idea needs to include comparisons in some way, shape, or form within your book pitch so that the literary agent knows that: You read, you understand your genre, and you can write a compelling story with a decent book idea that is marketable to readers of other known books.
A literary agent is more apt to help you publish a book if they are interested in the comparisons you set right off the bat.
There are few different ways to come up with these titles to present when you are trying to sell your idea. This article will explain each and will provide a few examples.
It’s The Hunger Games meets The Stand.
What information does this give the person reading it before they ever read the manuscript? Most likely, we’re talking about something written about a dystopian society in competition for resources, while actual good and evil are manifesting in an “end of the world” type situation.
You can most likely expect this book’s idea contains violence, death, a dark tone, adult elements, and a message of good vs. evil and possibly redemption. There will most likely be an element of corruption to the story as well.
All of this can be guessed simply by the idea we get reading the title in the pitch.
“If You Like”
If you like Lord of the Flies, you’ll like my book.
This comparison title gives us the idea that the book pitched involves stranded or abandoned people who are having to come to terms with survival and establish a societal group standard. You may expect that the book idea involves tragedy, innovation, pain, hope, violence or struggle, and lessons learned.
All of this can be guessed simply by the idea we get reading the title in the pitch.
It’s like The Handmaid’s Tale, but with men as the owned victims.
This comparison title gives us the idea that the book pitched involves a somewhat futuristic society that reconstructs itself by force to enslave the men and assign them roles and supervised harshly by women.
We are led to believe that the men in this book are not allowed to act out, talk to people casually, run away, or rebel. We would be able to guess that the women or people perpetrating this new way of living are harsh, hateful, and goal-driven. They probably lack compassion and respect for humanity.
All of these can be culled from the idea we get in reading the title within the pitch.
Choose Wisely and Don’t Give Up
If you truly believe that your book idea is publishable, whether it’s fiction or a nonfiction book, don’t give up if you face rejection or you don’t catch the attention of a literary agent right away. Keep trying, and stay choosy, even if it’s been a while and you haven’t gotten any feedback yet.
Don’t go with just any literary agent simply because they say that they are interested in publishing your book. Ask a lot of questions. Find out if they have a marketing plan for your book. Find out how long they have been in the publishing industry.
Talk to them at length, talk to them several times, and be sure to choose wisely when you make your decision.
A decision made out of desperation is often not a good decision.
You Can Always Self Publish
Don’t lose hope if you don’t hear anything from a literary agent, even after you’ve sent countless letters and even tried to pitch your book in person.
There are always other options.
You can always choose to self-publish your work, which is a growing trend in the publishing industry. When you self-publish, you don’t have to pitch anything to anyone, and you can see your book available for sale within days rather than months or even years.
You don’t have to track down help, nor do you have to rely on a letter to get your foot in the door when you have a really great book idea that you feel needs to be available to the general public.
This publishing method means that you have your work cut out for you, but it is worth it for many authors. Book ideas don’t just grow on trees, and when you have one that is truly great, sometimes you can get discouraged trying literary agent after literary agent with no book deal in sight.
In this case, you may be better off if you self-publish. Believing and investing in yourself is always a great way to begin your writing career.
How Much Does an Author Make Per Book?
On average, self-published authors can make $5,000 to $8,000 per month, whereas traditionally published authors can earn anywhere between 5 to 25% in royalties as long as their books are out in the market.
Several factors dictate the exact amount an author can make per book, such as the professional fees, royalty rate as agreed by the author and the publishing company (for traditionally published authors), the number of markets the book is published in, the quantity of the printed books, and the actual sales.
Self-published authors shoulder the costs of printing and marketing their books; these costs should be considered when calculating the actual earnings.
Meanwhile, assume that two books become bestsellers and earn the same amount: one is self-published, and the other is traditionally published. The self-published book would yield more earnings for its author since there is no income sharing with the publisher.
Get Your Foot in the Door
Even when you decide to self-publish because you can’t find a literary agent that’s the right fit for you, it doesn’t mean that you will have to publish yourself forever.
If you self-publish and your first book sells well, you are that much closer to literary success when you decide to write your next book. You will have more experience with not only writing but also publishing, marketing, design, and formatting.
A literary agent may be more inclined to contact you or pick you up for publication if you have already gone your own way and had some success at it. Your pitch may go much more smoothly after you’ve already sold some books and have gained some confidence.