By Susan Klaus
The unpublished and self-published have often asked me this question, how did I get my agent and consequently have not one, but two traditional publishers buy my novels. First I’m fairly new to blogging and the book business, but this is my story. I signed with an agent roughly two and half years ago, and it took her a year to sell my books. My first thriller, Secretariat Reborn about horseracing and cloning was optioned by Oceanview Publishing and was released last October. Tor Books bought my futuristic fantasy, Flight of the Golden Harpy and it came out in June. And my second thriller, Shark Fin Soup about a young man’s attempt to stop finning and save the sharks, was also purchased by Oceanview and released in August, so I’ve had a busy year.
This is my advice on how to get the agent for the writer who is passionate about becoming a traditional published author. Before going down this road, you should realize that this takes time, work, and money besides having a darn good manuscript. Agents and publishers are not interested the same old story. A good book is not only well written but the plot is unique, timely or both with realistic characters to love and hate. To find out if your book is a standout, you should join a writing group or club with other writers willing to give you an honest critique but be prepared to grow a thick skin. The opinion of relatives, spouses, and friends don’t count. Of course, they love your book.
Once you feel confident that you have a sellable story, hire a professional editor. This is where the money comes in. Have the editor fix the first ten pages of your work to see what you’re getting before you commit the entire manuscript and learn how many manuscripts they edited that became traditional published books. Once the manuscript is polished and edited, you’re ready for the next step and it’s not querying agents.
Your book needs a resume’. Enter it in writing contests. A win or even become a finalist attracts agents. You should attend every writing conference and convention in your area. Many offer sit downs with agents and publishers for a small fee. You’ll also meet and hopefully develop a relationship with the best sellers at these events. Give them your elevator speech about your book, but don’t be pushy. Many big authors are very gracious, understanding your dilemma and might offer to read your first few chapters. It never hurts to ask. Why should you do this? Because they all have agents. If they like your work, they might be kind enough to give you a referral to their agent or at least a great blurb for your book’s resume’. This is how I obtained my agent. I met a best seller who was nice enough to read my work. At the next conference he introduced me to his agent. Funny thing since then, I’ve stood around in the lobbies at conferences during the workshops, talking to people about my books. Several agents have approached and wanted to sign me and I had to turn them down. Now that’s a great feeling.
You might wonder why I don’t mention the query letter, writing and sending out hundreds to agents and publishers. I never did this, but it can work especially if you have built a decent resume’ for your book, blurbs from big authors, contest wins, or a nice press review on your self-published book. But still, I feel the odds are stacked against you like playing the lottery. Agents and publisher receive thousands of queries. What are the chances they’ll discover yours?
One last thing about agents and for that matter, publishers, you should never have to pay them. If they request money from a writer, they are not a real agent or traditional publisher. The real deal gets paid from a percentage of your book sales. Hope this helps. Good luck and happy hunting.
Suaan Klaus is a fantasy and thriller author. Tor Books released her fantasy, Flight of the Golden Harpy, a Royal Palm Literary Award Winner for Best Sci/fi on June 17, 2014. Her thriller, Secretariat Reborn, a FAPA Silver Presidential Award winner for Best Adult Fiction was released by Oceanview Publishing in Oct, 2013. Its sequel, Shark Fin Soup, currently a FPLA finalist for best thriller came out August 19, 2014. Klaus is the host/co-producer of The Authors Connection Radio Show, 18 million listeners in 148 countries and is pres./founder of Sarasota Authors Connection Club with 280 members. She was born in Sarasota and resides in Myakka City, Fl. where she has bred and raced Thoroughbreds and now raises rodeo bulls. Website: susanklaus.com, On Facebook, Susan C. Klaus and on Twitter, Klaussue.