Wednesday, June 9, 2010

There's a Reason Agents Get 15 Percent

So, you’ve written a book. Congratulations! That’s the easy part.

Now, get ready to find an agent. I like to think there are three primary methods of securing an agent:

  1. The Set-Up. You know someone who knows someone who met someone who had the business card of an agent. Or, you are fortunate enough to know an author who has an agent and is willing to recommend your manuscript to his agent.
  2. The Blind Date. You perform Internet searches into the wee hours of the morning, reading agent profiles and sending queries to those you feel a connection to. After a few rejections, you lower your standards. Your new mandate becomes the ability to fog a mirror.
  3. The Destined Deal. By luck, you’re seated next to an agent on an airplane or an agent trips over your laptop cord as you pound the keys in a coffee shop. A conversation about your manuscript ensues, and the agent produces a contract from his briefcase, ready for your signature.

Your agent’s job is finding a publisher for your book, and getting you the best advance and royalties possible. The agent takes a hefty chunk, but you don’t care. She’s worked hard, pimping your manuscript. You’re a grateful little book hooker, and your book gets published.

If you can’t find a book pimp of your very own, there are other ways to get your tome off your hard drive and into the hands of your adoring fans:

  1. Compete for Publication. Some publishing houses run contests which award winners with publication. Contests may or may not charge entrants a reading fee, and may or may not offer a cash advance upon acceptance of the winner’s manuscript. Publishers don’t like to take chances; they want to print books that will sell. If your book is atypical in genre, length or style, you’re not likely to find yourself among the finalists.
  2. Go to the Source. Most large publishing houses don’t accept queries from writers. Instead, they rely on agents to prescreen manuscripts and submit only the best. Remember, in publishing, “best” means most marketable with highest sales potential. Some smaller presses will entertain queries from authors and negotiate contracts directly with writers. Since small presses have small budgets, an author may get little to no advance and a small royalty per book sold.
  3. Do-It-Your-Damn-Self. The stigma of self-publishing is actually relatively new, and already fading. Margaret Atwood, Zane Grey, Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe are just a few authors who self-published. For a modern-day self-publishing success story, one need only look as far as The Shack by William P. Young, which has sold millions of copies and spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

I chose Publishing Option 3 for my first book, Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House. That means I have no publisher to market my book, plan a book tour, or provide promotional materials. I know absolutely nothing about any of those tasks. I’m learning as I go.

If you’re lucky enough to secure an agent, and that agent manages to place your book with a publisher, or if you find your way into a publisher’s heart on your own, it will be someone’s job to send copies of your book to important people in the world for reviews.

Should you choose Publishing Option 3, plan to go into the world to find important people on your own. Beg them to review your book. Offer to babysit their kids or weed their gardens. Get them drunk, take photos of them shaking their groove thangs, and promise not to post the pictures on Facebook if they’ll write a review.

Call any relatives within a 200-mile radius and ask if they know a local business owner willing to host a book signing. Ask how many people they can con into showing up at the local self-serve pet wash for an event titled, “Books, Bubbles and Bones.” Voila! A book tour.

Speaking of book tours, I’m hoping you’ll all show up at Riverwalk Books on Friday, June 18th, at 7:00 p.m. for my very first book signing. Can’t make it? You can still order signed copies right here, on my website. Did I mention they make great Father’s Day gifts?

Would you care to review the photos I’m preparing to upload to Facebook before deciding on your purchase?

1 comment:

  1. Darn, I thought I had the job as your agent nailed down. At least let me sit backstage when you appear on Oprah or Dr. Phil.


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