5 Things Literary Agents Wished Every Writer Knew
by Laura Rothschild and Sandra O’Donnell, literary agents, RO Literary
The 5 Things Agents Wished Every Author Knew
As agents, we want your book to be a huge success. We really do. Our job is to sell your book to prospective publishers, and part of selling your book is selling you. Here are the top five things you can do that will make it easier for us to say yes to your manuscript and yes to representing you.
- Have Your Book Edited Before Querying Agents.
First drafts are not ready for representation. It doesn’t matter how educated or experienced you are as a writer. Every writer needs an editor. Literary agents will polish your manuscript, but most don’t have time to do a full revision. We are big fans of book coaches and developmental editors, but if you do not have the budget to hire a professional, find an editing partner who writes in your genre or a writing group. Editing is about improving the work, not trashing it. Many writers avoid the editing process because they fear rejection and negative feedback. It doesn’t have to be a miserable process. Seek out happy, productive, like-minded writers and help each other write great books!
- Think Professional And Think Big
We are always surprised by how small authors think. By small we mean, “I’ll never be as well-known as…(fill in your favorite author)”. The moment you decide to become a published author, you need to start acting like a published author. Writing is an art, but books are a business. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, everything you do should be with intent, professionalism, and in prep for possibly making it BIG. Get professional photos taken. Your favorite picture taken with your cat is fine for Instagram or Facebook. So is the picture of you with your arms around your bud’s shoulder with a beer in your hand. But, unless you are writing about cats or beer, those photos may not be the ones you want for your author image. If you can’t afford professional photos, have your aspiring photographer friend take pictures for you. Think published author. Casual is fine, but keep in mind the image you want to convey to your readers, the agent you are querying, and your soon-to-be publisher.
- Secure Those Handles And Get A Website
Secure all the social media handles in your name. Don’t worry if someone has taken your name. You can use JaneDoeAuthor or JohnSmithBooks to stand out from the crowd. Pick two social media platforms that appeal to you, and start building a following, but secure your name across all of them just in case one becomes the next hottest platform. Try to make the handle you use consistently across all platforms. It will be easier for you to remember and easier for all your future fans to find you! Get a website. There are plenty of great DIY options available, and something as simple as a landing page with all of your contact information, social media links, and an author bio is better than nothing at first. Again, make the URL your name, not your book’s title. Remember fans follow writers, not books. When you query us, we immediately do an internet search to see what your web presence is. Publishers will do the same when we present you to them. Get a jump on book marketing by making your presence known and you’ll look like a professional who understands what it takes to be a successful author.
- Engage And Interact
Okay, we can hear you groaning! But, if you have a nonfiction book, especially if it is a self-help, diet, or advice-related title you pretty much have to have a social media following these days to get a book contract. Not a few hundred followers, but upwards of tens of thousands (in some cases hundreds of thousands) of engaged fans of your work. Start now. Building a following takes time. Begin by following people in your space. Are you the next happiness guru? Follow Brene Brown, Shawn Achor, and Gretchen Rubin. See who they are following and follow them. A couple of times a week post something relevant to your topic. Ask questions, create polls, tell a story, comment on other’s posts. Mix it up. Choose two social media platforms and master them. The same advice applies to fiction writers too. You can post pictures of period clothing on Instagram if you are writing historical fiction. If you are writing a mystery post the ten best ways to off someone. Do a murder by poison week and post a different quirky fact about a poison each day. If you are writing a romance, think about your setting and post interesting pictures or facts about the town. If you engage us before you’ve even finished your story, we will be dying to read it, before you type “The End!”
- Get Clear On Your Goal And Your Audience
Do you want a New York Times Best Selling book? If you do, getting there will require hustle and an investment in time and finances on your part. Start smart, create a book plan, just as you would a business plan. Promotion budgets for books are extremely limited, and for some books, budgets are virtually non-existent. Ask yourself, what are you willing to do to promote your book, and who is your reader? Book tours, speaking engagements, blog tours? Get creative and make a list of the people you know and any influencers who might be willing to partner with you. Plan to set aside 10-15% of your advance as an investment for book promotion. And, start investigating book PR firms. You will need an experienced partner to navigate the options and opportunities. If you want success in publishing, think like a best-selling author. Start early, with the right mindset.
You will stand out from those large inboxes full of queries by having a well-written book and a well-thought-out plan. Best of luck with all your writing projects!
Laura Rothschild and Sandra O’Donnell, agents, RO Literary
You can follow us at www.roliterary.com
Facebook: RO Literary
Sandra O’Donnell is a founding partner of RO Literary and has been involved in the writing community and the business of books for over twenty years. After earning her Ph.D. in History from Arizona State, O’Donnell went on to ghostwrite, edit, and co-author a number of books for the academic market. After years as a successful publisher, she saw the opportunity to continue helping her clients whose projects seemed to deteriorate once they were out of her hands. After much discussion and deliberation, O’Donnell and her business partner, Laura Rothschild, took the next step into being literary agents and formed RO Literary.
Laura Rothschild worked as a book coach and publishing consultant aiding clients in story development, manuscript polishing, and creating book plans to guide them from representation to publication. In addition to being an author herself, Rothschild was head of the post-production for one of the largest editorial companies in Santa Monica and brings years of industry and personal experience to ROLiterary. The culmination of her passion for literature, the business of publishing, and a desire to turn writers into authors is what compelled her to partner with Sandra O’Donnell to create RO Literary.