can write a book - but it takes something special
to create a best-seller
Lee Masterson's step-by-step guide can show you
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about writing from a different perspective.
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Do You Really Need An Agent?
How-To article and book these days seems to scream
"Get an Agent and you can't fail!" Right?
Certainly the bigger publishing houses and even some of
the bigger magazines discourage "unsolicited
manuscripts", which means even they want to see you
get an agent before you dump your work on their desks.
So it seems the only way to get into these publishing
houses and become a published author is to get an agent.
The problem here is that most agents these days are
inundated with manuscripts. They now have the capacity
(and sheer volume) to be able to pick and choose which
authors to represent. Most even state that they will only
represent established authors.
So how do you attract an editor's attention without an
Will you submit your manuscript to a traditional print
publisher, or are you keen to become one of the
revolutionary e-published authors? Perhaps you are happy
to self-publish, and retain any profit from sales for
your own benefit, or maybe even Print on Demand is more
suitable to your budget. Whatever your answer is, you
still must decide how your novel is going to reach the
world before aproaching publishing houses with 500 pages
of your labor.
Most publishing houses are proud to announce that they
WILL NOT accept unsolicited, or unagented, manuscripts.
But the vast majority of them will take the time to read
a short one-page query letter. Especially if you can
prove you've taken the time to know what that editor
And yes, there really are still some publishing houses
out there still willing to read unsolicited, unagented
manuscripts. But only by reading the guidelines carefully
will you know which ones these are!
the Right Publisher
Take a look through the yellow pages, or do a quick
search on the internet. You will learn very quickly that
there are thousands of different book publishers out
there, all needing more books, more authors, more more
Finding the right one for you, though, should be
less than a minute's work.
Most writers read within similar styles and genres to
which they write. So, go directly to your own bookshelf
and pull out a couple of titles that are very similar in
style and form to your own work. Then read the name of
the publishing house from the spine, or from the inside
cover. Usually, there will be an address and a contact
number in there, too. Make the effort to call the
publishing house and learn the name (and gender!) of the
editor. In some cases, the author will even acknowledge
the editor, giving you someone to query directly.
Armed with the name and contact address of a publishing
house, which you know already likes your style of
writing, create a short, professional query letter. Take
a minute of your time to call the number listed within
the book and don't forget to double check that the same
editor still works there. Address your query directly
to that editor.
These days, many editors and publishing houses prefer to
specialize in a particular style or genre. Knowing in
advance which houses and which editors handle work within
your specific genre will put you ahead of the game. Of
course, submitting a hard-boiled science fiction novel to
an editor who specializes in romantic fantasy epics is
only going to prove to that editor that you haven't done
Join writer's groups, workshops and mailing lists, and
become an active member. You never know who other members
might already know. A friendly word from one author might
send your writing career ahead in leaps and bounds. On
the other hand, your work might also benefit from some of
the feedback other writers may offer.
Write short stories in a similar genre to your novel, and
submit them to magazines and web-zines. This has several
-- You will be gaining all-important "professional
published credits" with each sale, which make an
query letter more enticing to an editor.
-- You might even earn a few dollars from your words.
-- And although the reader-following you may gain will be
small, it will still be larger than no readership at all.
Of course, if you do manage to attract the attention of
an editor, and that editor is willing to pay money to
print your book, then is the time to go
hunting for a professional, reputable, legitimate,
experienced agent. Let's face it - if an author with a
ready-to-go contract in his or her hand knocks on an
agent's door, that agent is going to greet you with open
A good agent will be able to negotiate terms and contract
rights far better than you will, but that's a different
So the next time someone tells you that you NEED an agent
to get published, remember - you only need yourself - and
some homework on your intended market.
And keep writing!
Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved
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