Novelists who attend writing conferences might leave inspired by the ever-changing publishing opportunities or dismayed by grim news about slim chances, jaded agents, and an anti-artistic industry. It’s all true. There are positive changes, but publishing is a business, driven by greater interest in a quick buck than a long, gorgeous novel with limited audience appeal.
Equally true? Readers still want great books, and people often become agents because they want to represent great books. If you have a great book, either publish it yourself or be smart about seeking an agent. Either way, optimism + practicality will take you where you want to go.
Tip: Believe in your book enough to nurture it from conception to marketing.
A writer friend of mine carefully researched contests, sought advice, and entered several. His reward for writing a good book and doing his homework? Third place in a national contest. The reward for that? He followed up with an agency he’d written earlier and a senior agent is currently considering his work.
There you have it. Want to publish? That depends not just on a great book but a willingness to treat publication as seriously as you treat writing. Some of us find that sad. Yet ignoring that reality is like fantasizing about oral health while ignoring floss and toothbrush.
Do your homework. Here’s how:
~ Polish your novel to a high shine.
Writing a gorgeous book won’t guarantee an agent. But it can’t hurt.
~ Solicit and respond to feedback.
If you’ve struggled over your novel for whatever you personally consider “a long time,” it’s hard to hear that something isn’t working. But if you receive suggestions from someone you respect, pay attention. See # 1.
~ Research agents thoroughly.
Understandably, writers detest putting time into analyzing who wants what. Sounds boring. But sending a romance to an agent looking for y.a. fantasy is like tossing your novel into the air and hoping it’ll land in the right senior editor’s mailbox.
~ Compose individualized query letters.
Every agent differs from every other agent. Again, though this might seem like a tedious waste of time, it’s a wise use of your valuable time—and the agent’s.
If you respect your novel and the time you devoted to it, complete the process with revision, networking, marketing efforts, and perhaps thoughtful application to a few contests. Doing your homework will make you feel more positive. That helps you and your book in more ways than one.