How to Publish Your Novel: Part 2

Years ago, when I first thought I might become a published author someday, I started researching how to achieve my goals. What I found was completely overwhelming. I needed an agent, but there were thousands of them. Each of them wanted different documents I had never heard of. Query? Synopsis? What?

In this series, I’m going to share what I found and break down how to publish your novel. I’ll cover a the difference between the types of publishing currently available, writing a query letter, writing a synopsis, and finding the ideal agent to query. The process can seem overwhelming, but I hope to offer some clarity and simplicity so you can approach publishing with confidence.

Welcome to Part 2: Finding an Agent. Catch up by reading Part 1: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing.

Literary Agents:
The Basics

So you’ve decided to publish your novel and have settled on the traditional publishing method as the best option.

Step One is to find a literary agent to represent you.

What is a literary agent anyway?

The shortest answer is that literary agents sell manuscripts to publishing houses. Most publishers don’t accept manuscripts from authors directly; they need to come through a middle man (middle person?)–the literary agent in this case. When you find an agent who likes your work, they will submit to publishers on your behalf, negotiate contracts, and will be your advocate in the publishing world. They love your book and want others to read it.

Literary Agents:
How Do I Find One?!

I get what an agent is–now how on earth do I find one?!

Gone are the days of purchasing enormous, phonebook-like tomes listing every literary agent’s contact information. Thank goodness we have the internet.

A great resource is the Association for Authors’ Representatives a/k/a AAR. Their database lists members and the types of books they represent. For example, in the search box, I typed “fantasy” to find agents who represent fantasy novels. As of today, there are 72 results, some of whom come from the same literary agency.

Other resources include Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest, or genre-specific websites that may list agents seeking manuscripts.

So, you’ve done some research and found several lists of agents who likely represent your genre. But there are dozens and dozens of them! What are you supposed to do with all this information?

First, you take a deep breath. The sheer volume of information can overwhelm you if you let it. You are not the first person, nor will you be the last, to find a literary agent.

In next week’s post, “Organization Amid Chaos,” I’ll go over my method for sorting through all the information to find the best literary agent for your work. Done this way, it doesn’t seem so daunting after all.

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