While the avenues for publishing your book have expanded exponentially in the last decade, a lot of aspiring and previously published authors still find that traditional publishing is a goal of theirs and addresses their needs over self-publishing or hybrid publishing. Traditional publishing can be a fickle animal and is notorious for rejection (remember when the original pitch for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was passed up 12 times by publishers?). But if the large marketing budget, potential for a considerable advance (money you get paid up front), and a widespread publication in brick-and-mortar bookstores are what you’re after, traditional publishing is still often the best choice—and to get a traditional publisher to look at your fiction book, you’re going to need a fiction literary agent as your representative.
Ensure Your Book is Publish-Ready
The first step before querying a fiction literary agent is to finish your novel and revise, send to critique partners and/or professional freelance editors (contact Midnight Publishing to discuss our editing packages for developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading to address any of your book’s needs before querying it to agents). Literary agents will not look at an unfinished manuscript, and if one reaches out for a partial submission or a full submission and you don’t have a completed book, you could risk being taken seriously later on down the line—the publishing world is a small one, and people talk.
*Having trouble finishing your book or unsure of where to start? Midnight Publishing’s award-winning writers offer ghostwriting assistance as well!**
Make a List of Agents for Submission
There are thousands of agents at hundreds of agencies big and small, so put together a list of your top 50 to 100 or so agents to submit to first (yes—50 to 100). The best resource for finding agents who accept your specific genre (and who other submitters leave reviews on!) is QueryTracker, which also provides you with the ability to track your queries to avoid double submissions.
Write an Exceptional Query Letter
Once the book is written, revised, edited, and revised again, it’s time to send out a query letter to the agents of your choice.
*Need help formatting your query letter and/or synopsis? Midnight Publishing helps with that too! Contact us to discuss your specific querying needs.**
When you send your query letter, do not under any circumstances copy and paste the exact same letter to multiple agents without their name and personal info. Agents understand that you’re querying many at a time, but it’s the little details and personalization that will help you to stand out from the slush pile. Read some recent successful query letters from this Writer’s Digest 2018 post.
Be Respectful of An Agent’s Time…But on the Flip Side, Be Respectful of Your Time
When you send out your query letters and get a response, an agent will ask for a partial submission or a full submission, at which point the waiting game begins.
How long should you wait to hear back from them? This amount can differ, but a good rule of thumb is three months before you want to send a nudge their way. Literary agent Chip MacGregor says that two to four months is typical, while he’s heard of books being sold after eight or nine months of submission to a particular agent—but cautions that six months is probably long enough before it’s time to keep looking.
Can you send out partials or fulls to multiple agents who request them? Again, this really depends on the agents. Their websites/personal profiles should dictate their thoughts on this, and communication with them periodically or whenever a new development occurs is always the best option—if you’ve received another offer from an agent, shoot them an email about it. You’re not being a pest, but following up so that they know that if they like your stuff, they better jump on it quick. This Kidlit article has some good info on proper ways of communicating with agents before and during the querying, offer, and acceptance process.
Whether you’ve got a book idea that needs fleshing out, a first draft that requires developmental feedback, a revised manuscript ready for polishing and grammatical assistance or want a final proofread from a fresh set of eyes, Midnight Publishing’s experts are here to help! And keep an eye out for our upcoming Insider’s Guide to Publishing 2018-2019— written by our industry experts, this e-book will offer over 65 pages of in-depth info on everything about the current publishing industry and publication process.