When an author has a new manuscript, or even the strong beginnings of one, to present to agents, the author needs to be ready to nurture the relationship from the first contact. The agent-author connection is much like any other relationship in that a healthy one benefits both parties based on what they put into it. The agent will work diligently to promote the author’s work, and the author will work to make the agent’s job easier in every way possible.
Before sending any manuscript for a query, the author must put an effort into researching the company and individual person he or she is submitting to. While literary houses have rules that are generally similar, each agent will have their own niche within the publishing world and will look for a very specific type of writing or type of author. They may also have their own preferences as to the length of a sample they want to read, how it should start, and what it should contain. Authors must do the groundwork first!
Be a Professional
Literary agents are in the business of making money for themselves and for authors. They have contacts in the publishing industry that can offer tremendous opportunities for both new and established authors. Winning promotion and publishing contracts requires the author be professional at all times. Even if the writing life is a casual one, authors should put on their best airs when meeting with an agent by e-mail (in their language), via video chat, or in person. Authors are selling themselves as much as they are their books.
Bear in mind, the query letter to an agent is the first impression an author will make. Written communications should focus on professional language (no slang!) and the selling points of their work. They should be polite, addressing the agent personally, and should indicate the author is serious about creating a lasting professional relationship. Agents want to work with authors they can envision having long careers with multiple successful books. Confidence without ego is also necessary.
Be a Partner
An author’s work does not end with “The End.” The end of the writing is only the beginning of the road to publishing, and the agent will be the driving partner. Likewise, signing the publishing contract does not indicate the end of the process. Publishers want authors who are comfortable on social media, willing to present their own marketing ideas and find some of their own opportunities, especially those who can establish and grow a professional network.
The agent’s position post-publishing is to support the author in promotions, marketing, social engagements, and any other means for the publisher to generate recurring sales and interest. Authors must be willing to work with their agents, not against them. The agent should not have to pull all the weight in the professional relationship, so the author needs to be aware of the publishing process from step one and be available to contribute to their own success with their agent as a strong partner.
When authors establish themselves as part of the greater writing community, they can build many relationships. Those that benefit the author should be carefully cultivated and nurtured. It will take dedication on the author’s part, but they will find the same level of support if they land a great agent. This will be the most important relationship to come out of the publishing process.