(part 8–The Business of Publishing)
71.Before you try to get your work published, make sure it is as good as possible.Agents and editors are busy people–please don’t waste their time with manuscripts that you’re still revising.
72.There is no “trick” to breaking in.You don’t need to know someone.You just need two things:a really great book that readers will want to buy; and a reputable literary agent.(Note: the agent isn’t the hard part—the really great book is the hard part.If you have that, I promise you will find an agent.)
73.There are people who will tell you to submit directly to publishing houses (although there are very few reputable houses that will even read unagented submissions).My response to these people is that there is no way—knowing what I know now—that I would consider being in this business without an agent.
74.Your literary agent is your advocate in the industry.Once you secure an agent, he or she will submit your manuscript to editors who would be most interested in publishing your book.Your agent will negotiate the terms of the sale; handle the contracts; help present your book to foreign publishers; and, most importantly, she/he will be in your corner whenever conflicts arise.
75.Finding an agent isn’t as mystical as some might think.There are several books and websites that list agents who are taking on new clients.(www.publishersmarketplace.com; www.agentquery.com;http://www.aar-online.org/mc/page.do, for example)Also, you can look at the acknowledgements of your favorite books and the websites of your favorite authors and find the names of their agents that way.
76.Research the agents you are interested in (the above websites are helpful in that) and then follow their submission guidelines exactly.If they say they want an email with a one paragraph summary of your book, then that’s what you send them.Nothing more.Nothing less.Agents get thousands of submissions a month.Don’t give them an excuse to throw yours away simply because you can’t follow simple directions.
77.Never pay an “agent” cash for any reason.Reputable agents work on commission and abide by the Canon of Ethics of the Association of Author’s Representatives which means they never charge clients—or potential clients—for services or consideration.
78.Be patient.There is a massive time lag in this industry.It takes time to write a book.Time to find an agent.Time for your agent to sell your book.And then you’re probably still at least a year from seeing your book on shelves.
79.Expect rejection.Lots of it.Paper your walls with rejection slips if that’s what it takes, but as a rule in this business you’re going to hear “no” a lot more than you hear “yes.”Be prepared for that.And if you honestly can’t take it, then there’s no shame in simply writing for you and forgetting about the publishing industry.
80.Know when to cut your losses.Even though everything in this business takes a long time, I always worry when I hear about a new writer who has been submitting the same manuscript (unsuccessfully) for years.Always be working on your next book.Always.