Top literary agents get about 400 to 1,000 unsolicited queries
every month from hopeful book authors. Publishing houses sometimes juggle 5,000.
Most of my private clients and participants in my seminar,
How To Get A Six-Figure Book Advance, ask me “How is an author
supposed to get an agent’s attention when there is so much competition?”
First of all, don’t write a book — write a book proposal. Publishers buy ideas
not books. To capture a reputable literary agent’s attention you’ll need to show
that you’re a media star, or a star in the making. Good writing can be bought but star power can’t.
Here are 5 more tips to landing a top literary agent & a six-figure advance:
1. Do your research.
Literary agents specialize in very specific interests. For example, my agent
loves tearjerkers but won’t take on books that involve children in peril. You
want an agent who has represented books similar to yours, who sells books on a
regular basis, who is devoted to you, and has the time to give you a little
guidance through the literary labyrinth.
Sometimes a newer, less experienced literary agent who is hungry for business is
more dedicated and has more time to spend with you than an established one with
a reputable cadre of authors. I recommend 2 ways to find the literary agent right for you:
- Look in the acknowledgements of books similar to your
topic. A happy author always thanks his literary agent. Once you’ve located
your ideal agents become familiar with their tastes, learn everything you can
about their interests, pet peeves and preferences, and review their websites
for submission guidelines. Show that knowledge in your query letter or initial phone conversation.
- Read Publisher's Weekly, Publisher’s Lunch, and Variety to see who sold what
and for how much. You will get a sense of an agent’s sensibility and be able to
speak knowledgeably about the types of books they prefer when you know what’s
happening in the industry in general and in your area of expertise in
particular. You’ll know more than most people who submit proposals as you’ll be
apprised of books that aren’t even published yet and movie deals in the making.
And you’ll get a sense of market trends.
2. Write a book proposal that reads like a thriller.
After you’ve located the agents you want to approach, the next step is to
complete your book proposal. Once interested by your call or query letter the
very best literary agents move at hyper speed. They’ll want to see your book
proposal now. They’ll either ask you to Fed Ex or email it.
There is a real art to writing a best-selling book proposal that makes the
literary agent you’ve chosen say, “I want this person as a client.” To make your
book proposal read in one sitting you’ll want to write in short paragraphs with
strong headlines. Be sure to give the chosen agent an immediate impression of
how your book will read by writing the proposal in the same style as your book.
Find unusual, quirky, provocative tidbits about your subject that will entice
the literary agent to say, “Wow, I never knew this.” Imagine the kind of tips
that a terrific magazine article would include. When an editor at a top New York
publishing house is reading your book proposal they are thinking, what kind of
media exposure will we be able to get for this book? Can we get magazine feature
articles, newspaper pieces, radio shows? Will the subject matter and the author
interest the producers of Good Morning America, the Today Show, CNN, or Oprah?
3. Prove you have a platform.
The one thing that thrills a New York publisher the most is your platform. Your
platform is simply your reach. How many people are influenced by your ideas
worldwide? To simplify this even further, a publisher wants to know one thing
and one thing only (once they are interested in the subject matter of your
book), and that is...how many books are you going to sell and to whom. You’ll
need to demonstrate that you’re a great media guest, that you have an audience
eager to snap up your books and that you have a proven track record for selling your books or wares.
4. Reveal how your past performance predicts future behavior.
Map out each venue and determine how many people are in attendance and how many
of those people will buy your book. Include workshops, seminars, fairs, media
appearances, book signings, keynotes, teleseminars, webinars, events, newsletter
lists, blogs, partnerships etc. Quantify everything in great detail. Estimate
and base potential sales on past sales you’ve completed.
5. Show you are the one.
Show that there is a clear need for your book and that you are the only one who
can write it. In other words what problem are you solving and why are you the
undisputed expert? What gap in the market are you filling? One of my clients
whose topic was about how to be the very best at what you do and who you are,
had a black belt, was a concert violinist and had given seminars at The White
House. She walked her talk, and lived her words. You need to have top-notch
skills in order to gain the interest of a high caliber literary agent.
Follow these tips, and you can land a top literary agent and a six-figure deal.
I hope to see your name on the New York Times bestseller list!
Media coach & marketing strategist, Susan Harrow, can help you get paid $100,000
or more for your book. For over 17 years, she has helped speakers, authors and
entrepreneurs get 6-figure book advances. In her book,
Get a Six Figure Book
Advance, Susan explains the 15 steps to making big money on your next book
proposal. Buy it now and receive $450 worth of free bonuses at:
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