Make A Commitment To Your Career
You are the most important factor in your success, so you must be totally committed to your career. Here’s how:
- Know yourself and your goals. To be a successful writer, you must have literary and financial goals that motivate you to write and promote your books. Set goals for what you want to write and for whom, and how much money you want to earn in a year from your writing. Then make sure that your publishing network agrees that your work can achieve your goals.
- Reinvent yourself as an “authorpreneur”. Start thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur, a self-employed professional running a small business. Practice nichecraft. Develop a specialty. Once you’ve had one novel or nonfiction book published, you can present yourself as a professional when you try to sell your next book. If you pick the right subject or the kind of novel that lends itself to a series of books that you will enjoy writing and promoting, you can create your own brand and carve a career out of it. Author Sam Horn advises writers to be an “authorpreneur” who makes a living by coming up with ideas and selling them in as many media as possible.
- Be passionate about your books. People thrive on passion. If publishers believe in a book passionately, either because they love it, they think it will make money, or it simply must be published, they will publish it. Only write books that you are passionate about creating and promoting. You will know more and care more about your books than anyone else. You want all of the links in the invisible book chain between you and the readers–your agent, the people at your publishing house, subsidiary-rights buyers, the media, booksellers and book buyers–to share your passion for your books. But it’s transmitting your passion and the passion that your books arouse in others that forges the links in the chain.
- Mobilize your networks. Develop two international professional networks online and offline: a publishing network of people involved in writing and publishing, and a field network of every key person in the field involved with what you’re writing about, whether it’s mysteries or health. They will be powerful allies in your quest for success.
- Do everything you can for your books. Visit your publisher, track your book closely through the publication process, and be of whatever help you can with cover art, catalog copy, and publicity materials. Be a professional but relentless advocate for your book.
- Promote your books.
Two cannibals are having dinner and one says to the other: “You know, I don’t like your publisher.” “OK,” the other cannibal says, “then just eat the noodles.”
The most common reason authors become disenchanted with their publishers is lack of promotion. Most books have a one-month window of opportunity to sink or swim in the continuing deluge of books. That window opens on pub date when books are in stores and reviews start to appear. Large houses are looking for writers who are ready to pop, who are ready for the big time. For most nonfiction aimed at a wide national audience, the authors’ ability to promote their books will usually be far more important than the content of their books in determining the editor, publisher and deal they receive for them. We can tell from two pieces of information whether we will be able to place such a book with a major house: the title and the promotion plan. For serious nonfiction books, the ability of authors to promote their work is less important. The only time to approach an agent is when two things are in place: Your proposal or manuscript is as strong as it can be, and the promotion plan for your book is as long and as strong as you can make it. The ability to promote books is becoming as vital for novelists as it is for nonfiction writers.
- Keep growing. Don’t let your desire to be a writer turn you into a one-sided personality. Strive to develop all of your potentials as a human being. Your personal growth will enhance your writing and promotion.
- Don’t let anything–especially fear, fame or fortune–stop you. The ultimate secret of becoming a successful author is making a total lifetime commitment.
Now is the most exciting time ever to be alive, and it’s the best time ever to be a writer. Information is doubling every eighteen months, and the age of information is also the age of the writer.
There are more:
- subjects for you to write about
- forms, media and countries for your books to be published in
- agents who need new writers
- options to get your nonfiction books written
- options for getting your books published
- ways to learn about writing and publishing
- ways to promote your books and profit from them than ever before
Always remember that as a writer, you are the most important person in the publishing process because you make it go.
With the right combination of talent, luck, and perseverance, you will succeed. The only absolute about writing, agenting, and publishing is to trust your instincts and common sense and to do whatever works.
The best piece of advice we have ever heard about becoming a successful writer: “If anything can stop you from becoming a writer, let it. If nothing can stop you, do it and you’ll make it.”
We Need You!
Our goal is to sell books we like by writers we like to editors we like. We welcome submissions from writers of book-length fiction and nonfiction for adults.
Michael loves ideas and is eager to help writers develop proposals for nonfiction books. Elizabeth handles narrative nonfiction, nonfiction for women and fiction. Her credo: “A novel begins when I can’t put it down.”
The agency does represent self-published books, but does not handle true crime, books about abuse or disease, articles, short stories, poetry, scripts, children’s picture books, graphic novels or textbooks.
We prefer to receive submissions by mail, and then meet with writers if we wish to represent them. Although we would rather be the only agents considering a book, we will read query letters, a sample of your writing, and proposals that are being submitted elsewhere. Please let us know if you are submitting your work to publishers or other agents. We can’t take the time to read a complete manuscript if other agents are considering it.
We are most effective in helping writers who have clear goals and are 100 percent committed to achieving them. If we feel that we can help you, we will call or meet to discuss it.
How to Submit Your Book
To save you and us time, please follow these submission instructions carefully. To receive the best treatment from an agent and editor, your manuscript should look like it’s worth the advance you want for it. Submit your material with care, following the proper guidelines for Fiction and Non-Fiction.
Life After Yes
If you would like us to represent you, we will ask you to sign an agreement, cancelable at any time with sixty days notice. Our agreement, which is included on the site, can’t substitute for the trust, friendship, and confidence essential for us to help you. Once we start working on your book, unless you can figure out how to improve it, keep the faith and keep writing.
If an editor makes worthwhile suggestions, we’ll pass them on to you. When an editor makes an offer, you’ll hear from us ASAP! Our commission is 15 percent, 20 percent for foreign rights, and 30 percent for Asia. We charge no fees and absorb normal agenting expenses.
It has taken us as little as four phone calls and as long as ten years to sell a book. Since our belief in you and your work must sustain our efforts over what may be a rocky road to publication, our decision to work with you will depend on our ability to summon up the necessary commitment.
As the authors or co-authors of thirteen books, we understand what it means to be rejected. We experience the same uncertainties and problems as the writers we represent. We are grateful that our writers are entrusting us with the opportunity to help them build their careers, and we accept the challenge knowing how important it is.
But because publishers are ever more careful about what they take on, we must be extremely selective about what we handle. We have helped launch the careers of hundreds of writers. But like publishers, we reject publishable books. So if we can’t help you, don’t be discouraged. As author Joe Girard says, “Every no gets you closer to yes.”
This article is a condensed version of “The Prequel,” the last four chapters of Michael’s book, How To Get A Literary Agent (Sourcebooks: 2006)