Greetings from Jackie!
Do you want to get published—or get published again? If your goal is to get a book deal from a traditional publisher, it’s important to know what literary agents are looking for. Why? Because in today’s publishing environment writers can no longer send unsolicited manuscripts directly to publishers (at least, about 99% of the time), so it is essential to have a literary agent to represent your ideas to publishers.
I’ve been blessed to work on the agency side and the publisher side of the Christian publishing industry. Plus, I am a published author with three nonfiction books with traditional CBA publishers. My aim in contributing to the CAN blog each month in 2014 is to provide insight and practical ideas in the marketing area of book publishing.
Let’s start with a brief overview of the seven essential steps to get “agent ready” and, hopefully, to get the best book deal possible. In future blog posts, I will develop many of these ideas in greater detail.
1. Have a solid idea. Start by asking these fundamental questions: What is your book about? Who is your primary audience? How is your book different or unique from other books on the same topic? Most importantly, is it a viable idea? Do you have enough material for an entire book—or would your content be better suited for an article, a blog post or something else? Also, is the idea marketable; will it sell? If not, you may want to look into self-publishing options.
2. Work on your craft of writing. Read books on writing. Attend writer’s conferences. Some of the most popular conferences for Christian writers are: Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference (Colorado), Mount Hermon (California), and She Speaks Conference (North Carolina, with tracks for Christian writers and speakers) and Writing for the Soul Conference (Colorado) from Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild.
3. Write. Just start. And as you write, you will build momentum to keep on writing. Some authors find it helpful to schedule time to write; make an appointment with yourself. Don’t try to write and edit yourself at the same time or it will halt your progress. Doing so is like trying to drive a car with one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator. First, write. Then, go back later and edit what you have written. Create first; structure later.
4. Build your platform. Your “platform” is your presence online or in person—like having a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter and other social media so you can build a following—and build community. Having a platform is very important to agents because it is important to publishers.
5. Create a good query letter. This is the initial letter you send to a literary agent about your book idea. If the agency asks you to send a book proposal and sample chapters, then you can submit those items. Look on the agency website for guidelines about their submission preferences.
6. Create an effective book proposal and sample chapters. A nonfiction book proposal is generally 12 to 15 pages and contains certain elements. You will also need to include one or two sample chapters. (For fiction writers, you will need to have a complete manuscript). You can send your book proposal to a literary agent and also give it to agents with whom you meet at writer’s conferences.
7. Find a literary agent. An agent is your advocate; he or she is the person who represents your books to potential publishers and aims to get you the best book deal possible (i.e., advance, rights, royalties and the like). To find an agent, first ask other writers about their representation. Another excellent source for finding a Christian agent is The Christian Writer’s Market Guide or lookat Michael Hyatt’s list of Literary Agents Who Represent Christian Authors.
As you begin—or take the next steps—on your publishing journey, remember that you are not alone. God is with you, and He is for you. Invite Him into the process and ask Him to order your steps and guide you. May your words reach people around the world and may book publishing success be yours; for God’s glory!
Jackie M. Johnson is an author, freelance writer and book publishing consultant in Colorado. Visit her encouragement blog at http://anewdaycafe.blogspot.com or website at www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com.