You have to figure out how. And that…takes time.
When I decided that publishing was a goal, I hadn’t the first clue of where to start. I didn’t know how to write a query letter or where to even find agents who were interested in novels like mine. I was just a writer with a dream of one day seeing my book on the shelf.
So, I did the research. I went to the conferences. I asked as many people as I could for help. And that was when I realize there was a whole other world of writing, just waiting to be toured.
Knowledge is power. In anything you do, always remember that.
I’m diving into the resources I’ve used and the experiences I’ve had with the hopes of helping or educating anyone who is lost like I was, for anyone who has written a book or is writing a book and wants to publish, but doesn’t know where to begin. These resources and experiences gave me a sense of direction and have changed my writing skills and perspective on the journey of trying to publish traditionally.
Now listen. I’m not saying I know everything. I’m simply sharing what helped me and my personal experiences. If you have any of your own tricks, drop a comment below. I’m always eager to learn new things.
Guide to Literary Agents by Writer’s Digest
(No I am not a spokesperson for Writer’s Digest, nor am I affiliated with them in any way)
Writer’s Digest is THE jackpot of resources. Whether you want to publish with an agent, journey into self publishing, look into hybrid publishing, or work on your writing voice, you can find an article of resources for those needs. For this blog, I am focusing on only one of the many great resources they offer.
Each year, Writer’s Digest publishes a literary agent guide. In that wonderful book of golden information are hundreds of agents who are open for queries. Listed next to each agent is the genre they represent, how to submit, and their social handles. If able, always check their social media. An agents window of accepting submissions can sporadically change, and when they close, they can close for weeks or months time. If you feel that an agent, who is closed for queries, is an agent you have interest in possibly working with, then hold off until they reopen. You don’t want your query letter getting lost and unrecognized.
If you find an agent that you believe could champion your work, find them on Twitter or Instagram. (Browse. Don’t haggle). Some agents are very open and specific on the novels they are looking for, not just the genre but character relationships, specific topics and even controversial topics that need to be discussed. The hints some agents drop are key! Who knows. You just might find an agent looking for a plot that is just like yours!
Okay. Back to this awesome book. Don’t know how to write a query letter, turn towards the front of the book and see examples of Do’s and Don’ts. The guide explains format, manners, and the importance of comparative titles.
This guide takes the online research off your shoulders. It’s as if someone else has already done the hard-work for you. Bookmark it. Dog ear it. Highlight that pot of resources until it looks like skittles exploded on the pages. Use that guide for everything it’s worth.
So basically, in a nutshell, if you are wanting to traditionally publish, get your hands on a copy of the Guide to Literary Agents. You won’t regret a single page.
So far, I’ve been lucky enough to attend three writer’s conference. Yes, they were hosted by Writer’s Digest. And each conference has enlightened me in ways that have broadened my writing skills and perspective. If I were to explain all the useful tips I had learned from these conferences, this article would go on for hours…But it can’t, so I’ll keep it short and to the point!
Each conference is strategically planned and crafted for certain niches. The Los Angeles one focuses on novel writing. The conference in New York covers just about any aspect you would have questions or insecurities on. Whether you want to publish traditionally or self publish, they have vital information and resources on hand. The conference in New York also had panels that covered craft and dialogue, which are just as important as sitting in on panels that discuss finding an agent. And the keynote speakers are fantastic. In 2018, Cassandra Clare, writer of the Mortal Instruments series, spoke for an hour about her journey of writing and how she became who she is today and I don’t think I blinked the entire time. I even got to stand in line for an autograph.
And I’ve also had the chance to attend one of their conferences that was hosted in Nashville 2017. It was a smaller version of the main conference in New York, but was closer to home and more practice of getting my feet wet.
Each conference has an itinerary of 4-7 different panels going on during each session. Attendees can pick and chose their panels and manipulate the opportunities the conferences offer to better suit their writing/publishing needs. These conferences do cost, but why not invest in your dreams and goals? These conferences have vital information, endless possibilities. Save your money. Budget the trip a year in advance. Do what it takes to get your butt in one of those chairs.
So far, Writer’s Digest has three conferences planned for 2019. It’s only Febuary so who knows! They might add more. And writer’s conferences are where you meet…wait for it…other writers! Go figure! Conferences are great for making connections, finding friendships and people who can hold you accountable when you return home. Might even find a BETA reader of two. If you go to the conferences alone, don’t do what I did and sit alone. Don’t sit in a room with other aspiring writers and be silent. Be proud of what you are doing. Take pride in the fact that you are going the extra mile to get yourself one step closer to your writing dreams.If there is one thing I could change about the Writer’s conference I’ve gone to, its that I wish I had put myself out there more. I wish I had made those connections and listened to other writers like me talk about their dreams and stories.
Be a social butterfly. Grab a drink or two with the people you sit next with. Make conversation. I’ve gone to three conferences and made two connections. That’s all. The halls and panel rooms were full of hundreds of people, hundreds of possible connections and I made two.
Be brave. Be proud. Make those connections.
If you are actively querying agents, some conferences offer Pitch-Slam sessions. Basically, that’s where you get 90 seconds to pitch your manuscript face to face with an actual agent. I’ve only done this twice, but it really is a beneficial learning experience. You are forced to find the key selling points to your novel. If an agent is interested, they’ll ask for materials. If they’re not, they will politely pass.
Guys. If an agent passes on your manuscript, it’s not the end of the world. Agents are picky with the pieces they represent. So, please, please, please, please do not get discouraged. Wait until you find an agent who is equally as passionate as you are with your manuscript. Trust me. You want that. Don’t just shoot blindly and hope you land any agent that will accept you. Go for an agent that wants you.At the New York conference, one of the panel speakers, who spent years doing the leg work before getting published, said, “It takes 100 no’s to get that 1 yes”. If you pitch to five agents and they say no, find five more. Then ten more. Then fifteen. You get the picture, right?
You only fail if you stop.
Another type of conference I love are the kinds that reawaken your soul and reminds you of that fire that used to burn inside you. Maybe you need a boost of revival in your life. Maybe you need a conference that helps you feel empowered. Find a motivational speaker. Find an event and go! Connect with other women in the same boat as you. Get their numbers or emails and make friendships that will help you when you get back to your daily routine.
Conferences, whether they are catered to writing or hosted by a motivational speaker, are boosts of energy your writing soul needs. Conferences build confidence and are enlightening to the creative heart. And again, don’t be afraid to mingle with people at the conferences. You will regret the connections you didn’t make.
Research an Established Author’s Journey
If there’s one thing I’ve learned after researching a few author’s publishing journey, it’s this: their success didn’t happen over night.
If you are a writer, you have to find a way to distance yourself from instant gratification. It doesn’t exist in this field. If you expect it, or hope for instant gratification, YOU WILL get discouraged. Landing an agent, editing your manuscript as close to perfection as you can physically get it, doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. It takes the world lining up and making your path, virtually or physically, line up with the agent who is meant to represent your beautiful work.
And trust me. I know that feeling of typing the last sentence of the last chapter. Your fingers hover over the keyboard, waiting to bring words to the screen, but there’s nothing left. The story is done (or so you think) and you want the world to read your work and hear that your hard work wasn’t a waste of coffee and wine and sleepless nights.
J.K. Rowling was damn near broke when she finally published. Agents told her no. Yes, agents told her no.
But she didn’t quit. Just think about it. What if J.K. Rowling gave up after she didn’t receive instant gratification for her series? What if she took a handful of agent’s rejections and viewed her writing as a story the world didn’t need?
What is your life going to be like in five years? Ten?
None of us know. But if you choose to not give up, persist against the odds and follow your passion, you will be one step closer to achieving your goal. If you give up now, you will be a thousand miles away from your goal five years down the road.
Don’t stop. It is that simple.
Don’t know how to publish or query agents? Get The Guide to Literary Agents.
Don’t know where to work on your craft or find fellow writers who will support you and BETA read? Go to conferences.
Need an emotional or mental boost? Find an empowering conference that will set your soul on fire.
Do you think authors get published overnight? Research an author’s journey.
When you give up, your writing journey ends. When you give up, that is when you fail. As long as there is breath in your lungs, you are capable of creating the life you want. Do you want to publish? Is that what you want in your life?
Then embrace all the resources you can find. Knowledge is power. Tackle the doubt. Embrace the possibilities. Give your dreams the effort they deserve.
Until next time!