What are Literary Agents REALLY Looking for in a Manuscript?
One of the questions I frequently get asked, whether on social media or when I’m speaking at a conference, is:
“What are agents really looking for? What is it that they want? Why do I keep getting rejected?”
So, what are agents looking for?
If you’ve watched any of my videos in the Facebook group, you know I’m on the phone with agents every day, asking questions about the industry. I ask agents what they’re looking for, but another question I ask is, “What trends are you seeing in the marketplace?”
Like any marketplace, the publishing industry is volatile. Things change from day to day, right?
There was a book, “American Dirt,” that came out about a month ago, and really influenced publishing industry trends. The London Book Fair was cancelled because of this virus that we’re all dealing with. There are countless other examples.
Things are always changing in the industry, and knowing what the trends are, what’s impacting the industry, and what kind of books are getting published is key.
I recently had a conversation with an agent friend, and one of the interesting things we talked about was a recent trend in the publishing industry. Changes are taking place, and there is a shift from looking at the book as the product to looking at the author as the product.
What does that mean for you?
It means you better know how to create a product that is viable in the traditional publishing marketplace, and that’s exactly why we do things the way that we do them in the Writing Gym.
First and foremost: we get our information straight from the horse’s mouth.
I’m meeting with industry professionals every single week so I can bring that information to the writers in the Writing Gym.
I’m able to say: “Okay, here are the things that we want to target. How does your book fit into that?”
The second thing is that the Writing Gym is a comprehensive program.
If you got an MFA (a Master’s in Fine Arts), you might learn how to write, which is pretty important.
But that’s about all you’d learn. In the Writing Gym VIP Program, we start by teaching you to write a quality draft that is movable quickly into revision for publication.
People who go from the VIP into the Publishing Mastermind—those who are accepted—are doing the market research. We’re talking about what agents are looking for, and our writers have gone to presentations where I presented an agent to them, had a publicist from a publishing house ask them questions, and allowed them to ask their questions in real time and get them answered.
Our writers are gaining an understanding of the industry, which is very important.
During that time, I’m also reading their manuscript, not once but twice, sometimes three times, and I’m getting on the phone to agents to say: “Hey, I’ve got this manuscript about, say, cows. What do you think?”
Frequently, that conversation leads to: “Hey, when it’s done I want to see it.”
wWe go from writing the novel in the VIP to doing market research in the Publishing Mastermind. This creates the foundation for their platform.
Next, we move into the revision phase.
This is important, because they’re getting the right kind of feedback, learning who they are as writers, gaining confidence, and revising a novel to publishable. They move on to the Publishing Bootcamp, where they submit their manuscripts and I make introductions to editors, publishers, and agents on their behalf.
Here’s the part I want to talk about today.
There are two ending programs that happen after the book is finished: Paths to Pulitzer, where writers are improving their craft; and Novel Selling U, where they’re creating their author platform.
If the product isn’t just the book, but also the author, then it’s awfully important to know how to package yourself.
I’m sorry to put it that way, but publishing is a business, and if you don’t know how to address it as a business, if you’re thinking of your book as an art and you as an artist, then you’re missing out on what what can happen and the potential of what your book can become.
This is what agents are looking for.
They may love your book and writing.
They may love your concept and your protagonist.
But if they don’t have a package that they can pitch to the Publishing House, you aren’t getting any further. That was the confirmation I got this week in a conversation with my agent friend.
With the emergence of audiobooks, Alexa devices, and all of the changes we see in the publishing industry, we’re at a turning point now.
If you don’t know how to market yourself or how to package yourself, you’re going to be lost. It’s no longer about writing a good book, it’s also about knowing how to place yourself in the market.
If you’re ready for real results, I would love to chat with you.
This isn’t for everybody. It’s for people who are serious about having a publishing career.
This isn’t something that happens in a week or a month or even sometimes six months.
This is a long-term process to build a career, because that’s what we’re doing over in the Writing Gym.
If that sounds like something that you want, and you’re ready to stop spinning your wheels and to get real results, I’d love to talk with you about where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there. You can put yourself right into my calendar and we can chat sometime in the next week or so.
Until next time, Happy Writing!