During the Cuckfield Book Festival in Sussex, Andrew Lownie (top dog literary agent) held a workshop on how to get published.
The workshop was filled with people who looked like Gogglebox’s Giles and his wife Mary but there were some fantastic tips about how to get fiction and non fiction published. Check out the top ten tips!
Tip #1: Research What The Agent Has Published Before
If you’ve written a book about military history then look for agents who have had success with other military history books. By researching what an agent has had published before you save time by not barking up the wrong tree. E.g. A few years ago Katie Price took her book to Virago to get published, but Virago mainly publish feminist literature… Fail.
Tip #2: Send The First Three Chapters, Not The Middle
Send your first three chapters rather than a middle three as the middle three will be missing all that has happened before it; whereas the first three should be really strong and able to stand on their own. And don’t even think of sending the last three chapters because that’s just twattish.
Tip #3: Strong Social Media Following
Do you know why there are so many books by z-list celebrities and vloggers? It’s because people know who they are and they have a huge social media following. The more followers, the more fans, the more fans, the more books you’ll sell. So start doing some serious tweeting or apply for Love Island or something.
Tip #4: The Best Time To Send It
During the summer holidays is apparently the best time to send your manuscript as all of the big top dog managers are away skiing (or whatever it is that rich people do). This means that the other employees have more time to read/do what they want which means your submission will be given more time/consideration. Theoretically.
Tip #5: Getting The Cover Letter Right
You know when you’re applying for a job you have a one size fits all cover letter that you send with every application? Well apparently that doesn’t fly with literary agents; make sure that you personalise each letter and write about things that you like about that particular agency. A bit of brown nosing basically.
Tip #6: Don’t Send It Before It’s Awesome
Pay a literary consultant to review your book before you send it. They can give you little tips to make it that bit more freaking awesome and they will pick out all of your mistakes. One of the quickest ways to ensure that your book is never published is to have spelling and grammar mistakes.
Tip #7: Think About Commerciability
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your political beliefs) we live in a capitalist society where things matter most if they make money. The same goes for publishing; your book might be about the most amazing topic ever but if a publisher doesn’t think it will make money then they won’t publish it. If you’ve written a book about a three legged dog and last year another book about the same topic did really well then mention it in your cover letter. It’s more likely to get published if you jump on a band wagon. E.g. How many sexy bondage books came out after 50 shades? Fucking loads.
Tip #8: Consider Self Publishing
Publishing houses can be conservative so if you’ve written a book about the 26 best ways to get into smoking marijuana then self publishing might be the best route. There are many perks to self publishing:
- 70% of every book sold goes to you compared to the 10% of a published book
- You can hire freelance editors, designers and publicists to do all the work for you (except for writing the thing)
- If your book has done so bloody amazing then it might be picked up. E.g. 50 Shades was self published until it did so well that Random House picked it up and everyone involved made lots of lovely money.
Tip #9: Send It In Waves
Don’t send out all of your submissions at one time, that’s just stupid. Send one every few weeks/months depending on each agency’s turn around time. Agents will want to know how many other people you’ve submitted it to. Telling them that you’ve sent it to 10 others at the same time will put them off; your book has to be the best book ever for an agent to want to compete with 10 other agencies.
Tip #10: Make Sure Your Book Isn’t Shite
The most important tip on how to get your book published. If your book is shite then it won’t get published, unless you’re a celebrity. Make sure you have the correct word count: fiction 80,000 min, non-fiction 100,000 min. Make sure the chapters are no longer than 3-4,000 each and give it an awesome snappy title. Or give it a long title that is quirky and the reason why people pick your book up over someone else’s. E.g. The 100 year old man who jumped out of the window and disappeared.
Thanks for reading and if you have any tips let me know on twitter @jenna_wims