*Note: I have not had a manuscript published yet, so take this advice for what it is: the best strategy I could come up with based on my research.
- Finish the first draft. Notice this is only the first step, but it’s crucial: you can’t publish what you haven’t written.
- Revise to perfection. I can’t stress this strongly enough: you must invest in a trusted, professional editor to help you polish your manuscript. Sending out what is essentially a rough draft is sure to guarantee rejection. To be safe, put your MS through at least three rounds of revisions: first, the big picture, which is about structure, plot, characters, etc., and a second, close-up round, for individual scenes and dialog. Last but not least, get someone to proofread it!
- Create your proposal. This will be a little different for fiction than for non-fiction, but mostly they are similar. Different agencies will ask for different things, so it’s best to have all the elements done and ready to be sent out in whatever combination is appropriate. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Your query letter
- A synopsis and/or outline
- A marketing plan
- Sample chapters
- Last, but not least, start looking for a good agent. Writer’s Digest comes out with an annual edition listing about two dozen agents looking for new manuscripts; look through the current Writer’s Market, check websites like AgentQuery and QueryTracker. Be sure to read the “About Us” page for each agency; make sure you’re going to be a good match. Get a nice long contact list saved in your bookmarks folder, then start ranking them in order of your top five, then your next top five, etc. Obviously, you’ll start sending your stuff to your top five first, only moving down the list if you’re rejected by all five.
So far, I’ve completed only step one; I’m diligently working on step two and doing research to start steps three and four. I’ll let you know what I find, and I welcome your questions and suggestions.