Unless you have an editor/publisher interested in your manuscript, the reach of your story is limited. However, it has become really difficult these days to reach publishers and get them to read your work.
Whether you want to get a renowned publisher to print your book, or a film studio to consider your script, it helps tremendously to have an agent on your side.
Most publishing companies and studios do not take unsolicited works. They will not look at your manuscript unless passed on by an agent, also known as "rep" (short for representative). And bonus points if it's a rep with whom the studio or the publisher has dealt with before.
An agent is a professional with good experience and connections in the publishing and entertainment industry. He is known for both his connections as well as expertise.
You'd want to work with someone specialized in handling the type of work you do. So depending on the nature of your creative work, you may need a literary agent, TV agent, film agent, TV literary agent, book agent or some other agent.
Specializations can be narrowed down even further. If you have written a children's book, for example, it's better to hire an agent specializing in children's books instead of adult novels.
Good reps have long-term relationships with decision makers at studios and publishing houses. They're good networkers.
Ideally, they know which publishers and studios are buying what type of scripts at any given time. And they will always be sniffing around to find you great book, TV or film deals. You can't be a good agent unless you have lot of connections in the industry.
Apart from a rich network, the benefit of a great agent is access to information and experience to bring out the best terms from a negotiation. He would be familiar with what similar deals have been made in the past and for how much money.
On average, you can expect a rep to not only get your foot in the door of many publications and studios, but also get about 25% more cash in your pocket than what you would have made from a deal without a rep.
Well, by now I think you're clear and sold on the benefits of having a good agent on your side. But getting a good agent to promote your work isn't that easy. You'll have to be creative.
First, your content and craft should be really good. Why would an agent waste time passing over a manuscript that’d be a hard sell? At the end of the day, he wants to make money with the least effort.
While not as much as publishers and studies, agents are still busy people. And they have a reputation to maintain.
Before an agent take a look at your work or passes it to a studio, he'll have to know it is something worthwhile - something that both he and the studio will like.
Just sending your manuscript unsolicited may or may not work. The best way to get their attention is to get some traction on your work on your own. If it's a book, for example, self-publish and sell it yourself as an ebook.
If it's a script, take a compelling introductory scene or create a short version of it. Then produce the video on your own. Upload it on Youtube and validate it's potential to go viral.
Write and contribute short stories to well-known magazines. The idea is to give them something concrete to identify your talent.
The 2nd best way is to get out and grow your network. The sooner you can start going out to writing conferences, critique groups and other networking events, the better. It’s all about making the right connections with agents and editors that help you advance your goal.
Now, people often take this the wrong way. They assume it means having an uncle who is president of a big publishing house or studio. It’s not about knowing a big shot in the industry. All you need is an agent, publisher and studio who appreciates and respects your talent.
Writing marketing and pitching materials is a skill that you can’t afford to ignore if you want to get published. It’s high time you start studying and crafting these.
Then take them with you into writing conferences and show them to as many writers, agents and editors you can. If you can do these things, you'll have agents approaching you than the other way round.
From time to time, there are always agents looking for fresh talent and work to promote. With websites like AgentQuery, Manuscript Wishlist, & Query Tracker, you can keep an eye out for agents looking to represent new clients.
It’s always better to write and submit complete proposals, even when you’re looking to get an agent. If an agent likes your query and is interested in representing you, he will want to look at your full manuscript or proposal with sample chapters, and use the same when approaching publishers.
But before you submit anything to an agent, make sure you have read their submission requirements and followed them.
Agents are also busy people who get hundreds of requests every week. So don't give them any excuse to throw your submission without a careful glance.
Have flawless spelling and personalize your query letter as much as possible. Address them by name and explain why you chose them.
There are a lot of frauds out there who claim to be agents. However, they are just looking to rip off aspiring writers desperate to publish.
Never ever, in your right mind, pay an agent to read or edit your book. Nor get trapped in false promises like having your book crowdfunded, or put in front of "beta readers."
You have put sweat and blood into your work, and it deserves to get a great representation.
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