Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson!
In today’s market, finding a literary agent is no longer an option, it’s an essential. A good agent is your advocate, the person who represents your book ideas to potential publishers and aims to get you the best book deal possible. He or she negotiates the deal in terms of advance, rights and royalties.
So, how do you find an agent? First, know what you are looking for in a potential agent. Some agents specialize while others are more generic in the types of manuscripts they are looking for. For instance, an agent may work only with nonfiction. If that’s the case, and you write novels, then you will need to find an agent who deals with fiction authors.
As you connect on the phone or in person, ask yourself if this is someone with whom you want to have a working relationship. Finding the right agent is about “fit” as much as it is about business because you will be working with this person for years to come.
Second, know what agents are looking for in a potential author. You can’t just hire an agent; they select you if you are right for their client list and objectives.
Alice Crider, an agent with WordServe Literary, provides some helpful insight: “Agents (and publishers) are looking for these three elements from an author: excellent writing, remarkable content, and a strong platform. If you have two out of three of these, your chances of landing an agent who can help you land a contract with a traditional publisher are good. If you have all three, even better.”
Alice continues, “Writers these days need to do a lot of groundwork to build a platform and a lot of homework to know their market. They may also have to spend a great deal of time working on their craft in order to stand out above the competition. Above all, agents are looking for authors who are ready for publication–those who can deliver a message or a story that masses of people can access easily, relate to, enjoy and share with others.”
So, you’ve honed your craft. You’ve written a query letter. You’ve written your manuscript or at least part of it, and you’re ready to find an agent. Here are some of the best ways to look for a literary agent:
Ask your writer or editor friends who they know, or whom they would recommend for a literary agent. You’d be amazed what can happen when you simply start asking around.
Consult the Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Jerry B. Jenkins. This comprehensive resource is reprinted annually (so be sure to have the version for the current year). In addition to listing book publishers and magazine publishers, there is also a section listing, by state, some of the literary agents in the CBA market.
Obtain a free list—sent directly to your email inbox. Terry Whalin is a former literary agent and acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He provides a Free List of Literary Agents online when you submit your first name and email, you can receive a list of more than 400 agents agents, names, addresses, websites and phone numbers. “A great research tool for any author,” says Terry.
As you commence your quest to find the best literary agent for you, remember these two important things:
1) Agents do not charge you a fee. Literary agents who represent traditional publishers get paid the industry standard 15% (and this is paid by your publisher after you have a book deal, not by you).
2) Follow the agent or agency’s submission guidelines. Generally, they are listed on the agency website.
My hope is that by following these helpful ideas, you will have a long and successful career as a published author—and your words will bless others in ways unexpected.
P.S. Check out the new FaithHappenings website for events, conferences, concerts, blogs and other Christian resources. For authors, it will soon be a place where you or your publisher can promote your events and books.
Jackie M. Johnson is an author and freelance writer in Colorado. She also helps writers as a book publishing consultant. Previously, she worked at the premier literary agency, Alive Communications, and the CBA-publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Visit her encouragement blog, A New Day Cafe, or website for more information.
I’ll be taking about a year off of my CAN blog and other CAN activities (but will still “lurk” on the message boards and chime in from time to time – and will still keep writing my Beliefnet blog). The reasons for this are several: Because of a new autoimmune disease/condition diagnosis, I’ll be starting a rather potent immunosuppressive drug and don’t know what the side effects will be; I have a number of longer writing projects that I am eager to complete; and, well, sometimes I know I have to “do” rather than write about doing!
Which leads me to my blog topic.
In the midst of our hectic schedules and multiple deadlines, it’s always a good idea to revisit the “genesis” of it all, and then gauge projects at hand with what your reason for writing needs to yield. In other words, given that you are a writer at heart and have a love of storytelling, and could turn that storytelling ability to any number of different styles and genres, is what you’re writing now what you’re meant to write? Purposed to write? Gifted to write?
There’s no easy answer to this question, and certainly it’s individual for each person. But there are some helpful gauges to determine if you are, indeed, on the right track.
One gauge is your answer to this: Are the projects you have now enabling you to say what you have to say? Or, is God tapping you on the shoulder and whispering, “Not here, my child. Over there.”?
If you are very reluctant to get to the keyboard, or if you have become a master or mistress of procrastination, scrambling at the nth hour of a deadline, perhaps God is tapping you on the proverbial shoulder, encouraging you to stop, revisit why you write, and find the better path for your writing talents. As with other things involved in finding purpose in our lives, once writing projects mesh with your need to communicate specific sentiments, beliefs, or observations, you probably won’t feel as much like procrastinating. Rather, you’ll have abundant “fire in the belly” to get to work!
Another good gauge is if the paychecks become more important than the work itself, or your pursuit of the business end of writing becomes so all-consuming that you cut into your actual writing time.
Another gauge: You find yourself pursuing more of the same kinds of projects, rather than stretching your gifts to “make the most of them.”
Throughout our careers, it’s wise to take time to pray over our writing lives career focus. And, to take time to listen to God as he informs us with his tap on the shoulder.
Despite the health issues that loom (and they are very serious), I am quite excited about the coming year. Through prayer, a bit of “deck clearing,” and renewed determination, I am ever more sure of why I write, and I’m looking forward to putting fingers to the keyboard like never before! I pray that this year ahead is full of inspiration for you, too, and that your reasons for writing propel you to author amazing works of inspiration and faith. I look forward to reading them!
Joy and peace,
Davalynn Spencer here again, from Colorado’s Front Range, welcoming today’s featured author, Winnie Griggs. Winnie was last featured on the CAN blog in 2009, and she’s written quite a bit since and come up with some great tips for us all.
Thanks for visiting with us today Winnie. How many books do you have published now, and what are a few of your latest titles?
My 16th just came out. The last four have all been connected and the titles and release dates are:
Handpicked Husband September 2012
The Bride Next Door June 2013
A Family For Christmas October 2013
Lone Star Heiress June 2014
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since 2009?
That it never gets any easier!
Boy, are you right, Winnie, and I’m sure everyone appreciates your candor. What about promotion? Any valuable tidbits now that you have so many titles?
Again, that it never gets any easier. But truly, something I’m coming to believe more and more is that a writer really needs to protect her writing time. All the time spent on social media or promo events can sap the energy from the writing itself. And all the promo in the world is no good to you if you don’t have a solid book to promote.
Wise words there, and so critical to remember. Regarding book promotion, What has been most effective for you?
I’m not sure I can point to any one method, and success at something like this is difficult to quantify. So I do the kinds of things I enjoy – attending readers conferences, speaking at writer’s conferences, helping promote other writers.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Do you have a favorite way of connecting with your readers?
In person! Barring that, Facebook, the Love Inspired Historical group on Goodreads and the Harlequin Community forums.
Any crazy promotional gimmicks?
Hmmmm, I’m actually pretty conservative by nature so I can’t think of anything that would fit that description.
Did the Lord open doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Oh my, yes. There have been so many times when unexpected opportunities just fell in my lap, so to speak. And it always amazes me to see who and what He can use to accomplish His purpose.
Do you have a top tip for new authors choosing a promotion plan?
As I said earlier, first and foremost, make certain you are spending plenty of focused time on creating your next book. But as for promotional activities, always keep your target demographic in mind. Think of who the people are who read your books and then come up with ways to tailor your promotion to them.
Thank you for your insight, Winnie.
Learn more about Winnie Griggs and her books by visiting her website at www.winniegriggs.com
In this collection of four novellas acclaimed author Golden Keyes Parsons delves into the lives of four nameless women from the Gospels–the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet, and the woman who touched the hem of His garment.
Discover through the eyes of faith and fiction how women—trapped, alone, broken—yet who ventured boldly into the path of Jesus…to leave forever changed.
Golden Keyes Parsons writes historical fiction, and is also a popular speaker. Her highly acclaimed Darkness to Light Series chronicled the journey of French Huguenots. His Steadfast Love is a Civil War novel set in Texas. You can contact Golden at www.goldenkeyesparsons.com.