You’ll only live to regret it…
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If you aren’t already aware, a literary agent is the magical creature you approach once your book is finished. After you’ve drafted many times, and rewritten many more, you construct your query letter, ready your synopsis, and you send them on over to a number of agents.
It’s a daunting task, and it usually results in a lot of second thoughts and self-doubt, but that’s to be expected. You’re submitting your work to literary professionals who can sniff out a terrible book in the very first pages – of course you’re terrified.
These days though, writers seem to make it much harder for themselves, and I’m yet to discover why.
Maybe it’s a lack of education, or a slight case of I’m-the-next-bestseller-itis, or maybe some of us are just testing the waters – whatever it is though, a common theme seems to emerge: writers are submitting their work to agents prematurely. And that’s putting it nicely…
This is perhaps the worst thing you could ever do. The last thing you want is an angered literary agent sending your name around to all of their literary agent friends, as the garbage writer to throw in the trash without even reading the first word of the manuscript…
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Don’t Be Lazy
Just don’t, under no circumstances. There are no excuses, no exceptions – just don’t do it.
An agent isn’t there to improve your book. They aren’t editors, they aren’t beta readers, and they certainly don’t have anywhere near enough time to do any of that. An agents job is to represent you, (and your flawless book) and get you out there; your book on the shelves. One way to anger an agent is to submit a manuscript that is filled with errors and sloppy writing.
I’m exaggerating of course. Agents don’t expect a book that is shelf-ready, but they expect something that’s pretty damn close. Sending them your second rewrite that includes hundreds of grammatical errors, a handful of plot-holes, and severely underdeveloped characters, simply won’t cut it.
So don’t be lazy. Don’t rush to get your book finished just to submit. Work on your book for as long as you need, and rewrite it as many times as it takes to get it right. Even if an agent doesn’t quite like the story, they’ll appreciate your quality of writing – and that’s a prize in itself.
If they hate your story, and hate your writing, well all you’ve done is wasted their time. And it’s not wise to pee off an agent, remember?
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How Do I Know When My Book Is Ready
I hear you loud and clear.
It’s always tough to know when your book is finished and fully polished, because you always find something you want to change, but fear not, I have a solution.
Get a group of beta readers (aside from your friends and family) and have them go through every rewrite you churn out. Ten isn’t enough. Get a group of fifty if you can find them – every set of eyes you gather helps push you that one step closer. Don’t even consider sending your work to an agent until all of your beta readers are satisfied.
Of course, that’s not plausible, because based on individual preference, they’ll each have their own little feedback to give. What I mean is though, make sure you fix all of their broader suggestions – like underdeveloped plot-lines and characters, holes in your plot, and spelling or grammatical errors. Once you’ve fixed all these, and your beta readers are happy – congratulations, that’s a step in the right direction.
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Now You’re Ready
For a professional editor, that is.
If you can afford it, I’d fully recommend having your fully proofed and beta-read manuscript combed through by a professional editor. Now, this isn’t some sort of elaborate marketing scheme or ploy of self-promotion, it’s just the truth.
A professional editor will get you as close to the end product as you’ll ever get. If you submit a fully beta-read, professionally edited book to an agent, they’ll be impressed. Your quality of writing will be great, your narrative will be strong, your characters will be developed and your work will be crisp; it’ll be finished.
And that’s the most important part.
Agents are sick and tired these days. They’re sick and tired of reading second drafts that writers are trying to pass off as the real-deal; the finished article. Why don’t you separate yourself from the crowd, and submit something to an agent that’s worth their time and effort?
Who knows? Maybe they’ll see it as worth representing, too, and isn’t that the goal here? Yep. You bet. So guess what? It’s time to start acting like it.
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