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What Do Literary Agents Really Want?
Finding a publisher is one of a writer’s many nightmares. For many authors, self-publishing is the way to go. However, there are some writers who still believe in the benefits of traditional publishing.
In traditional publishing, an author needs to present the full manuscript along with a query letter or proposal to a publishing house. The work will then be screened and reviewed to determine whether it is publishable or not.
Unfortunately, a majority of these submissions will be rejected. Publishers are immensely finicky since publishing and marketing a book is very risky for them. This is why an author will usually encounter several rejections before they find someone willing to publish their book.
To help authors find a publisher, they sometimes seek the services of a literary agent. But of course, literary agents do not accept propositions from just any writer.
Remember that a professional literary agent will try to make money from the sales of the book, and not by asking for “processing” or “reviewing” fees. Keep this in mind and steer clear from scammers and amateur agents who ask for these unnecessary fees.
Credible literary agents know how to make money with books, so they should know what to look for in a written work.
Author’s Talent – Of course, a true literary agent will be looking for skill. If the writing is mediocre, then it is to be assumed that the author is amateur, and can easily be scammed. Remember that a literary agent thinks the same way as publishers. They will not waste their time on badly written manuscripts.
Marketability – Just like publishers, a literary agent will take into consideration the profitability of the book. Literary agents should know an unmarketable book when they see one. The marketability of a finished work can be determined by simply asking, “Will people buy the book?”
Originality – This is extremely crucial for authors. Publishers, as well as literary agents, look for something new, unless it is about broad and controversial topics. Also, the writer must have a distinct writing voice that is easily recognizable, memorable, and consistent from start to finish.
Demographics – Having a specific target audience for your work is indispensable in selling a book. Titles such as 50 Shades of Grey and Game of Thrones have a very specific target audience, and it happens to be the most salable market right now.
Reader Engagement – The first chapter is very important in a book. Make sure that from the start the story captivates the reader. Provide intriguing content that will keep readers turning the pages. The writing should not drag or be boring, especially for novels.
Good Query Letter – A query letter or proposal is the author’s direct message to the agency/publisher. Your query letter should be just as impressive as your manuscript, otherwise the agent may lose interest altogether. Of course, professionalism is a must, so make sure the quality of your writing is consistent, including the words of your query letter.
By the end of the day, it all comes down to the writing skill of the author. Make sure that your manuscript is thoroughly polished down to the last word.