Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest Post: Are You Ready for an Agent?

by Laura Cross

Have you researched agents and created an agent file?
Individual agents within each literary agency represent specific types of books. If you approach an agent who does not consider your particular genre, you have wasted your time submitting a pitch. A well researched and focused approach will help you acquire the right agent more quickly. You can download a free chapter on “Finding and Selecting Agents” from my book The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent at

Do you have a pitch package?
An agent expects you to know the selling points of your book and be able to convey them effectively with your pitch package. For fiction writers, a pitch package consists of a query letter, synopsis, and completed manuscript. For nonfiction writers, your pitch package is made up of a query letter, book proposal, and two sample chapters.

Is your novel or book idea marketable?A key component to acquiring an agent and publishing deal is a marketable product. Below are questions you can answer to determine the marketability of your idea or book to an agent.

1. Does a nearly identical book already exist?
If a book already exists that is almost identical to your idea you will have trouble selling yours to an agent or publisher. You will need to ensure and show an agent how your book will be better than the ones already on the market.

2.How large is the potential audience for your book?
Who will buy your book? A valuable resource for determining how many potential readers there are for your subject matter is to browse the sales ranks of similar books on the market and review the bestseller lists in your genre. Publishers Weekly magazine ( provides bestseller lists, and columns on “Retail Sales” and “Trends and Topics” that you may find helpful. The New York Times’ book review section ( also lists bestsellers by category. The Web site Titlez ( allows you to track sales rank history by keyword, title, or author and compare similar books by genre or title.

3. Does your book have series potential?Spin-off or series potential is not mandatory to sell your manuscript or book idea, but an agent or publisher is more interested in projects that begat more product. Books with spin-off or series potential are considered more valuable.

Do you have a platform and strong promotion plan?Agents and publishers prefer authors who have an established platform. If you are a nonfiction writer, especially, your ability to promote your book will be vital for acquiring an agent and a book deal.

Have you mapped out a writing career?
Agents represent writing careers, not authors who write only one book. They look for authors who have a vision and plan for their writing careers. Before approaching an agent it’s a good idea to have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with your writing and the next step along your path as an author.

Laura Cross is an author, screenwriter, ghostwriter, freelance book editor, and writing coach specializing in nonfiction books and script adaptation (book-to-film projects). She writes two popular blogs, and, and teaches online writing workshops Her latest book is The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published. You can download a free chapter, view the book trailer, read the full table of contents, and purchase the eBook at


  1. About Step #3...if this novel is a stand alone how can you let them know you aren't a one book wonder. Just start another book and let them know about it if they ask?

  2. Thanks for your question Jodi. Series/spin-off potential is just one component to attract a literary agent and publisher. If you can include it in a nonfiction book proposal it adds value to the project/book idea. For novelists, when an agent requests your full manuscript, consider including in your submission letter a brief note letting him or her know that you are currently working on your next book. However, if your novel is part of a series, you want to include that information in the initial pitch. All the best with your writing endeavors.

  3. I think that planning out your writing career is important. My front webpage has a list of goals and even links to what I want to do with my writing. That way everyday I log into my computer I am reminded what my goals are and can keep on track.

  4. @John - that rocks! A focused plan is like a road map that will lead you to your destination. Sounds like you are track.