While looking for an agent or publisher, the most repetitive thing I read is to “…only submit to people who are looking for your type of work.” Only submit your story to people who will care about the story you are telling. Which logically begs the question...
why should anyone care about your story?
Hopefully all authors think they have something to say. Unfortunately many of them just like hearing themselves talk (write) and don’t have much to say at all. It’s easy to tell who these authors are because when (and if) you finish one of their books, you are disappointed. You feel cheated out of your valuable time.
For me it’s even worse because no matter how bad the book, or how bad the movie, I feel the need to finish it. I hear my mother saying, "Finish what you've started!" That's usually great advice. Thanks, Mom.
I can count on one hand the number of movies and books that I've started, but never finished. It's much more likely that I will force myself to sit and waste countless precious hours just to see if it gets better, or if the ending will be worth my time. It rarely is.
I like to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that it's not them, it's me. That this particular author does actually have something great to say, but I was not the target audience. There are likely hundreds, nay, thousands of people who, unlike me, loved the book.
Or, perhaps I was not in the right place in my life to enjoy such a book – in which case I'll try again 5 years ago. I bet the five-year-ago me would have loved some of these books.
As an author, how do you make sure that your story is getting into the hands of the right people?
- You get the best agent and/or publisher you can for your book. (see how we've come full circle?)
In order for you to know who the right agent/publisher is, you first need to understand why your story matters. You can't sell your story if you don't know why it's amazing. And if YOU don't know why it's amazing, then how will anyone else?
Who is going to care about your story?
Don’t waste your time on everyone else. (There are a lot of everyone-elses out there)
Think of it like picking a new friend – you need to have things in common. You need to enjoy each other’s company and have things to talk about and experiences to share. These agents are real people trying to make a living, just like you. (or so I keep telling myself) If your agent/publisher doesn't believe in you, you’ll have a much rougher go of the whole experience, why would you willingly put yourself through that?
Step 1. Decide why your story is an important one and write that reason down.
Step 2. Tell everyone you know about the very important message behind your story. Why is your story is going to change the world? How many lives are you going to impact? What makes your message unique?
Step 3. Assess the reactions to your message. If your friends and family agree that this is an important and missing piece of the literary industry, then woo hoo! Start counting the millions that are coming your way (soon, I promise).
Understandably this is tough – what message does the newest vampire/zombie/pre-teen thriller have that is so important to the world? That is a fair question. All I can say is hopefully the vampire/zombie/pre-teens are evolving characters and through their trials and tribulations they teach other pre-teens life lessons about personality and personal character and gumption and young love… or something.
Step 4. Don't pick an agent who doesn't understand you! easier said than done, I know. Once an agent wants to sign on the dotted line, how could you possibly ever dream of telling them no...?!
I'll leave that moral dilemma up to you.
The other important piece to this puzzle is the following:
Only send out work that you are proud of.
Even the revisions that you are sending out for critique, should be the best rough drafts that you can put together. If you only send out revisions that you are proud of:
- You will get better feedback,
- you will be able to take those critiques more seriously, and
- you will be more well respected.
Ultimately, you will have a better platform on which you base your skill as a writer.
This is true of anything in life. If you think you are a great chef, but you only ever cook Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, how will anyone else ever be able to say, "hey, I know this great chef..."
If you think you are an amazing photographer, but you only ever use a disposable camera, how is anyone ever going to be able to say, "hey, I know this amazing photographer."