Most traditional publishers (as opposed to self-publishing services where you pay for all editing, design and printing costs) require authors to be represented by an agent before they agree to review a proposal. Literary agencies have core competencies and strengths that authors need to know before they submit their proposals for review. Most agencies will not accept unsolicited proposals but prefer query letters before agreeing to review complete proposals or manuscripts. In all cases, email with attached files is the preferred method of submissions.
We encourage authors to do their homework and learn who is best suited to represent their work. This is challenging but, with a little research, doesn't have to be time consuming and is most beneficial.
Get A Referral
The best way for an author to find the right agent for their book is to get a referral from someone in the business (agent, author, retailer or an editor), or in the ministry (a pastor or teacher). If you don't have a referral, visit the local bookstore and peruse the section that carries books similar to the one you're writing. Check out the publisher and see if an agent or editor is named in the Acknowledgments. If not, call the publisher, ask for the managing editor and see if you can get a list of recommended agents. You can also check out publisher's and literary agency's websites, which oftentimes list names you can query.
Query Letters to Agents.
Once you have the list of agents who you've learned represent your type of book, work on a query letter that is brief and to the point. The key elements you must include are your premise, your credibility to write to the subject and, most importantly, a brief description of your marketing platform. This last element has become the #1 hurdle for published and first-time authors because publishers need your help to launch the book. Without a robust social media position, blogs with strong subscriber base and sharing analytics, it is very difficult to get an agent's attention, If you have a speaking business or ministry, podcast and/or webcast, radio show newspaper column, that helps too. It's better to take time to fine-tune your marketing platform before you query agents so you are putting your best foot forward with your query letter. It is standard industry practice to send multiple submissions and don't hesitate to follow up in a week or so to be sure your request is moving to the top of their In box!
Book Proposal Format
When you get a positive response and request for a proposal, ask the agent for their preferred proposal template. You are welcome to use our templates for non-fiction, which you can view below and download. Take your time preparing the proposal and remember, it's more important at this stage for the agent to hear why your book should be published, including competitive analysis, and who the intended audience is, including market demographics and psychographics. An overview and simple outline will show your ability to organize your thoughts and a sample of your writing ( a couple of chapters, max) will show the agent your writing skill.
Understand the Literary Representation Agency Agreement
The best of all worlds is to have several agents interested in representing your work so you get to choose who you are most comfortable working with on the project. It's a long term relationship, so take the time you need to sort out strengths and weaknesses. Ask the agents for author and publisher references to be sure you are working with someone who is reputable and has had success placing books like you are writing. Ask for a draft literary agreement and then walk through it, line by line, to be sure you understand what is being offered, expected, and promised.
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