Five sales tools needed to sell your novel to an agent or editor
Long before you market your novel to readers, you’ll be marketing your manuscript to literary agents and/or editors at publishing houses. Here’s an overview of the sales tools you’ll need. In the next few weeks I’ll cover each of these in detail.
1) Edited, Complete Manuscript. This is your product. Make certain it’s the best product you can produce. But don’t waste years tinkering. If you’re on your twentieth round of edits, had your critique group or critique partner read your latest draft, and had a book doctor or professional editor give you feedback, you probably have a well-crafted manuscript ready for agents or editors to read. It’s time to send your baby out to the world. If you’re a compulsive editor like I am, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to tweak your manuscript before publication.
A more common mistake new writers make is submitting their works too soon. Don’t do it. You’ll only be wasting your time and establishing your reputation as an amateur. Take time to hone your craft, join a critique group, receive professional feedback, and learn the art of self editing. While you’re working away on your novel, it’s the perfect time to learn as much as you can about the submission process. When you are ready to query and pitch agents, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
2) Pitch. You need at least two. The “elevator pitch” is the one liner you throw out to the agent you bump into at a cocktail party who asks “what are you writing?” The “big pitch” is a two-to-five minute description of your story used to sell your novel to an agent or editor during a writing conference pitch session.
3) Query Letter. This is your most important sales tool and the one you’ll be using the most. It’s a one page letter with a set format, often referred to as “the hook, the book, and the cook.” The opening hook is a one sentence description that differentiates your novel from anything else out there. The book is two to three short paragraphs about the story, similar to what you might find on a book jacket. The cook (that’s you) is a one paragraph biography (bio) pertinent to your writing experience.
4) Synopsis. One of the most challenging pieces to write. Generally written in present tense, even if your novel is in past tense. Include the central characters, main plot points, and the ending.
5) Bio. Although you’ll be including a brief bio in your query, some agents ask for a separate bio. Write it in third person and include any professional writing experience, the genres or areas you write, education, and publication credits. If you’re asking, “What if I don’t have any of those?” you’re not alone. A bio doesn’t need to be more than a paragraph and there is nothing wrong with approaching agents with no credentials. Mostly, an agent wants to know she’ll be dealing with a professional and that you’re willing and able to promote your book.