I think this has to be the biggest or at least the most time consuming job of the agent. Finding the right market for a manuscript is like doing a great big jigsaw puzzle. Sadly, no agent has all the pieces and so must go hunting for them on occasion. Sometimes it’s not too difficult…the client has already done a little hunting of their own at conferences and has come home with those pieces all ready to go. (This is why we love it so much when writers go to conferences and talk about their novel to editors. Those requests are invaluable!)
The rest of the time is a process that is about as time consuming as pulling up the couch cushions and checking every inch of floor to see is the dog maybe tracked the sky pieces from your jigsaw into the kitchen.
The process goes something like this:.
I start with the novel. Once I’ve read it, I start looking for other books that similar in type and genre. This is why a client proposal is so important…they’ve already given me some leads. I also look for patterns…which publishers have taken on books like this one? I’ll do a little extra checking with Publisher’s Marketplace and Writer’s Digest as I make this list. And will even take a trip to the bookstore just to see what’s on the shelves right now (because, after all, we all need a good solid excuse to go to the bookstore).
Once I have that list of publishers I go to the database and see if we have any contacts with that house. When we do, it’s a simple matter to submit…isn’t it?
Not really. Submitting to a publishing house is a waste of time. Books are sold to editors so I need to have that appropriate editors name to send it to. Especially recently, there have been a lot of changes in the publishing houses. Jobs change, people move on, and sadly, company reorganization affects every level. Rather than send to someone who either isn’t there anymore or not in that department, I pick up the phone and begin the next stage of the process.
I start with the switchboard of the company…though finding the phone number can itself be a challenge in and of itself. From there I ask questions until I find someone who can tell me the name of the individual who would look at your book. This is a job that can take hours, requires leaving numerous messages from time to time, and on occasion never pans out at all. (Random House? Are you out there?) The payoff comes when the right person picks up the phone and not only has the name and contact information right at their fingertips…but want to hear about the project you’re thinking of sending to them. Here’s where thinking fast on your feet and being prepared to pitch comes in handy.
Long….grueling sometimes….but oh so satisfying when that piece is finally lying in the palm of your hand. At this point there is no way of knowing it this bit is going to fit with the manuscript you had in mind when you began…but you never know. Someday that right story is going to come along. And when it does, you’re ready to put it right where it belongs.
So that’s what it takes to make a sale? No, that’s what it takes to get the ball into play. Moving on beyond the submission? That’s a new topic for a new day.
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.–Mother Theresa