How to Contact an Agent.
Not too many years ago, an author would type the last page of her book, pack the
manuscript into a typing-paper box, add a cover letter and return postage, then send it by
library rate to the publisher. Some of those books actually got into print; a few of them
even became best-sellers.
But that was then. This is the twenty-first century, where most unsolicited manuscripts
are returned, unread, to the authors. The “blind send” method worked for decades, but the
publishing world has changed.
So how do you get your book into the hands of an editor or agent now? By writing what
amounts to a hot advertisement for your work. This advertisement is called a “query
letter,” and your job is to create one that hooks an editor’s attention. Some literary agents
say you should present such a clear picture of your book that they can “glance and bite.”
Your first paragraph and book description should so engage the editor or agent that he
can’t wait to read the book. Your query letter should be a piece of verbal dynamite that
will excite that editor or agent about your project. You have one page to make that all
Agent or Publisher?
If your book is nonfiction, you can probably find some publishers who look at unsolicited
queries in your field. A nonfiction query can unlock the gate to publishers who will
accept proposals for nonfiction books.
If you’re a novelist, you may be able to do the same, particularly if your book is literary
fiction, aimed at smaller presses. But mainstream and genre novels sell best when they
are marketed to publishers by an agent.