Agent Michael Larsen on Starting Your Career (Part 1)

Anne Lamott begins a chapter of her wonderful book Bird by Bird like this: There’s an old New Yorker cartoon of two men sitting on a couch at a busy cocktail party, having a quiet talk. One man has a beard and looks like a writer. The other seems like a normal person. The writer type is saying to the other: “We’re still pretty far apart. I’m looking for a six-figure advance, and they’re refusing to read the manuscript.” If you find yourself pretty far apart from publishers, perhaps you need to consider using the following building blocks to construct your career as a successful author:

Michael Larsen and his wife Elizabeth Pomada
founded Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in
San Francisco. They
are AAR members

and have sold books to more than 100
publishers. Michael is the author or co-author
of How to Write a Book Proposal

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. He runs
a new agent blog, as well. To see the
nonfiction topics he seeks, click here.

1. Read: Ernie Gaines, author of the Oprah book club selection, A Lesson Before Dying, believes that you can only write as well as you read. So read what you love to read and write what you love to read. Reading will enable you to establish criteria for your books. Also read about authors you admire to learn how they succeeded.

2. Establish models for your books and your career: Choose those that most inspire you.

3. Understand how publishers and agents work: You want the best editor, publisher, and deal for your books. Having a positive but realistic perspective on the business will help you find the right publisher for you and your book, and an agent if you decide to hire one.

4. Set personal and professional goals: Establish goals that keep you motivated to do all you can to achieve them.

5. Practice nichecraft: You can write any kind of book on any subject. But a faster way to build a career is to come up with an idea for a series of related books that sell each other and that you will be passionate about writing and promoting.

6. Develop your craft as a writer:
Make every word count for your readers. Find early readers to help you make sure your work is 100% before submitting it.

(This is part one on Michael’s thoughts for writers and their career. More coming soon.)


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