Agent Michael Larsen on Starting Your Career (Part 2)

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. (This is Part II of this guest column. Part I is here.)


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

7. Build communities: You can’t get your books right or make them succeed by yourself. Get the help you need by helping people and asking them to help you.

8. Develop your craft as a marketer:

  • Build your platform: your continuing visibility, online and off, with the readers for your books.
  • Build the communities you need to succeed.
  • Test-market your work: Maximize the value of your book by proving it will sell before trying to get it published.

9. Promote your work: Whether Random House publishes your books or you do, you will be the person most responsible for promoting them. Regard promotion as an essential part of your mission to spread your message.

10. Be passionate about your books: You want all of the people you meet to be as passionate about your work as you are. You are the well from which they will draw.

11. Make Mistakes: Jame Joyce said that “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” As long as you learn from your mistakes, you will make fewer of them. Eliminate failure as an option, and success is inevitable.

12. Staying committed to your writing and your career: No one will know or care as much about your books as you do. So you must be relentless but professional about writing and promoting them, and about building your presence in the industry and in your field.

13. Put your life in the service of your readers: The better you serve them, the more they’ll help you achieve your goals. If you want people to keep buying your books, establish and maintain a relationship with them. You have more ways to do that than ever.

(This is part two on Michael’s thoughts for writers and their career. More coming soon. Part I is here.)


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