Things To Do AFTER You Get an Agent

Readers of this column who are seeking representation by an agent often feel as though they’re in a valley, with a mountain before them that looks like Everest.  If they have an agent and are awaiting a decision from an editor or pub board, they may get the impression they’ve moved to a camp halfway to the summit. And Sir Edmund Hillary never experienced more joy at planting his flag atop Everest than is felt by the writer who has that longed-for contract safe in his/her hands.

Richard is excited to give away a free copy of his latest novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Nancy won.)

     


Guest column by Dr. Richard Mabry, who retired
from medicine after building a worldwide reputation
as a clinician, researcher, and teacher. He is the author
of the Prescription For Trouble series of medical thrillers,
which began with Code Blue in 2010 and most recently
added Diagnosis: Death in April 2011. He is represented
by Rachelle Gardner. You can learn more about
him at his website.

 

For most of us, it’s a long climb and there’s a lot of waiting involved. Are there things we can do, other than writing, to make the time we spend more productive? You bet. Here are some lessons I learned in my own climb toward a publishing contract. I hope you’ll find them useful.

DON’T BE A ONE-TRICK PONY

Agents and publishers don’t envision you as the author of just one book. They’re interested in your career as a writer. It takes time to get a contract offer, and by the time my first one came along, I had already written a draft of my second book. By having it ready, with the skeleton of a third sketched out, I landed an additional two-book contract before my first book ever saw the light of day. Even while you’re editing that first book, work on the second. Try to stay one book ahead. Editors will love you for it.

BUILD A PLATFORM BEFORE YOU NEED IT

A platform for a writer is a necessary marketing tool, and if you wait until you have a contract to build one, you’re already behind the curve. Having your platform in place with a cadre of followers, even if it’s a small start, strengthens your case with a potential agent or publisher. I started my blog long before I got my first contract. On it, I posted about my writing journey, included tips on the craft gleaned from experts, and occasionally featured interviews with established authors. I also established a Twitter and Facebook presence. Why? Name recognition. A reader who sees a familiar name on a book cover might be more inclined to buy it. And, of course, a website is a necessity when you have a book out. Why not build yours before that happens?

START MARKETING YOURSELF

You may say, “I’m a writer.” You don’t know anything about marketing. Besides, doesn’t the publisher handle that? Perhaps that was once true, but in the modern era of publishing the author has to take an active role in marketing their books. How do you do this when you don’t have a book published?  You begin by marketing yourself, not just to potential readers but to agents and editors as well.

In addition to your own blog and a presence on Twitter and Facebook, visit other blogs. Leave comments, but avoid making them self-serving and promotional. Your goal is to establish name recognition. If an agent or editor sees your proposal and already has a mental image of you as someone who follows the blogs they do and makes intelligent comments, what can it hurt?

CULTIVATE THE GUARDIANS OF BOOKS

Make the acquaintance of librarians and bookstore managers. Let them know who you are. Leave a card. Offer to do a signing after your book is published. Do this so that when that big day arrives, they’ll know who the person behind the cover picture is.

When your book is published, give a signed copy to your local librarian. They are asked for recommendations all the time. Do the same for the bookstore managers you’ve already called on. Buy and offer stickers that say, “Local author.” Many bookstores and libraries love that designation.

Spread your net. At my first writer’s conference, I was in awe of the published writers on the faculty. But as I got to know them, I discovered they were neat people, and I formed a number of lasting friendships. Later, many of those authors provided blurbs and endorsements for my books. I didn’t set out with that goal and neither should you, but it turned out to be a wonderful benefit of networking with other writers.

GET TO KNOW AGENTS AND EDITORS

I don’t mean you should stalk them, far from it, but take advantage of opportunities to interact with them. One of the editors I met at my first conference rejected my manuscript, but we seemed to hit it off. Now she’s my agent. In this business, you never know.

KEEP GOING

And most important, keep writing! Sir Edmund Hillary didn’t turn back, didn’t give up, and he ended up at the top. I wish you the same kind of success in your climb.

Richard is excited to give away a free copy of his latest novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Nancy won.)

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20 thoughts on “Things To Do AFTER You Get an Agent

  1. OR DESIGN glassworks

    Congrats on your accomplishments, Dr Mabry! I appreciate your sage advice, Dr Mabry, and will forward your insights to both my eldest daughter and my sister, who are aspiring writers. I would love to win your book; and will look for your novels at our local booksellers – I am very intrigued! 🙂 And as my bro-in-law is an anesthetist, think he may be enticed to take a few minutes from his busy schedule to read your novels!

  2. Robert Eilers

    Awesome 100% spot on advice. I’m glad to see that all those years I dabbled in internet marketing might finally pay off. Though I’m nowhere near ready to start "chasing after" agents, the experience of the blogging community is completely enjoyable. Plus you have to realize that the blogging and commenting is just more writing practice. The more you do it the better you’ll become. Thanks for a great post.

  3. Ella

    What a great post! Thank you. Working on that second draft while you are waiting is good professional advice, but it’s also important for your sanity. Having all your eggs in one basket = bad. Being occupied with something else and continuing to grow as an author = good.

  4. Richard Mabry

    Nancy, thanks for your kind words about my books (and your nice reviews). I can’t tell you how helpful that is for an author, on so many levels.
    Cathy, use stories about those toddlers to build a blog audience. You’d be amazed how much interest they can generate.
    Jodi, don’t know how much wisdom I shared, but I appreciate your comment. Good luck on your agent hunt.
    Beth, thanks so much for your description of what I posted as "straightforward." That’s my aim, and I appreciate hearing that perhaps I’ve hit the target.
    Nikki, you’re right. Twitter and Facebook can take over your life. I check them a few times a day, but sometimes I just have to turn them off and write. How to those people find the time?
    Thanks to everyone who’s left a comment, and to Chuck for letting me borrow his readership.

  5. Nikki

    All great tips. Been thinking about websites and such. Don’t have much time for twitter and facebook though. While easy to use, sometimes they require a bit of time investment….

    Thanks for the article.

  6. Cathy

    Good stuff, Dr.!

    With 2 toddlers underfoot, and a new-ish blog, I’m a long way from even starting a book, I’m afraid – but I love reading advice like this, anyway.

    Thanks!

  7. Nancy Carty Lepri

    This gives wonderful suggestions, Dr. Mabry. Now I just have to find an interested agent! <G>

    For the record to other who are reading these comments…I have read and reviewed two of Dr. Mabry’s novels and have to say, they are fabulous. If you like "clean" medical thrillers with lots of suspense and wonderful prose, be sure to read these. You will NOT be disappointed.

  8. Richard Mabry

    Charlene, it’s tough to make yourself write, but tougher still to get published if you don’t.

    Katherine, when you get your agent and your first contract, let me know and we’ll celebrate yet another Mt. Hermon alum making it!

    Shauna, I didn’t set out to have a book in reserve while the queries were working, but it turned out to be a good thing.

    Debra, got my fingers crossed for you. And Chuck’s a great guy, isn’t he?

    Sue, it’s disappointing to find that publishers expect to make a profit, isn’t it? You’d think they’d be more considerate of us poor writers.

    Thanks, all, for your comments. Keep ’em coming.

  9. Debra Lynn Lazar

    I’m about to go on submission for the first time, and I’m joyfully terrified. I love my blog and, in fact, if it weren’t for Twitter, my agent and I wouldn’t have hooked up. Great advice! (Waves to Chuck!)

  10. Shauna Campbell

    Great article. Especially helpful was the one trick pony tip. I imagine once the "hurry up and wait" cycle starts it would be hard to catch up. Better to start out ahead.

  11. Katherine Hyde

    Great post, Richard! I hope to be able to put your advice into practice someday in its intended context. 🙂 Actually, though, I’m doing those things now, before getting an agent. It’s never too soon!

  12. Charlene Dietz

    Sigh. You’re right. The voice in my head tells me those skimpy little ideas for a prequel and sequel need to be polished, even though the five chapters at the end of my manuscript scream "revise" (even after eight years of on going revision). My platform wobbles because it only has one leg, the leg that hold the idea of something I must do. Blog? More writing? But I’m glued to this chair as it is~~ Thanks, Dr. Richard M. Nice wake-up call, and I’ve over slept. I’m sharing your excellent article on my facebook wall for my other writer friends to read.

  13. Richard Mabry

    Stephanie, much as I and most other writers would like to ignore the business side of the publishing industry, times have changed and we have to change with them. Glad you liked my post.

    Jennifer, you’re right. Platform is now for all writers, not just non-fiction authors. Keep working on that blog. You’ll be glad you did.

    And Chuck, thanks for letting me share with your audience. Always a pleasure.

  14. Jennifer Jensen

    Thanks, Dr. Mabry. I’ve had the feeling I need to build a platform, something that I had previously thought was necessary for non-fiction writers only. The more things like this I read, the more I’m encouraged to spread my wings. A writer’s blog is in the works!

  15. Stephanie Allen Crist

    That’s a great list! Personally I’m not quite ready to seek an agent, but I’m already doing some of those things. From what I’ve been told, they can help you land an agent, too!

    You can’t ignore the business side of writing, even when you’re just getting started, because it can take a while to build a following and you’re going to need it!

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