Skip to main content

Agent Michael Larsen on Starting Your Career (Part 2)

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. 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.

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.)

Image placeholder title

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.)


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ignoring Your Characters’ Desires

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ignoring Your Characters’ Desires

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ignoring your characters’ desires.

Listening to Ghosts: 7 Metaphysical Experiments for Writing Support

Listening to Ghosts: 7 Metaphysical Experiments for Writing Support

Author Coco Picard shares 7 different out-of-body writing experiments to help you through the writing process.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dance Time

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dance Time

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters dance.

Convention-al Wisdom: Why I Love Attending Cons as a Writer

Convention-al Wisdom: Why I Love Attending Cons as a Writer

Russell James shares how convention act as more than networking events for writers, but as an opportunity to be face-to-face with your readers, to make new friends, and more.

Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

Writer Alicia Thompson discusses what she learned about herself in writing her new romance novel, Love in the Time of Serial Killers.

Examples of Hooks for Books

60 Examples of Hooks for Books

This post collects 60 examples of hooks for books. Also called elevator pitches, these book hooks show real-life examples in a variety of writing genres for fiction and nonfiction books.

How To Turn Artifacts and Research Into a Family Memoir

How To Turn Artifacts and Research Into a Family Memoir

A century’s old family heirloom acted as a clue to the past for author Cornelia Maude Spelman. Here, she shares how to turn artifacts and research into a family memoir.

Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

Author and publisher Miriam Parker discusses her surprise at writing her new novel, Room and Board.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 622

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a story poem.