Skip to main content

Agent Michael Larsen on Starting Your Career (Part 3)

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.” 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 III of this guest column. Part I is here and Part II 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.


14. Be an authorpreneur: Speaker Sam Horn’s brilliant word which, for me, means:

  • having the entrepreneurial ability to create something out of nothing: an idea; a book that you can sell in more forms, media and countries than ever ; an international 365/24/7 business; and a career
  • coming up with ideas that you can sell in as many forms, media, and countries as possible
  • being responsible for your success
  • being unique by being creative in writing and promoting your books
  • being resourceful in meeting challenges
  • looking at everything you experience and reflexively wondering if there’s a way to use it to enrich your personal or professional life
  • using speed, creativity and flexibility to compensate for size
  • embracing and taking advantage of new information, technology, and opportunities created by accelerating change

15. Have courage: Believe in yourself and the value of your books. You will overcome the obstacles that await you.

16. Take the long view:
A writing career isn’t one book but ten or twenty, each better and more profitable than the last. So you have to balance and integrate your short- and long-term goals.

17. Grow yourself: You are the most important factor in your success. You have to challenge yourself to improve physically, mentally, spiritually, and professionally. You have to keep learning if you want to keep earning.

You are Needed Now: Creative, resourceful people keep proving that anything is possible, that we are limited only by our ideas and the time and resources we devote to developing them. The world needs all the information, inspiration, help and entertainment you can provide. Enjoy the journey and best of luck!

(This is part three on Michael's thoughts for writers and their career.Part I is here and Part II is here.)

Image placeholder title

Michael Larsen's book, How to Write a
Book
Proposal (now in its third edition) has
sold more
than 100,000 copies and
helped countless writers
sell their work.


Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Author Rimma Onoseta discusses how seeing other Black female authors on bookshelves encouraged her to finish writing her contemporary YA novel, How You Grow Wings.

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover Reveal

Writer's Digest is excited to announce our Sept/Oct 2022 issue featuring our Annual Literary Agent Roundup, an interview with NYT-bestselling YA horror novelist Tiffany D. Jackson, and articles about writing sinister stories.

Your Story #120

Your Story #120

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

Author Sarah Grunder Ruiz shares how she fits writing into her life and offers 5 tips on how to achieve a sustainable writing life as a parent.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 621

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

Why Is This Love Scene Here? How To Write Compelling Love Scenes

Why Is This Love Scene Here? How To Write Compelling Love Scenes

Not sure which way to turn when writing intimate scenes? Author Jo McNally shares how to write compelling love scenes that make sense for the story you’re writing.

How Can I Help You?

How Can I Help You?

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character is a high-end retail salesperson.

Phong Nguyen: On Freedom To Invent in Historical Fiction

Phong Nguyen: On Freedom To Invent in Historical Fiction

Award-winning author Phong Nguyen discusses his lifelong dream of writing his new historical fiction novel, Bronze Drum.

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

What happens to historical fiction when history repeats itself? Author Addison Armstrong discusses writing about the past and seeing it reflected in the present.