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Things To Do AFTER You Get an Agent

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 ITA 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.

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.)

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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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