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Neubauer's Nuggets
By Joan R. Neubauer
June, 2006, 23:37

Each month, award-winning author Joan R. Neubauer answers questions from you, her readers. She will answer questions about writing, promotion, publishing, and any other aspect of the publishing industry you can think of. Send your questions to her at Subject: Neubauer Nuggets, and maybe yours will be the question she answers next month.

Dear Joan,

I have a great book, and I know I could sell it if I could only get an agent. How do I get one?

Dearborn, Michigan

Dear John,

Everyone wants an agent, but believe it or not, you donít have to have one, unless youíre trying to sell your book to one of the larger houses. Smaller houses will review unagented material if you approach them in the right way. Having said that, there is a variety of ways to get an agent. You could begin by asking any of your friends who have agents. Ask who their agent is, how they like working with them, and if they represent the type of material you write. If you get positive answers on all counts, ask if you may use your friendís name as a reference if you choose to query that particular agent. Donít get upset if your friend doesnít give you permission.

Query the agent anyway, but donít mention your friend. Strike out there on your own. The best way to get an agent is to meet face to face. Many writersí conferences bring in literary agents to meet with participants, and if you can attend any of these, you might just hit gold; that is, an agent you feel comfortable with and who represents the type of thing you write. If the agent feels the same way, he or she may invite you to send part or all of your manuscript for review. Send it as soon as you get home.

Of course, you could purchase any one of the various books on the market that list agents, what they represent, and their likes and dislikes. One such book is Jeff Hermanís Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents. Each listing delineates exactly how to contact them and what to send. Follow these directions to the letter.

If all of these tactics earn you nothing but negative responses, you still have one more option, and itís pretty nifty. Do all your research. Figure out which agent youíd choose for yourself if you could have any agent in the world. Stay up to date and then go sell your novel to a publishing house, any house. Then call that agent. Your conversation will go something like this.

ďHello, Iím Jane Doe. You donít know me, but Iíve just sold my novel to ABC Publishing. Would you represent me?Ē Unless the agent receiving your call is a total dunderhead, you can bet youíll get a resounding, ďYes!Ē The legwork is done, and all they have to do is negotiate a deal, out of which theyíll earn 15 percent.

ďBut why do I want an agent now? Iíve already sold the book,Ē you may ask. Well, you may want an agent now to represent you and your future projects to bigger houses for bigger money.

Good luck,

Dear Joan,

As requested by the publisher, I queried an editor about my book online. She is interested in seeing more and asked me to submit my manuscript online as an attachment. A query is one thing, but the whole manuscript is another. Iím not entirely comfortable with this method. What if a hacker were to get my manuscript?

Joplin, Missouri

Dear Carol,

These days, online submissions are very common. In fact, at WordWright, we request online submissions as well. Email cuts down on paper and postage costs, and doesnít add to the clutter present in most offices. In addition, if the editor decides to buy your manuscript, she already has in a format that she can work with. Plus, you can get an instant confirmation of receipt. As for hackers stealing your work, donít worry about that. Hackers always look for social security numbers, credit card numbers, and that sort of thing. Even if they happen upon your file flinging its way through Cyberspace, they wonít recognize it as anything they can use and let it go. Relax. Donít stress over sending your manuscript over the Internet. In the future, nearly every publisher will want things submitted electronically, and if you canít or wonít comply, you wonít sell.

Now get out there and hit the send key!

JoanIN Icon

Joan R. Neubauer is an author and works as a publisher at Visit her website at email at or You can sign up for WordWright's monthly email newsletter at the site as well.

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