Imagine your place on the bookshelf of the future

Sam Copeland, literary agent

 

My main tip is: write a fantastic book and don’t worry about ‘how to get published’ blogs on the internet. That’s it. There’s no big secret, no cabbalistic set of rules that will allow the doors of publishing to swing open. Yes, if you write a terrible pitch letter it won’t help your cause. Yes, if you scribble your novel on crayon on kitchen towel it isn’t going to help your chances. But really – you shouldn’t worry about how to get your book published. Writing a fantastic book may seem obvious, but it’s the way to get published.  If a book is good enough, 99% of the time cream rises to the top. We all hear stories about books getting rejected 30 times – but they got published eventually.

 

The vast majority of books that get rejected by agents are fine. They aren’t terrible (although some are) – but they are nothing exceptional. But not exceptional is not good enough. Take a look at your book. What makes your book extraordinary? Different? And it’s no good saying ‘look at this book and that book I just read – they are ordinary.’ We all know that some ordinary books do indeed get published. It happens. But agents aren’t gatekeepers trying to stop the ordinary getting in. We are desperately searching for a wonderful book, willing the next email to contain a bestseller. Write a fantastic book and agents and publishers won’t care if you aren’t on Twitter or Facebook or you struggle to write a good synopsis.

 

And once you’ve done that, how to find the right agent? Never have agents and agencies been more public-facing. They are on twitter and Instagram. They are at festivals, where you can pitch to many directly. Many have websites that list the authors they represent, and many are still in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. It’s always best to target the best agent for your book rather than blindly sending to general submissions at an agency. So do your homework, research the agents and agencies that best suits your genre and that you’d most like to submit to. Once you’ve chosen the best agent, personalise your letter accordingly. Be friendly, professional and sell your book in your pitch letter. Good luck!