This is the one blog post every writer hopes to write, right up there with ‘How I got a multi-book deal’ or ‘How I got a movie deal’ or ‘How I became the No.1 Best-Selling Author in Our Solar System’.
It’s also one post that, unfortunately, few writers get to write, for a number of reasons – that’s another post all-together. The point of this is to share what helped me get the opportunities I have.
If you follow me on social media (links below) or subscribe to my mailing list(s) then you know that I was recently offered representation by Inkitt on my novel The Esper Files. Long story short, they hosted a competition; I entered said competition. Through some weird black magic I managed to fool them into thinking the novel is great, and now here we are, ready to go to the big leagues with this book.
The book that I made up…
It’s still unbelievable, and to be honest I’m kinda waiting to hear a giant alarm clock go off in the background, waking me up from this dream, only to find myself in a straight jacket as a nurse named Earl tries to feed me my “happy times” meds.
Wow, that got dark.
Anyway, my point is, I wanted to write this to highlight the main steps that led me from making something up to eventually presenting it to professionals.
STEP 1: Write a Good Book
Actually scratch that. Write a GREAT book. In today’s market, having a good story is just the bare minimum. And I don’t mean great in terms of volume. I mean, you can, don’t get me wrong. I love Patrick Rothfuss as much as the next guy, even though I still maintain that The Wise Man’s Fear gave me carpal tunnel. (It’s so good, you guys, so good!)
What I mean by great is ‘take your time’. Get those 10,000 hours in. Learn your craft. Despite what I said above I did not just pull The Esper Files out of my ass. It took 3 years of full time writing and 7 novels to get to this point. We live in an era of instant gratification and there has never been a greater killer of literature as the childish need to have your shit RIGHT THIS SECOND!
And this advice comes from me, the guy who advocates that any professional writer should publish at least 2 things per year, be they books or otherwise.
So take your time. Marinate a little in your story. Oh, and have a friend take a look at it. Maybe someone who knows a thing or two about writing, and is not afraid to make you cry by tearing your pages in half. You know who you are.
STEP 2: Let It Go
No, not the Disney song.
99% of all writers will hold back on putting their work out there, be it querying to agents or submitting it to a competition (as I did).
After months of rejection letters (I’m still getting them now, bdw. Although now I just laugh maniacally at them) I finally gave in a put up The Esper Files on Inkitt’s site for the Sky Bound sci-fi competition. They said the prize was a publishing deal. As someone who was with a small press before, I was skeptical.
In fact, anyone with their head out of their ass should be skeptical.
(Note: STEP 2.1: Get Head Out of Ass.)
Eventually I won the contest and was contacted by the company. I was of the attitude of ‘whatever happens, happens’. If this worked out, great – if not, I don’t lose anything since I considered The Esper Files as a guinea pig of sorts. (More on that later.)
So, yeah, if you want an agent let go of your story.
And now that stupid song is gonna be in my head for the rest of the day.
STEP 3: Be Professional
How? Good question.
This is one of those terms which had a zillion different meanings. In my book (hah, see what I did there?) this is all about attitude. It’s about understanding your place and what you want out of this partnership.
And yes, an agent is a partner – as is a publisher for that matter. No one is a god here, no one is omnipotent, and no one will guarantee that your book will be a best-seller.
And that’s awesome. That puts you in a position of equality: you provide the product, they sell it. It’s like Breaking Bad but without the drugs, unless you count the obscene amounts of coffee we consume.
Professionalism also means standing up for yourself. I don’t mean aggressively; I mean know what you want out of this partnership. During my very first meeting with the Inkitt team (I was so nervous) I basically told them where I ultimately saw The Esper Files series going, and they agreed with me. Then they proposed some business-y stuff (I can’t say anything about this… Hello, sniper on the roof) and I agreed with them about it.
See? Partnership. Professionals.
Now where’s my coffee, dammit?
STEP 4: Know your S*it
Apart from being adept at writing you story, it would also behoove you to learn a thing or two about marketing. I know that word makes writers everywhere recoil in horror (and maybe hiss a few times) but hear me out:
There is a crap-ton of competition these days. There shouldn’t be, because if you do the math right you’ll find that authors working together will yield the most results, but I suppose that our monkey brain at work.
I recently read an article that scared the living daylight out of me. I don’t have the URL anymore but in one of the points this “professional person working in the field of literature and publishing” stated that from a business perspective it doesn’t make sense for publishers to take on unknown authors, not when they can publish some rock star’s biography and have a sure fire hit on their hands.
Think about that for a second. Think about what it implies.
I also read a few amazon statistics, because as a self-published author it’s part of my job to know what’s going on in my world. I know that Amazon makes a f*ck-ton of money from self-published author (who mostly write fiction).
But what that article doesn’t make sense in that, if publishers don’t take on new guys, they will die out. Everyone gets old, and everyone dies eventually (wow, remember when this post was funny?). So yeah, don’t believe all you read, this post included.
Having a fanbase is not the most important thing, but if you can get one, it will REALLY help. I mean, REALLY. This year I worked hard at cultivating a fanbase and it paid off.
How you ask? Well, by telling those people to vote for me on Inkitt’s competition. Which I won… and got a contract out of.
STEP 5: Happy Dance Time
Fairly self-explanatory. Personally I like to mix shuffling with the Hammer Dance but I’m also pasty white and have the rhythm of gazelle on a sheet of ice.
But I try. Hey, don’t judge. I try.
So there it is, the story of how I got my agent, plus a few jokes and maybe some teachable moments.
PS. If you wanna see the AWESOME new cover for The Esper Files, check out this link and vote which one you prefer.