Are you feeling confused about publishing advice? Let’s chat!
We’ve gathered together a few of the recent questions we’ve heard from you and the (actual) truths to reveal from Lucinda:
Q: I’m told certain works are more marketable than others as a first-time author. But I can’t decide which of my books is more marketable. Can I submit two works at the same time?
Lucinda: I don’t recommend it. You should query the agent most appropriate for one of your books. You could even A/B test and query another list of agents relevant to the other book, and see what gets the most traction.
The first book you write should lean into what your audience wants from you, and the big idea: something new and different that doesn’t duplicate what’s already out there.
Q: How has publishing changed since the pandemic? Is there a backlog of submissions to review?
Lucinda: There’s always been a backlog, and yes, it’s increasingly tougher to break in. While every literary agency and publisher have unique guidelines and processes for handling submissions, our actual interests vary only slightly. Our means of communication has also changed in recent years of working virtually.
Here’s a quick tip: if there isn’t a particular format for a subject line required by an agency, these are important. Nonfiction writers: a quick line about your credentials and a specific snapshot of the book you’re pitching could get immediate attention. Nonfiction and fiction writers alike: your title needs to be stand-out!
Q: I’m told I need a social media following of millions to get a book deal. Is that true?
Lucinda: While publishers are increasingly looking for your online visibility, and certain types of books (like memoir or self-help) rely on having “proof of concept,” there are plenty of books sold with modest platforms. Book acquisitions are less a science than an affair of the heart. We discuss these fully in our marketing workshops and courses, but in brief, be encouraged that a popular topic with a new spin, a big idea, will find its home. And for novelists, we’re looking at your work; your platform is a bonus.
Q: At what stage should I reach out to agents?
Lucinda: For fiction, your manuscript should be fully baked, and ideally edited by a professional. For nonfiction, this isn’t at all the case. Instead, present a compelling proposal: a sales document that yes, showcases your writing, but is more about your topic’s appeal and the natural audience for your book. I understand that it’s difficult to assess when you’re actually done! My best recommendation is to get an expert’s look.
Q: I’ve heard I shouldn’t follow up with agents. Is that true?
Lucinda: Yes, the guidelines will say we’ll be in touch upon interest. BUT if there’s an update to share—ie. you’ve bylined an article or been featured in the media; you’ve had requests for material from agents; or a popular “lookalike” book is performing well—these are all reasons to follow up on your query, and gives you a stronger chance of someone reading it.
Since email is now king, I also recommend strategic follow up: through social media, an agency assistant, there are so many ways to be creative and get attention.
Publishing doesn’t have to be so confusing. Let us know what else is on your mind!