Tuesday, November 24, 2015

3 TIPS for Obtaining a Literary Agent

Everyone would agree that the journey to becoming a successful author whether independently or via representation takes guts and guile. Book publicist and literary agent Dawn Michelle Hardy has spent the past thirteen years building the platforms and launching the writing careers of many authors in both fiction and non-fiction. An energetic publishing professional Dawn has dual careers in the industry. As the founder of Dream Relations, PR & Literary Consulting Agency she creates and manages publicity campaigns for a variety of authors who are either with a house or self published. As an Associate Agent with Serendipity Literary Agency she negotiates deals, creates book concepts and manages the writing careers of her clients.

Here are 3 ways that she suggest a writer could go about obtaining an agent, note some of these are ways that she has built her roster at Serendipity Literary Agency.

Strike Up a Smart Social Media Conversation: Now-a-days most literary agents and agencies have Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram profiles. Following and engaging literary agents is a good way to connect virtually. One night I was in a social media mood and I began tweeting for about an hour about my experience as a new agent and the type of projects I was looking for. I shared how my background in publicity served useful. My ideal clients would be members of the media, folks who I knew were strong writers and had established relationships in their respective fields.  During these tweets an editor-in-chief from a national lifestyle magazine reached out and said he’d love to talk to me offline regarding some book ideas he had from his decade as an entertainment journalist.  This exchange resulted in us meeting and discussing his work. He became my first client and my first deal was his book, Nicki Minaj: Hip-Hop Moments for Life by Isoul Harris (Omnibus Press 2012).

If You Write They Will Come: Most people who meet me learn in the first 10 minutes of interaction that I love sports.  Basketball, football, baseball, the Olympics, marathons, etc. As a sports fan I read up on my favorite teams and players. One day I read an article about a 16-time NBA All-Star and his fall from grace. I was truly heartbroken. I looked and saw the article was shared over 20k times. I did my research and contracted the journalist from the Washington Post who wrote the piece. I introduced myself as an agent with Serendipity who enjoyed his article. We talked for an hour about the former point guard of the Philadelphia 76ers, Allen Iverson. The journalist explained he had always considered writing a book someday, but didn’t have a subject in mind. I said write about Allen Iverson, I know this will sell! Not a Game: The Incredible Rise & Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Kent Babb published June 2015 with Atria/Simon & Schuster. Keep writing. Agents and editors are always looking for strong writers with established audiences in place.  Write well, build your audience and we will  find you.

The Industry Co-Sign: Do you know of anyone who has already garnered an agent and a book deal? Do you have any friends who work in the publishing industry, at a book store, for a magazine, etc? First person referrals are one of the top 3 ways I prefer to get new clients as an agent. Any one of my clients can refer someone to me and I will gladly take a look at that person’s content. Why? My clients already have an understanding of what I am looking for and they fully understand how I work as an agent. If they send someone my way, they already know the person is a credible pen that they themselves would co-sign for.

The Reasoning: Do you want to be prosperous or popular from your book?  You must be clear on why you are really doing this. It will determine the direction you go to promote and distribute your title. You need to know the answer to why you are taking the time, resources and energy to pen a book.

The Competition: Take a moment to shop the current books in the market that have been written on your topic or targeted toward your audience. Is your book unique? How does it compare to what’s already been done?

The Audience: No matter how worthy you believe your subject matter is, every person that reads books will not buy/read yours. Define your audience so that your message and outreach can be clearly understood. Many self-published authors make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin and never really capitalize on their target audience. Make a primary and secondary list of who your readers are.

The Cost: There are multiple ways to self-publish including print-on-demand or selling e-books only. Do your due diligence and research the most cost effective way to introduce your book to the market. A living room full of boxes of books can be somewhat disturbing if you haven’t fully considered all the cost involved to move the units.

Dawn Michelle Hardy is the recipient of the 2010 “Book Publicist of the Year” honor awarded by African Americans on the Move Book Club. Dawn Michelle has worked with bestselling authors Teri Woods, Danielle Santiago, Miasha, Kiki Swinson, Niobia Bryant and a host of others.
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