by Mandy Hubbard
So here’s the truth– keep in mind I’m talking about fiction here– Non-Fiction has a lot to do with platform so things are different in that field.
MYTH: You need to spend months or years trying to amass writing credits.
TRUTH: Most agents gloss right over that stuff. Just because you wrote an article for a magazine doesn’t mean you can write a whole book. Sure, they can be nice. Go ahead and freelance if you like it or want to try and earn $$. But don’t think it’s the only path to publishing novels. It’s not.
MYTH: You need to get a referral or some kind of “in” in order to get noticed.
TRUTH: The stats can be scary– most agents request 5-10% of the queries they read and only offer rep to a scant few. But guess what? There are some pretty awesome stats out there proving that SLUSH WORKS.
I conducted a poll on twitter– I simply asked agented writers to respond and tell me if they snagged their agent via a cold-query (no connections) or if they had some kind of a referral, publishing credits, etc. And guess what? 58 people had NO credits or connections whatsoever. Only 6 people got their agent via a referral from a client or impressive credentials. Yes, you read that right– MORE than 90% of those writers snagged an agent with the tried-and-true query letter.
MYTH: Your work doesn’t fit the trends, so no one is going to want it.
TRUTH: To be honest? Books that are totally outside the trends often stand out the most, because when I’m reading slush it’s like FANTASY FANTASY FANTASY REALISTIC FANTASY FANTASY. (And by fantasy I am lumping in paranormal, UF, etc).
MYTH: You need to hire an editor before submitting your work.
TRUTH: I actually don’t know any one who paid a freelance editor before beginning submissions/being published. Find critique partners at the same place in their career and swap manuscripts. I learned as much from critiquing as I did from receiving critiques, and I made lifelong writer friends. (This is not to say freelance eds aren’t awesome in their own right. But don’t despair over the $$ needed if you don’t have it.)
MYTH: You need to spend a lot of $$ going to conferences because that’s where most agents find their clients.
TRUTH: Again, the slush works. If you can’t afford conferences, skip ’em! They can be fun for socializing and you can learn a lot, but it really and truly does not cost a dime to be published (with the exception being postage if an agent wants material snail-mailed.)
So, I hope this helps dispel the myths that you need to know someone, or pay a lot of money, in order to be noticed. I know dozens and dozens of debut authors– some who sold in major deals (over $500K) who had pretty unassuming day jobs and knew NO ONE in publishing before snagging an agent and a book deal.
The writing is the only thing that matters. Write a damn good book, and it’ll rise above.
Agent, D4EO Lit
Author, Prada & Prejudice (2009) You Wish (2010) But I Love him (May 2011) and RIPPLE (July 2011).