Pitching Your Dream Work to a Literary Agent

Pitching Your Dream Work to a Literary Agent
Nitish Raj is the Co-Founder of Literia Insight and Editor-in-Chief at The Literary Mirror

Pitching Your Dream Work to a Literary Agent

No matter how much we have sweated in giving a shape to our masterful creation which we hardly shy to claim as our dream work, it doesn’t get the requisite life unless it is published. Ask any writer who has completed a manuscript and is eager to give it a form of a book, he or she will tell you at lengths, the perils and problems of getting published! Even our ‘all-time friend’ Google seems to ditch us like an opportune acquaintance. Alas! It’s not the most popular search engine’s fault. Once we hit the search button and await the magic lamp to enlighten us with all the relevant information about publishing, we are only left confused, and flooded with publishing jargons like ‘Self-Publishing’, ‘Boutique Publishing’, ‘eBook Publishing’, ‘Traditional Publishing’, ‘Hybrid Publishing’ and many more, which is enough to spin our head like a hangover gone wrong.

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After countless nights where our sleep and patience have gone for a toss, we are finally able to at least have a bird’s eye view of these jargons, and we feel intelligent enough not to look like an idiot amidst our fellow writers. Even though we turn to our fellow writers who claim to be our ‘friend in distress’, we hardly have a clue that they are far from being aware of the publishing industry. Even when we make several random calls to different publishing houses, it doesn’t serve our purpose as either these publishing houses do not entertain us, or others who are ready to pounce at us and plaster their so-called ‘Customized Publishing Package’ which is surely going to create a big hole in our pocket. Alternatively, with our general knowledge and a few wise suggestions from our literary friends, we are introduced to the concept of literary agents who help us in getting our manuscript transformed into a published book. Once again, we start to grind ourselves on Google to initiate a list of literary agents who could help us in this process.

But the Million-Dollar Question is that how should we pitch our work to a literary agent?

We need to understand that a ‘Literary Agent’ is not just an agent as the name suggests, but a friend in the literary ocean who holds our hand and acts as a guiding light in our pursuit of relishing our dream of being etched in the minds of our readers. This friend is not just ready to help us in getting our dream work published, but also represent us and act as a torchbearer. At this juncture, there is an obvious question arising, ‘Why should they represent us’? Why should the agency invest their years-long experience topped with insurmountable efforts just to represent us? Is our so-called ‘dream work’ really a dream work or is it just an infatuation drawn out of a literary hangover?

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We would certainly love to have our dream work being represented by the best literary agents. To attain this, we should make sure that our manuscript is in a top-notch condition. We are not allowed to do a ‘hit and trial’ with our manuscript. Our manuscript should be well-polished and professionally edited by the experts of the industry. We cannot commit the cardinal sin of getting our dream edited by our friends, family, and well-wishers just because they are close to our heart and would spectacle us with cornered eyes, or just because they are a faculty of English or Hindi or whatever language you are writing in any distant college of the country. It is needless to say that there is a stark difference between an amateur and a professional.

Once we are completely confident of our manuscript, we need to headhunt the appropriate literary agent considering our genre. Just because any literary agent has represented your ideal author or any Mr. Coelho or Mrs. Roth; it never means that he would be the best literary agent for you. It might also happen that the particular literary agent representing your genre might not be accepting new manuscripts at that moment as he is already busy representing his existing authors. Just avoid sending bulk emails to all the literary agents!

After finalizing your literary agent just do thorough research on the requirements raised by them. Do not stick to the general information available on their official website. You must try to get a crystal-clear picture of their existing authors, apart from their customized requirements, and find out the time frame within which they reply. Indeed! You would not love to have your sanity going for a toss in the hope of getting a reply from your literary agent. Even though, the normal time for a standard reply is 10-12 weeks but it could vary from agent to agent. We should keep in mind that we need to avoid such literary agents who do not bother to reply to our query, be it a rejection mail or an acceptance letter. Why would you waste your efforts on such an agent who is not even interested in typing a rejection mail to you?

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Usually, literary agents ask for a Synopsis of your manuscript, Sample chapters, Author’s bio, and a Query letter; we need to have all these things ready and enhanced before writing to the literary agent. We should keep in mind that a synopsis should not exceed a maximum of 500 words (unless asked otherwise) and our author’s bio should not exceed 300 words. Our author’s bio should never contain our hobby, or which award we had won in painting or singing at the school level or a kitty party in your locality. A literary agent is hardly bothered about such things! You need to have a crisp bio where you can give a brief glimpse of your life added with your literary contributions, no matter how minuscule they appear to your eyes. For sample chapters, provide the first three chapters of your manuscript. And yes! The prologue is also a chapter. Once you have been armed with all these aspects, you are ready to pitch your masterpiece to your literary agent.

A literary agent asks for a Query Letter/Cover Letter. A Query Letter is basically a request to a literary agent to let him represent you. The first thing to care for is that you are approaching the right agent. In case you are sending your Cover Letter directly to the office of a literary agent, send it by post rather than trying to hand him personally. In this age of digitization, most literary agents ask for a query letter, so we should be twice assured that we have the right email id of the concerned literary agent. Each word in our query letter should be very specific, as 90% of the query letters are rejected just after reading the first 2-3 lines. So, we should focus on writing a query letter with utmost precision that has the potential to grab the literary agent’s attention. After sending the query letter, we need to wait patiently as we cannot make the Himalayan blunder of poking them every now and then. Indeed! No one wants to be poked and we also would not like to be categorized as a kid!

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About the Columnist

A Literary Critic turned Author, Nitish Raj is the Co-Founder of Literia Insight and Editor-in-Chief at The Literary Mirror. Through his incessant passion for literature, Mr. Raj has made a mark for himself in the field of literature in the past 8 years. He has portrayed multiple literary attributes in various capacities such as an Acclaimed Author of two books, a Literary Critic, an Opinion Editorial and a Columnist for modern and post-modern literature, a Feminist, and a Thinker.

Resonating his creativity with the common masses, he has contributed to both English and Hindi literature. Having been published and featured at multiple prominent media houses of both national and international repute, he has been an eminent speaker at prestigious institutions like IITs, IIM Lucknow, and NIT Silchar. He has been invited as Host to International Conference on Multi-Disciplinary Research, Mumbai, and as Guest Poet at International Poetry Conference, Tunisia (Africa). Mr. Raj has crafted his art to become a guiding force for new and existing authors through Literia Insight.

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