How to Make Literary Agents Want You

Let’s assume a book published by a real publisher looms in your future. Even if that day is decades from now, you need to be ready. It’s important to start fashioning yourself into a writer that literary agents want to take on.

A.S.A. Harrison did.

When her bestseller, The Silent Wife, came out, she had already published nonfiction under her pseudonym A.S.A. Harrison, instead of her real name, Susan Harrison. Using A.S.A. put her at the head of the “Hs” in a library or bookstore. It sounded professional, unisex and unique, like T. C. Boyle, or D. J. Vance, or J. K. Rowling.

Her experience as a Toronto-based editor gave her strong connections in the arts and literary community. Her wide ranging interests including psychotherapy, animal welfare, and the occult all figured in the success of her book. When her psychological thriller, The Silent Wife, launched in June of 2013, she was ready, even though she had died two months earlier!

Are you on the cusp of fame? Are you ready? If the book is nonfiction, you probably have a writer’s platform, website, Facebook page and many Twitter followers, as well as a blog and most of all, a killer manuscript.

If you write fiction, all of this is immaterial. According to literary agent, Janet, Reid, social media will ramp up after you write the novel. Fallow time is important for creativity, so feel free to ignore social media and get a museum membership instead. Once you sell your novel, then you launch into social media action.

You know you have a book in you? According to Joseph Epstein’s NYT article titled “Think you have a Book in You? Think again,” 81% of Americans think they have a book in them. That fact has led to a burgeoning business: literary coaches, proof readers, writing classes, literary societies. Not to mention lives dedicated to the chimera that there is a bestseller in your future if you could just sit down and write it.

Friends of mine have spent untold hours, weeks, years writing books no one but them believes will be published. I’m one of them, and my family is tired of it. An acquaintance of mine says he writes 250 words a day because Kate DiCamillo said ‘do that for a year and you’ll have a book.’ He probably will have a book. It may be self published.

If it’s what you like to do, why not do it? Everything starts with a dream.

Meanwhile, unless you are independently wealthy, have a trust fund or a spouse with a lucrative career, you must work. No wonder so many authors are college professors who use sabbaticals and summers off and a light teaching load to write.

The doers, the writers who will actually make it happen one day, usually have indications early on that they’re talented. They win a scholarship to attend the Iowa Writers School, or earn awards early in their careers. Not always however.

I like to think about A.S.A. Harrison, who emerged from literary oblivion at a late age. Her debut psychological thriller went on to rank #2 on the New York Times best seller list. It sold a million+ copies, was published in 30 territories. The film deal has been fully financed and begins shooting this year with Nicole Kidman playing the lead, Jodi Brett. Remember, Harrison died of cancer at 65, two months before her book launch. She was ready.

You too must be ready. That’s what this blog is all about.







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