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  • Writer's pictureJanette Johnson Melson

How to Get an Agent to Notice You

Now that the first draft of my debut novel is complete, you might be wondering what the next step is. I might be wondering the same thing . . . if I hadn’t been thinking about it for months. The next step is the proposal. Not the kind that leads to an “I do,” but one that hopefully will get an agent to notice you and lead to a commitment, nonetheless.

As I’ve told you before, I was fortunate enough to garner the interest of a literary agent at my first ACFW conference in 2018. She asked me to send her a proposal, which she would help me perfect while I completed the writing of my novel.

What is a proposal, you might ask? That’s a good question and one which I had to answer before I could begin to write one. Lol. When I got home from that first conference, my intention was to do just what the agent had asked of me—write a proposal and send it to her. However, as I learned everything that belongs in one, I realized that I hadn’t written enough of the novel to be able to create a proposal. But now that my first draft is complete, I have enough knowledge to also complete my proposal, which is my current goal in my publishing journey.

A proposal is sort of like a job application. Since most of the time you are cold-calling on the agent, editor or publisher you wish to work with, the first thing you want to do is research them. They each have their own rules regarding how they want proposals written and submitted, even though they have similarities. Some will want a query letter only, while some will want a full proposal. Either way, a query letter will be part of the first phase of your proposal process. You also need to make sure that they deal with books in your genre and are seeking new clients. Otherwise, your query letter will end up in the trash pile, no matter how well-written it is. However, if you’ve done your homework, and your target likes your query, they will want to see your full proposal. Luckily, I have already made it past the query letter stage because I met my proposed agent in person, we liked each other, and she was intrigued enough by my story to request a proposal. My query letter is still important, though, because it will be the first thing she reads from me.

The importance of researching the agencies you plan to query cannot be stressed enough because they all have slight (and sometimes major) differences in what they want to see from you. And since you want to wow them with your proposal, you don’t want to send something which doesn’t meet their requirements. First off, make sure your novel’s genre is one they are willing to handle. If you have a romantic suspense, don’t try to sell it to an agent who only represents supernatural thrillers. They won’t buy what they can’t sell. So, don’t waste your time and theirs.

Through talking with my proposed agent and researching her website, I know that she is interested in representing the kind of contemporary romances I write. So I’m good there. I also know that I need to send her the whole proposal, not just the query letter. However, it all starts with the query.

Remember: This is the make-it or break-it moment. If the query letter doesn’t do its job of wowing the agent and gaining her interest, then she will have no reason to read the full proposal. I know; no pressure at all. In your query letter, you will tell about yourself, your book and why you wrote the book, and you’ll write it in a way that will make your target audience want to read more. It’s all about selling your novel and yourself as a writer—without overselling. The following link has good advice on how to write this important letter.

Since I have completed this all-important, first part of my proposal, I am ready to move on to finishing the whole thing. In my next blog, I will tell you more about the other aspects of a book proposal. But in the meantime, my goal is to complete it and send it to the agent before the ACFW conference begins on the 18th of this month. Hopefully, by my next blog, I will be able to tell you that I met that goal. But these are crazy times, so we shall see!

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