Top 10 Reasons Your Book Will Sell: An Agent’s Checklist Posted by Paula Munier

 

Writers are always asking me how I decide to sign new clients—why this writer with this project, and not that writer with that project. As an agent, my primary job is to sell my clients’ work. Ergo, I sign writers whose work I think I can sell. And remember, we agents work on commission, so I don’t make any money until I sell the work. I can’t afford to take on a project, however wonderful the project and/or however wonderful the writer, if I don’t think I can sell it. Literally.

How do I know if I can sell it? It’s more art than science.

And God knows there are no guarantees in this business. That said, there are certain criteria that can help me predict what may work in today’s tough marketplace:

  1. I totally LOVE LOVE LOVE the work.
  2. I can pitch the story in 50 words or less.

In other words: It’s based on a high-concept (or at least unique) idea written by the writer born to write it. As in:

Everlasting Nora is a middle-grade novel about 12-year-old Nora, forced to live in Manila’s Cemetery City after her home burns down in the fire that takes her father. When her mother goes missing, Nora must find her—before it’s too late. A heartwarming debut by Filipino-American Marie Miranda Cruz.

  1. Readers will fall in love with the protagonist, just like I did.

Give me Bosch, Bridget Jones, Harry Potter, Stephanie Plum, Atticus Finch, Everlasting Nora.

  1. The story is written in a distinct and engaging voice.

Think Alice Hoffman, J. D. Salinger, Maya Angelou, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Isabel Allende, Pat Conroy, Roxane Gay, Sue Grafton, Lee Child.

  1. The story falls within a known genre.

Which means that: a) I know where it fits on the shelf; b) I can reference good comparable titles within that genre; and c) The publisher will know how to sell it.

  1. The protagonist drives the action from beginning to end.

Imagine your story as a film—would the A-list actor you want to play your hero agree to take the role? Hint: He’d have to do all the good bits, that is, take down the bad guy, get the girl, save the baby/world/universe.

  1. The structure is sound.

The plot works. The heroine’s dramatic arc is in place. The writer has remembered that: The first page sells the book. The last page sells the next book.

  1. The writer has a strong idea for a second standalone or the second in the series, whichever applies—and is already working on it.

The writer is in this for the long haul.

  1. The writer is professional, cooperative, and collaborative.

The writer understands that editing is part of the process—from my notes to the acquisition editor’s notes and beyond. Resistance is futile.

  1. The writer is prepared to make the transition from writer to author.

Notably: The writer is an active participant in his/her writing community, and is willing and able to do the promotion work required to publish successfully in the 21st century.

How’d you do? Are you ten for ten? Let’s discuss on Facebook.

Paula Munier

PAULA MUNIER is a Senior Literary Agent and Content Strategist at Talcott Notch Literary Services. She boasts broad experience creating and marketing exceptional content in all formats across all markets for such media giants as WGBH, Disney, Fidelity, Gannett, Greenspun Media Group, F+W, and Quayside. A dedicated writing teacher, Paula is a popular speaker and lecturer at writing conferences, workshops, and retreats both online and on-site across the USA.

Published by

K. D. Dowdall

Karen DeMers Dowdall was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. She has lived in Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and England. Karen has a PhD, MSN, BSN, RN in Nursing from Florida Atlantic University. “Books of every genre teach us about life, how we think, and view the world.

6 thoughts on “Top 10 Reasons Your Book Will Sell: An Agent’s Checklist Posted by Paula Munier

    1. I didn’t know this either. I am writing a novel now and I see there is more than one protagonist and both drive the action. I do know a novel and have more than one protagonist. So, in general protagonist’s do drive the action, but it is okay to have more than one. K. D.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I too have a WIP that has more than one protagonist; maybe a 60/40 mix between the two.
        With this nugget of clarity, now, I think that if a part of the story is not being driven by either of them (or is a short scene from the villains view) then it probably should be stripped.
        This in concert with the recently discovered writer’s rule — character motivation: They are driven by what they need not by what they want; I think I’m set for my November writing focus. (Two rules is about all I can deal with at one time.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hang in there and just write, because you love to write, that is why I write. I have never done a query. I just self-publish. People say, “get an agent” but that is not as easy as it sounds. There are books out there, albeit, few and far between, that make it without an agent, like the book “Wool” and he didn’t even have a website and he self-published on Createspace. They made a movie out of it and then another movie for book 2.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The Martian too started as a self published book. Yeah, I think that’s the ticket – write for yourself and share as you can. If you get discovered – yeay! If not, at least it was a great trip.

        Liked by 1 person

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