||By Jerry Forney
Once you have written your story the first thing you should do is run a quick market analysis of your manuscript.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. What kind of story is it? (refer to our articles under storytelling tips)
2. What age group is it targeted at? (pre-school through young adult)
3. What is it's appeal? (characters, plot, puzzle/solution, moral, writing style, etc.)
4. Is there a specific market that it is aimed at? (general, educational, parental)
4. What is the word count of your story? (is it too long or too short for your readership)
5. Does it require editing? (be honest)
6. Does it require illustrations? (cover art plus support artwork, color and/or black & white)
The answer you give yourself to these questions will be the basis for deciding what steps to take next:
1. Find an authors agent
2. Find a publisher
Each option entails pros and cons, and requires you to be persistent in your efforts. You need to give each possible choice careful consideration.
1. Find an Authors agent.
Most of the publishing business is in New York and so are the agents. Not all of them are, of course. There are agents in Los Angeles and Atlanta and other large cities. Much of your work with an agent can be conducted by mail or online, so location usually isn't an issue. Many agents and agencies are listed in the current Writer's Market, but the scope of your search can be expanded to include word of mouth referrals.
Most successful agents, who have been in the business for a long time, have a stable of regular authors whose track record of successful books puts bread on their table. I won't discount the speculative nature of the publishing business, since risk is inherent in every business enterprise, but it stands to reason that unpublished authors are the greatest risk. Depending on the agents policy and/or the opinion of the person reading the manuscript, you might get a nod. Remember: successful agents get a lot of submissions. They must have some kind of criteria to trim the number of prospects down to a manageable size. Many hire professional readers to read and rate manuscripts. These are usually writers or editors who do this for an extra income. They come from journalistic or literature backgrounds and understand the markets the agent is approaching. They are trained to spot the obvious amateur, and will think less of your manuscript if it is poorly written, doesn't follow common submission guidelines, contains a lot of spelling/grammatical errors or lacks appeal to the agents chosen market.
Your search for an agent will certainly prove easier if you have a first rate submission. It would be wise to run your manuscript by someone who has experience as an editor or reader before submitting it anywhere. Their criticism and suggestions could prove to be of inestimable value.
Once you find an agent there may be legal/financial issues that need to be resolved. Some agents may require a small retainer before they agree to pitch your manuscript to publishers. Others will take a percentage of your manuscripts income as a fee. There will likely be a contract or an business agreement involved. The agent will probably retain the services of an attorney. Since most contracts are pretty straight forward, I would recommend that you only consult an attorney if there is something in your contract that doesn't make sense to you. He/she won't be able to do much for you after you have signed something that waives your rights or gives away your interests, so don't sign any document if you don't understand. Most attorneys charge by the hour, so be specific about your misgivings and seriously consider his/her recommendations.
The library has a lot of information on the legal side of the publishing business. There are also online resources available. Check our book list and site links for some suggested reading.