Imma gonna tell you.
Step 1-- Write a killer book and polish the crap out of it.
Have other people look at it. Emerge from your comma coma and realize that you have written so many drafts of this book it's perfect and also you never want to read it again.
Read it again.
Polish those first ten pages until they are perfect. I love this advice. The main thing, is start the story as late as you possibly can. Do not keep your prologue. Kristen Nelson tweeted that 99% of agents pass on a story if you include a prologue. No matter how well written or how much you love it.
Ditch it. It's slowing down your story. And publishers know that books aren't just in competition with other books, nowadays books are in competition with Netflix. Aim to make your first pages better than an episode of Call the Midwife.
Step 2 --Write a killer query and polish the crap out of it.
Read Query shark for tips, but a good outline to follow is...
Dear Mr. or Ms. (Full name correctly spelled),
Personalized greeting. (Since you are interested in YA fantasy with quirky protagonists. [DIRECTLY QUOTE THE AGENT], here's my novel TITLE)
HOOK involving protagonist. 2-3 paragraphs telling the who, the why, and the what, in a way that shows voice, characterization, specific stakes, and leaves the reader with unanswered questions.
(I know. It is. But you can do it!)
MEAT and Potatoes. TITLE is X words X genre.
Brief bio. If you don't have any credits, don't say anything.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Name personal info, Phone number, email, address, website.
Step 3 -- Write a killer synopsis.
This should be 1-2 pages, and if it's sucked the life from you then you know you've done it right. A good synopsis shows voice, stakes, AND THE ENDING of the story. Also possibly it shows you've made a pact with the devil, because synopsisi are HARD.
|It can! You can do it! It might suck a little bit, but you can do it!|
Step 4 -- Let your query, synopsis, and full manuscript sit for a few days and come back to it.
Get feedback, tweak, play, alter, fiddle, etc, until they are shiny and perfect. Then DON"T TOUCH THEM!
Once you've queried, it's easy in the throes of rejection to dismantle a perfectly good query letter. That said, if you learn something from a rejection, let it sit for a night, and then go ahead and play with your perfect query, or manuscript. BUT SAVE THE ORIGINAL.
Step 5 -- Start querying agents!
It's actually easier, (say while you are developing your perfect query and it's hard,) to make a list of agents you like to query on a day you will not be sending out queries. Make a list and then on querying day you have everything prepared, and you just go down a list.
A good way to find awesome agents is agentquery.com. You can search for agents looking for your specific genre. Another good way to find agents is through Twitter. Follow the hashtag #MSWL ( Manuscript wish list) that shows what agents are specifically looking for. Also #querytip, #amagenting #agent is a good way to find and follow agents. Twitter is a beautiful thing, and a good way to see who the agent is, and see if they are a good fit. Remember having no agent is better than having the wrong one, so do your research.
Step 7 -- Rejection!
Oh it sucks so hard, but rejection is just the price you pay for being able to work in your pajamas. Every story gets rejected, even Harry Potter was rejected, SO...it's going to happen and it's going to suck. Do not respond to rejections.
But also...sometimes you get REQUESTS!
Step 8 --Have Fun!
Did you know that people on twitter have publishing contests pretty much every month? Right now I'm a finalist for #pitchslam. (WOOT! Go TEAM TEMPO TANTRUMS!) At the end of next month is QUERY KOMBAT, and the Writer's Voice. Contests like these are a great way to get to know other writers who are wading through the cesspool of rejections and queries, and they ACTUALLY WORK! Agents come to see the winners and make requests. Last year 10 authors got agents through this one contest.
The best way I've found to keep track of all these opportunities is to subscribe on facebook to sub it club.
Go to conferences, participate in contests, facebook groups, and on Twitter. Be real. Be yourself. Make friends.
It helps to know you aren't alone in this. And it also helps to know that it's possible. People get signed everyday. I know this because Twitter.
But you can get through it! And then one day, you will be out on submissions.
Which apparently sucks. More. Than. Querying.
Currently querying THE WAXLING, a 76,000 words YA Contemporary Fantasy.