It’s difficult to get published, by many estimates less than 1% of would be authors ever receive an offer from a reputable publisher. Of course it is easier to get published if you have a literary agent representing you than if you approach publishers directly. Landing an agent is a formidable challenge, though for many authors, literary agents offer the most viable path to “traditionally” publish a book.
Finding and signing with a literary agent seemed no different to me than finding and closing a prospect for any product, service or solution. To get started, I began with handful of Google searches, which resulted in many sites listing literary agents. Next, I downloaded about 1,200 agents from several of these online sources into an Excel file. Agents are outwardly facing, meaning they offer several ways for would be authors to contact then.
Many agents list their emails for book query submissions (a brief letter or email to whet the interest of a prospective agent). Of the 1,200 agents downloaded, 400 which didn’t accept email solicitations were culled, cutting my list to about 800. My list was then culled further to only100 agents who were interested in business books, non-fiction and prescriptive books (most agents listed the types of books they typically published). And lastly, 100 emails were sent to these agents, with a succinct message about the book and author background.
Here are the results of the highly targeted email campaigns to the 100 literary agents:
- 100 Sent
- 9 Interested
- 32 Not interested
- 59 No response
Within a month of the initial emailing, 9% of the targeted agents expressed interest, 32% were not interested and there was no response from 59% of the agents. Normally it’s a good idea to follow-up an emailing like this with a phone call, however most literary agents prefer no phone calls, many stating so on their web site. Of the nine agents who expressed interest in the book query, four of them asked for a full proposal (a proposal usually has a biography, marketing section, competition section, chapter outline and sample chapters). Another four agents asked for a printed proposal and mail it to them, and one asked if they could immediately contact publishers about the topic to determine if they had interest.
The digital book proposal was sent to all four agents who requested it via email attachment, and within a few days, an agent was signed. It took less than four weeks from the time the literary agent email list was initially targeted, to sign a prominent agent.
Although there are additional nuances involved with successful current email marketing best practices, the basics used for this seven year old campaign are very similar to that which can be used for successful digital marketing and lead generation today.