How Can You Find An Agent or Publisher?

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You’ve written a book, maybe two, and want to wait for a traditional publisher to buy your book, but you can’t find an agent or publisher willing to read your manuscript. You’ve submitted dozens of query letters and can’t get anyone to read your manuscript. What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to break the wall?

Here’s one way:  Attend a writer’s conference and bring a ONE SHEET. Writer’s conferences are everywhere. Do a Google search for one in your area. Scroll and click at the site to see which publishing houses will be there and if they publish books in your genre. Find out if you’ll get one-on-one appointments with an agent or publisher you want to work with.

How do you know who you want to work with?

Google search the publishing houses and agents who will be attending that conference. Scroll through their published books at their websites to see if they print the type of book you’re selling. Do the same with agents. Visit their blog or company website and hang out for a while. Get a feel for who they are and what they accept to see if they’re a good fit for you.

I’m getting ready to go to the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference in Leesburg, FL. It’s February 27 – March 3. It’s the perfect time for me to break away from the midwest chills.

It’ll be my second time going. I went two years ago for the first time and I thought it was a bust. On the first day, the fiction panel spoke about what their houses were looking for. From new authors? Nothing.That’s right. Nothing. They weren’t accepting any manuscripts from new authors. I thought, What did I come for? I should have stayed home and ran a marathon because then I’d have a better chance of finishing. (And I’m not a runner.)

I was totally discouraged. I’d spent money on airplane tickets, room and board, conference stuff and for what? I was there to pitch my books but why bother if the publishers weren’t accepting new authors?

A week later, I still thought the conference had been a bust. But not now. There were mega benefits from attending that conference that I couldn’t see at the time. Let me explain. Writing a novel has become a “community” thing and without the contacts I made at that conference my writing community would be nil. I’d be taking up running. The people I met at that conference are still active in my writing life, and they’re still giving me confidence. (Thank you Eva Marie Everson, Jeannette Watt, Ramona Tucker, and Ginger Kolbaba.)

I met Diana Flegal with Hartline Literary Agency there. I pitched her a contemporary fiction novel about a woman and a homeless shelter, but I got all tongue-tied and couldn’t finish my pitch. She took my hands and prayed with me. (And I think she prayed FOR me, too, because I was a hopeless, blubbering idiot. Maybe she secretly prayed that I’d take up another profession, but she never said that.) She was the kindest lady I needed at that conference.

It wasn’t until two years later she agreed to work with me, to be my agent. 

I joined my first online critique group with writers from that conference, too. Some of those writers are now published authors. One guy in my critique group was Mark Hancock. He’s the man coordinating the Florida conference this year.

I’m excited to go back because I know more of the staff and fellow writers, but also because I’ll be prepared. I’ll be bringing a ONE SHEET for every book I’ve written.

One of the most important things to bring to a conference (besides comfy shoes) is a One Sheet. 

What’s a One Sheet?

A ONE SHEET is sometimes called a SELL SHEET. It should sell YOU. It’s a sheet of paper that defines you, your brand, and your novel. It is intended to get an agent or publisher to notice you and your book. It looks like a colorful 8 1/2″ x 11″ business card, one you can leave behind. It can be as fancy or as simple as you want. But it shouldn’t be difficult to read.

What should you include in your one sheet?
  • Your name in big letters–it’s your brand.
  • Your bio–who are you? What have you published?
  • A professional head shot.
  • A little bit of color and style that fits the book’s emotion.
  • A brief synopsis of your novel similar to the back cover blurb.
  • Your contact information.
  • The title of your blog, website, and Twitter addresses and stats if they’re impressive.
  • If your platform niche fits into the book’s theme explain how.
  • Your agent’s contact info

Make this a mini version of you, your book, and the way you want to be perceived. Keep it professional. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Remember that you can use the front and back. I typically include information about me on the back side and information about the book on the front. The photo with the dog is a random one I found. The dog featured here isn’t the same one that’s in the story, but the message is the same–the story is about a girl and a dog. Hopefully the photo will illicit an emotion.

Have fun with it too. Experiment with different fonts, colors and letter sizes. Good luck! Let me know how it goes for you.


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Here are a few from other writers:

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Have you tried this approach at writer’s conferences? Did it help you land an agent or publisher?

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  1. Michelle,
    This is the BEST advice, I have read in a very long time. Although I have one book published I want and need an agent for my next one and I hadn’t a clue about how to find one – until I read this post.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Jodi!
      So glad it helped. I’d love to meet you at a conference this year! In person. For real. Did you see my post at your blog today? Love your project!

  2. Great advice! I love things that are simple, but effective. Everything’s so much easier that way.

    • Kate –this is from Shirley Leonard. She posted this comment at FB:

      Hi, Kate – You have the nugget of something great here but you’ll need to do some research and find a specific editor to address your query to. “To Whom It May Concern” just won’t work. And, you also need to be sure to be consisitent in captilization (sometimes Pegasi is P & sometimes p, etc.) But your ideas are dynamite. Keep working on the process and we hope to see your books on a shelf or online before long. You are a good writer.

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