Writing Academy, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, Book Proposals

New York City Writing Coach

Gay Walley

Selling your novel


Once you have heard what your advocates think and you have written another draft, you are ready to show your book to agents.

If your friends know someone, go to that person. A personal contact is marvelous.

If you do not have contacts, go online and find out the agents who represent and are looking for your genre. Study whom your favorite authors (in the genre of your book) thank in the front of their books.  Look those people up and find out if they are accepting submissions.

Most agents won’t take the whole book. They will want the first 2 chapters or first 20 pages. That’s how they can tell if you can write and if the story “pulls” the reader in. So make sure your first 20 pages are scintillating. It will make all the difference.

The other effort you have to make is in creating your cover letter to agents where you describe the novel. Give the genre, the length, the place where the novel is set. Also write out a brief description of the plot line. You don’t have to tell the agent it is a great book and will sell as many copies as Dan Brown does. In fact, if you do that, it’s guaranteed they won’t read your book.

Let them decide how good it is.

There is no question that writing about your book and synopsizing it is more difficult than writing the book.  You know the inside of your book so well that it is very hard to “sum” it up in cogent words. It seems like you may be leaving out the most important  information. But you’re not. Give a synopsis of the main characters and the plot line and try to make it a novelty, curious. Tell what is unusual about your book. Don’t say it is just like Gone with the Wind. No one will believe that or admire it if it is. There is only one Gone with the Wind.

Don’t be frightened of a little humor. Writers who show humor also show intelligence and agents can use a break from the suffocating egos of want-to-be writers.

Have some sympathy for these people reading endless upon endless manuscripts, most of which are not that good. The agents look for reasons to say, No thank you. What drives them is encountering a manuscript where the voice is fresh and makes them sit up and say, “Oh I would like to live in this world for the next 5 hours.”

So make that world seductive and riveting.

You will receive many rejections but then, astonishingly, in comes “interest.” You will never forget what you were doing the day you receive your first novel’s acceptance.

(My car was broken down and I was on the side of the road when I retrieved the message from the publisher!)

Persistence is a huge part of selling a novel. Send your book out to competitions. Send your book to many agents.

One thing about a book, it does not grow stale. So if you get tired of rejections, take a break but then send it out again. It can take two to four years, even more, to find a publisher.  So be undaunting and read your rejection letters with curiosity, openness but do not take them that seriously unless they all say the same things.

One will say, “The beginning is strong, but the end is weak.” You will agree with it. The next day you will get one, “The end is strong, the beginning is weak.” Now you will agree with that. I used to joke I should get a job writing rejections to myself. I agreed with all of them.  But soon I would get a letter admiring my work and I was totally confused.

In other words, writing is subjective and you have to wait till you find your reader. The only time to agree with your rejection letters is if they point out the same flaws. Then it is time for a rewrite. They are showing you what is wrong.  But if they vary, wait. Someone will eventually write you something helpful.

Most importantly, persist, persist, persist.

Oh and the last piece of advice I have for you: There is only one way to handle the ups and downs of writing a first novel…. And that is to begin the second novel.

Your mind will be there and you will hardly be affected by the rejections or acceptances. You are on a new journey.

So I wish you luck, happiness and dedication.

You are about to take one of the most magical journeys of your life.  Where else can you be the author of all the events and people you want to spend time with?

Enjoy, and then the reader will enjoy.