Our second excerpt from How to Become an Author: Your Complete Guide gets into some detail about self editing, literary agents, query letters, and book proposals for the author looking to land a publishing deal.

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Finding Literary AgentsYou've written a book you think could be a best-seller. Now there's only one thing standing between you and a big publishing deal: a literary agent.

On the Ploughshares Blog, Steph Auteri offers some great advice on how to make your book proposal stand out from the dozens or hundreds of other pitches the agent of your dreams received that week.

Take a look at her Checklist of Book Proposal Essentials to Go Through Before You Start Schmoozing Agents for the full details, or read my quick summary below.

A compelling book proposal should have:

1. A catchy title and subtitle. Though the publisher could always change the name of the book later on, you want to give them the sense right from the start that this book is a finished product.

2. An irresistible book description. You're a writer — so take time writing your book description too. Make it shine from the very first sentence. Convey what is both unique and universal about your book. If you don't, the agent will most certainly move on to the next proposal in the pile.

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According to Michael Bourne (who writes for The Millions and Poets & Writers), successfully navigating through the world of literary agents requires— what, talent? Patience? Perseverance? Nope. Success requires connections!

In his recent article "A Right Fit," Bourne says:

...agents work with people they know, and friends of people they know.

If that sounds like I’m saying, “It’s all about who you know,” that’s because that is exactly what I’m saying. You can rail about how unfair that is, and how it makes publishing into an incestuous little club, and to a degree you would be right: a lot of very dumb books get published because somebody knew somebody. But that’s the way the machine is built, people. It may come a-tumbling down in the near future in the face of e-books and indie publishers, but for now, if you want to get published by a major publisher, you have two choices: you can keep banging your head against a wall and be angry, or you can figure out how to get yourself into the club.

To do that, you have to immerse yourself in the literary community. Five years ago, with my first book, I sent roughly 60 query letters to agents and editors at smaller publishing houses.

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What’s holding you back from sharing your message with the world? 

Too many people end up pouring their heart, soul, time, and money into pursuing their publishing dreams, only to realize they’re actually missing a few essential ingredients and a pathway for success.

Book Breakthrough NYC, a 3-day publishing master-class from July 28-30, is the answer.

Imagine if you could have:

  • Direct access to top editors, literary agents, and publishing insiders.
  • Customized feedback so you can develop your ideas into a compelling book.
  • Face-to-face advice from bestselling authors who have been there before.
  • Cutting-edge guidance to understand the best options for self-publishing and traditional publishing, including and what’s right for different projects and stages.
  • Clarity around your “platform”—and how and why to build yours NOW.
  • State-of-the-art lessons and actual strategies tailored for your book and goals.
  • Relationships, inspiration, and insights that will last a lifetime and apply to every idea-driven project you work on.

That’s the kind of collaborative, insider help you’ll get at Book Breakthrough NYC: Ideas + Relationships + Strategy, a transformative event hosted by Janet Goldstein and Elizabeth Marshall. They’ll teach you proven approaches to develop your signature ideas, build your following, and align your book and business.

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