Trying to get a non-fiction book published is a very different process from the fiction market. Not only do you have the manuscript which must be considered, but there are also business and marketing components that must be considered before searching for a literary agent begins. You’ll need to do a comparative title analysis, have established professional credentials, and even create a business plan centered around your title.
Once you’ve done all that work, you’re ready to know how to find a literary agent for a non-fiction book. As with fiction books, you will want to start with a query letter and include all of the components the agent wants to have with your submission attached. If you don’t include everything wanted, there’s a good chance your letter will be ignored.
Are you ready to get started? Then here’s what you need to know.
#1. It’s about how you express your passion and expertise. If you’re not passionate about the non-fiction work that you’re doing, then there will be a lack of authenticity within your manuscript. That will cause an agent to reject you rather quickly in most circumstances. The first thing that a majority of literary agents will look at is your mastery of the topic being written about, the passion you have for sharing your knowledge, and how unique your writing style happens to be. Conveying that in a 3-4 paragraph query letter with everything else can be quite difficult.
#2. Do you have a good grasp of the competition? Literary agents for non-fiction work want to know if you understand where you’re potential book will fit within your industry. If you aren’t sure about the similar books which exist on the market already and your work has essentially duplicated what is already out there, then you’ve put in a lot of time and effort for a remote chance to get published. You’ve got to be different.
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#3. Be specific about your target market. Although all writers like to think that their work will appeal to everyone, that just isn’t true. There is a specific market which will be interested in your non-fiction book. Your work must be directed toward that audience from beginning to end. When you can communicate the fact that you’ve identified this core market and discuss how you’ve written the book to reach that niche, then you’ll be in a much better position to prove to a literary agent that you know what you’re doing.
#4. Make your query letter be as compelling as your manuscript. The issue that many agents have with the query letters received for non-fiction work is that the summaries offered are dull and boring. The manuscript itself will be compelling and contain a solid story arc, but that isn’t communicated within the chapter summaries. Show that you’ve mastered your subject, give the summary a good hook, and you’ll have a better chance to find the success you want.
#5. What is the purpose of the non-fiction book? Sometimes non-fiction writers are trying to get into the publishing business because they have an ax to grind with someone. Energy which comes from frustration or disappointment or even righteous anger is fuel that will burn out quickly. Writing vents the emotions that were created in the first place, which means the resulting text is usually not suitable for a commercial audience. Anger creates either more anger or it creates an emotional drain and literary agents generally don’t want to represent that kind of work.
#6. Follow all instructions to the letter. Literary agents for non-fiction work have a specific set of attachments that they want to see because it will help them gauge whether or not they want to begin a representation relationship with you. If you don’t submit those things or try to be proactive and submit more than is requested, then you’re trying to change the terms of that relationship before it even begins. That’s not a good first step to take.
#7. Be patient. Many first-time writers are nervous, impatient, and demanding of literary agents. They want to know when they’ll be published. Try to be patient when you submit query letters or sign a representation contract. Agents need to earn a paycheck too and until you get published, you’re earning them nothing.
Knowing how to find a literary agent for a non-fiction book is all about how you follow instructions. Get the submission requirements for an agent, submit the files or documents as requested, and you’ll get an answer about the viability of your work.