Science fiction and fantasy are infinitely popular with readers of just about any age group. If you are writing in this genre, the outlook for sales seems solid for many decades. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s much harder to find a fresh perspective.
You must know your genre and exceed expectations of publishers and readers alike. In the science fiction genre, expectations have been set by legendary authors like H.G. Wells, Frank Herbert, Jules Verne, and George R.R. Martin, as well as wildly successful authors such as Stephenie Meyer and Robert Jordan.
Getting a Science Fiction Literary Agent
One of the best things you can do to boost your chances of success in the publishing world—even before you go in search of a science fiction literary agent—is to reflect upon and be honest about the true potential of your novel or project. While just about every writer in any genre dreams of being published by one of those big five houses: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette Live, and Macmillan Publishers, you may not be big five bait.
There’s nothing shameful about being published successfully through a mid-sized house, small press, or even an independent, regional, or vanity publisher. In fact, some authors do better there than with a big five house. And success via a small publisher or digital publisher certainly beats repeated rejection from those big five New York houses, right?
Get familiar with the publishing industry, find out which science fiction literary agents in the US are consistently making sales to publishers, and more inside details through services like Publishers Marketplace. Get the inside scoop on current and possibly future trends from literary agents, editors, publishers, and others inside the publishing world through something like MS Wish List.
Do your homework before you begin to query science fiction literary agents in the US or anywhere else for that matter. There are many talented writers competing to hit the bestseller list each year. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that YOU are a rare talent. Lots of writers are talented, especially in the science fiction arena. But it takes much more than just talent to make it in the science fiction publishing process. It takes hard work, discipline, perseverance, imagination, professional etiquette, and yes, a whole lot of luck.
Advice on Getting an Agent
To make sure you start off your relationship with science fiction literary agents on a positive note, keep the following tips in mind:
- Follow submission guidelines to the letter. Agents give guidelines to save themselves time and to help the process flow more efficiently. Follow submission guidelines to the letter. It bears repeating because it is probably one of the single most common reasons that writers end up in the slush pile.
- Per the above tip: Don’t make excuses, try to stand out by using a “creative” or “showy” font, or anything else. Just follow the agent’s guidelines for submission exactly. Double and triple check this before you submit your work. If the agent requests submission by email, don’t try to call first unless directed. If the submission guidelines state snail mail only, don’t call that friend of a friend to get an email address to use for submission. You get the idea.
- Always use the name of the agent in your query, never Dear agent or To Whom It May Concern
- Do your homework and gather information on an agent before you send them a query. Know their specific interests, so you can highlight how your project fits.
- Take the time to choose the agent and a few agencies that you feel best suit your specific story and style. Sending your work to several agents within the same agency comes across as lazy, desperate, or both and it not only won’t improve your chances, it could even get you relegated to the slush pile permanently.
- Choose an agent that you feel is trustworthy and who demonstrates a track record of negotiating the best deals for authors, protecting rights of writers, and running interference between the publisher and writer.
There are thousands of science fiction literary agents in the US. You need just one very talented and connected agent who believes in your story and will work to get it in front of the right publisher at the right time. When it comes to researching science fiction literary agents, consider the following resources:
Query Tracker free to join, this service offers a database of over 1500 agents, as well as tracking information on agents that reveals not only preferences but response times and historical data. Query Tracker also features a system that helps you to record and track your queries to agents to help you avoid making embarrassing blunders like duplicate submissions.
Writers Market used by the successful author of the Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer, Writers Market is affiliated with Writer’s Digest and is a superb place to stay up to date with the latest news in the publishing world as well as to manage your submissions. Niche specific pages and advanced knowledge of marketing and publishing knowledge from experts in the field are available too.
Agent Query boasts of being the “Internet’s largest free database of literary agents” and is a great place to scope out science fiction literary agents in the US and across the world.
Success in the publishing world depends on getting your project in front of the right person at the right time. Even a brilliant novel will go nowhere fast in the hands of an agent that lacks motivation and has scarce connections in the publishing world. Do your homework when it comes to the agents and the agencies that you consider working with, make sure they know their stuff and will advocate and protect you throughout your career and you’ll have better luck navigating the publishing process.