O.K., so you're not a celebrity; maybe also, like me, you're not young, slim nor beautiful either? In which case, please read on to find out how to publish that book you've always wanted to write.
How to approach a reputable literary agent
Reputable is the key word here. The best way is to choose a selection of such agents from the 'Writers' and Artists Yearbook' (published by A. C. Black) on writersandauthorsyearbook.com. Click on Search, then on Agents. It only includes agents who are members of the AAS authors' association, and who do not charge a reading fee. You can choose from agents around the world, but if you're from the UK it's best to stick to those in the UK, and vice versa if you're from the US. If any agent you approach charges you money, then they're not reputable so avoid them like the plague. Each agent's own website includes their preferred submissions method, but in general here's how to approach them: 1. an email enquiry, or a letter, with a brief description of your book; 2. if they say yes, then send by standard mail a covering letter, a one-page synopsis of your finished book, plus the first 3 chapters (word-processed in double-line spacing, right-justified, with each page numbered). Don't even think of emailing your wondrous manuscript to them. Most won't open email attachments. Then, you pray. I'm sorry to report that even the best ones can take as many as 8 weeks to reply, and some don't bother to reply at all!
It's a real jungle out there. Remember: most agents receive hundreds of unsolicited mss every week, so your submission will not be their top priority. And don't even think of approaching publishers directly. They no longer accept any enquiries or submissions from unsolicited authors, preferring their associated agents to do the hard slog of editing, selecting and weeding-out the inferior for them. It's a hard fact of life but all are more interested in their already-contracted clients. So, only those of you with supreme staying power will last the distance.
Next week, I'll tell you what to do if the above methods have singularly failed (i.e. you approached zillions of agents 6 months ago, and none has replied - been there, done that, and worn the T-shirt!).
................................see Part 3 next Sunday on how to recognise the difference between the vanity press, POD, and reputable self-publishing sites.