This is totally straightforward and can be summarized as follows:
Write a book
Buy the Writers & Artists Yearbook (WAY)
Read the sections on writing a synopsis and a covering letter
Submit your proposal to a cross section of agents selected from the WAY
Sit back and wait for the offers.
Sorry, did I mention that even if this is successful it will only get you to “first base”? Years ago, publishers had armies of young enthusiastic graduates reading manuscripts submitted by hopeful writers. It was like panning for gold in the Klondike. mainly sifting through mud and silt but with the occasional nugget to make it worthwhile. This was way too costly and a new system emerged. Now you need to find an agent who will try to secure a publisher for you in exchange for around 15% of your royalty cheques. I found twelve I thought might be interested, diligently prepared the “WAY compliant” proposals and sent them off.
The WAY list is initially daunting but I found it pretty easy to eliminate huge swathes of it. In the Internet age, I decided that an agent who flatly refused to consider an e-mail submission might prove to be a challenge to work with, if the project ever got off the ground. Some agents manage to convey a degree of contempt for aspiring authors, even when their WAY entry is only a few lines long. The ones with web-sites often achieve this even more effectively. “Apply only if you are already a best selling author or have recently slept with an entire Premier League football team and have appeared on Reality TV”, is what you get if you read between the lines. One agent informs us that “it might take up to four months to consider your proposal, if you have not heard from us in that time, do not contact us. You should assume we do not wish to follow up your submission”. I decided this did not come close to my idea of basic courtesy and respect. I ruthlessly chopped them from my list.
And I had the last laugh. Oh Yes. I carefully selected the dozen names that were going to be lucky enough to see my proposal. Those who had fallen short of my stringent selection criteria were not even given the opportunity to see the book, let alone publish it. Of the twelve agents who received my submission, I am still waiting to hear from six. Two asked to see more, then rejected it and four rejected it based on initial proposal. Back to the drawing board.
Having taken a gentle side swipe at agents, I have to admit that the 6 rejections were nicely written and told me not to give up. It was not to say that my book was not great, it was just not what they were looking for at that particular time. Reminded me of that girl at school, she said something just like that.