“Just as in every other profession, you need to show your potential employers (agents and publishers) that you know what you're doing and that you're good at it—BEFORE they'll take a chance on you.” -- Rob Pernell in To Have and Agent or Not to Have an Agent—That is the Question.In this article, Mr. Pernell states that having an agent rarely helps a novice writer, and many publishers won’t deal with unagented authors. Why? Because they don’t know if the author is serious about being an writer. It takes time and money to finalize and promote a book—things agents and publishers won’t waste on untested talent. So does the novice author give up? No, says Mr. Parnell.
To show you’re serious about writing, there are other things you can do. Write short stories and get them published. Enter contests. Again, the best option may be in the areas of short stories and memoirs. Novel competitions are a possibility, but they’re going to be full of entries from MFA graduates who have received “power” critiques from professors and peers of their work. Submit an excerpt from your novel for publication, again a highly competitive option. Research and write non-fiction articles about writing techniques. Start a blog, one that is professional and attracts lots of followers. Once published in these areas, you can provide a resume that says to an agent/publisher that you are a serious writer who is in it for the long run.
So don’t pooh pooh other forms of writing because “I want to be a novelist.” Everything you write will lead you to your eventual goal—a book with your name on the cover flying off the shelves at Barnes & Noble.