All About Agents: What You Need to Know as an Indie Author

There’s a wonderful history of indie authors creating a great platform, getting noticed by traditional publishers and landing a publishing deal. 

The best tactic is to query an agent on the strength of your work and current accolades. It’s very rare to go directly to a publisher these days as they mostly work with agents. After you query an agent and secure their services, they will approach prospective publishers for you.

Finding an agent can be a long and tedious process, as they each have their own submission requirements and it can be months before you hear back from each with answers. 

With this in mind, here are some of our favorite resources for finding an agent:

  • Poets & Writers has a great amount of information on agents. They have a Literary Agents Database and a helpful Agent Advice column.
  • Publishers Lunch: We recommend looking over what deals have been made for mid-list authors each day. You don’t want a blockbuster agent because they’re already set financially. Info includes: genre, author, synopsis, agent and which publisher the work sold to. You can sign up for the free daily newsletter that will give you most of this info, or you sign up for a $25/month newsletter which has all of the details.
  • QueryTracker: This free database hosts plenty of agent data. Because the info can be outdated, it’s best to use this tool to create a list of agents who represent your genre, then crosscheck with each agent’s website to confirm who they represent and which publishers they work with.
  • Guide to Literary Agents An old standby, written by Robert Lee Brewer.
  • AAR – Association of Author’s Representatives: Here’s a list of member agents, with varying amounts of information about them.
  • Children’s authors can view the Rights Reports on PW. These reports cite which agents facilitated the deal for upcoming kids books.
  • Women Writers, Women’s Books also has an Agents Corner column where authors can share their agent success stories and offer advice.
  • Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents Blog: They post notices about agents and agencies. There’s not a tremendous amount of information here, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for news.
  • We also recommend finding books that are comparable to yours in genre and audience, and seeing who the author’s agent is. These agents may be a good fit for you, so we recommend keeping a list and checking their websites, querying where it makes sense to do so.
  • Manuscript Wishlist is a helpful tool designed to help agents share information about the types of books they are looking for. Scan through to see if your manuscript is on anyone’s wishlist!

I know it feels like the possibilities are endless, and it’s not unusual for an author to query upwards of 100 agents. Casting a wide net will help make sure you’re paired with the right agent for your book.

Want to get the inside scoop on what an agent really thinks? Check out our interview with Natalie Lakosil here:

What if an interviewer hasn’t read my book?

Journalists and radio hosts are being stretched thin, pulled in more directions than ever. It’s not always feasible for them to read a book from beginning to end before an interview. 

With this in mind, it’s best to provide the interviewer with all the information they need to properly guide the conversation, giving you the chance to fully communicate your message.

Before booking interviews, you’ll want to create 5-10 talking points that reflect your unique voice and your mission as an author. When brainstorming, consider the following:

  • What do you want to communicate? 
  • How do you want to present yourself? 
  • Why is your perspective timely and relevant? 
  • What topics will entice readers to pick up a copy of your book?

When booking interviews, give the producer or host a copy of your book and press kit along with your list of sample talking points. You can also share any additional resources that may be helpful (book trailers, links to articles you’ve written, etc.)

During the interview, don’t be afraid to fill in the gaps if needed. Bring up important topics even if the host doesn’t. If there’s a specific talking point you’d like to emphasize, go for it. It’s ultimately up to you to promote your book. If possible, keep a notecard with your talking points in front of you during the interview.

If an interviewer gets something wrong, gently correct them. It’s better to set the record straight than to have misinformation spreading around after the interview airs.

And if you don’t have enough time to cover all your talking points in the interview, that’s okay. It can be helpful to spread your message across multiple interviews and guest articles to keep things fresh!

Looking for more interview tips? Check out our article here.

Meet Us In Nashville: Books Forward August 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the August 2023 newsletter here!

August Authors Forward Interview with Lynn Slaughter and Lori Robbins

Welcome to our Authors Forward series, where our innovative and talented Books Forward authors interview other great, forward-thinking voices in the industry.

August Authors Forward Interview with Lynn Slaughter and Lori Robbins

Lori Robbins is the award-winning author of the On Pointe and Master Class mystery series. A former dancer, Lori performed with a number of modern dance and classical ballet companies. After ten very lean years onstage she became an English teacher and now writes full time.

  • Tell us about the On Pointe Mysteries and the character of ballerina/amateur sleuth Leah Siderova. Is her personality similar to your own?

Leah and I share a similar sense of humor. We both love cities, and we’re equally devoted to the art of dance. Other than that, we’re quite different. Leah’s upbringing, personal relationships, and aversion toward calories, carbohydrates, and commitment are uniquely hers. I fear I’m more like Leah’s mother, Barbara. Or, even worse, her aunt Rachel.

  • Does Leah have special skills which help her solve crimes?

Leah comments, only half-jokingly, that after she takes her last bow she’ll end up on the unemployment line, with nothing more than a high school diploma and a borderline eating disorder on her resume. In spite of this disclaimer, her lifelong devotion to ballet has rendered her far more determined and resourceful than most. Because ballet prioritizes daily discipline over fleeting desires, Leah’s ability to control herself and her environment becomes her superpower. She pairs that self-restraint with an extraordinary ability to inhabit fictional roles. For example, she’s afraid of heights, so when she has to climb down a fire escape she imagines herself as the Firebird. When the threat is personal, she imagines herself as Myrtha, who condemns mortal men to death by forcing them to dance until they die.

  • What might surprise readers about a mystery set in a professional ballet company?

Like many dancers, Leah obsessively calculates every calorie she ingests. What might surprise some readers is that dance companies often include what’s colloquially known as a “fat clause.” Staying thin is literally part of her job. The precarious nature of life as a ballerina is also something not many people understand. Every dancer, no matter how successful, is one injury—or one birthday—away from irrelevance. Willpower plus uncertainty make dancers creative and innovative problem solvers. Those very high stakes are a great backdrop for a murder mystery.

  • Were any of your books inspired by real life events?

Yes! Theaters are full of drama, both onstage and off, and I’m often inspired by true stories. When the Metropolitan Opera did a new staging of one of Wagner’s operas, the elaborate set design was infamously loud, creaky, and unreliable. I transferred that idea to Murder in Third Position, in which Leah has to dance upon a platform that hovers over the stage. It ended up a metaphor for Leah’s life. She’s on top of the world, but she’s never been more vulnerable.

  • There is a lot of delightful humor in your books. Has humor always been important to you in navigating life?

When faced with adversity, dancers might say something like: “What are you going to do? Slit your ankles and cha-cha to death?” It’s ironic, silly, resigned, and sarcastic. That pretty much sums up my attitude. Humor in all its forms gets me through.

  • We are both former professional dancers, and I haven’t met a lot of us who’ve made the transition to fiction writing. Can you tell us about that journey for you?

The same skill set that fueled my career as a dancer helped me as a writer. Both professions require tremendous self-discipline, as well as the ability (and humility) to take corrections and make them work for you. It also helps if you enjoy working for very little money. When I think of it that way, the gulf between those two pursuits doesn’t seem quite so wide.

  • What’s next for you writing-wise?

My academic mystery, Lesson Plan for Murder, will be released this summer. It features an English teacher who solves crimes using clues from her favorite books. The protagonist refuses to believe her colleague’s death was a suicide, because no self-respecting English teacher would kill herself without leaving a perfectly penned note, complete with obscure literary references and suggestions for further reading.


Books Forward BFFs August 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the August 2023 newsletter here!

Tips for Authors Preparing for an Interview

We know that radio and TV interviews can be nerve-wracking, especially for debut authors. You’re ready to share your book with the world, but you’re worried about your ability to respond to questions with polished, engaging responses. Radio and podcasts can be great tools for marketing, and just like anything else, it’s easier to be prepared if you have a strong game plan in place.

It’s completely normal to be feeling nervous, and we hope the following tips will help guide you through the stress and into a more confident place!

Step One: Pre-Interview

There are several tasks you should complete in advance of your interview. 

Familiarize yourself with the program you’ll be a guest on.

Listen to a few episodes so you can get a feel for how the hosts typically chat with guests. Each show has a unique “flow.” Take note if the conversation seems to be casual, funny, upbeat, serious or news-focused. 

Know what’s expected of you. 

You should have the date and time (and time zone!) of your interview written down, along with the details for how to connect (Zoom link, call-in number, etc). Additionally, you’ll want to know how long the interview will be, and whether it will be live or pre-recorded.

Select an excerpt from your book to read. 

Choose a 1-3 minute excerpt from your book to read on air. The host will usually let you know in advance if they plan on having you read from the book. Be sure to follow their cues, and don’t start reading until prompted.

Identify 3-5 main points you want to get across in the interview. 

It’s much easier to steer a ship when you have a destination in mind! If you know in advance what you want listeners to take away from your interview, it will be easier for you to guide the conversation. If you’ll be in a longer interview (think 60 minutes or more) you may want to prepare closer to 10 talking points.

Prepare soundbites based on each of your main points.

You won’t want to sound like you’re reading from cue cards throughout your interview, but you will want to have “checkpoint” phrases or sentences prepared in advance. You don’t have to use all of your prepared soundbites, but they’ll be there for you if you need them. Like using a compass, if you start feeling lost during your interview, reorient yourself with a few of your key phrases. 

Boost your confidence.

Remember that the host invited you on the show because they are interested in your book, and they think listeners will find you engaging and entertaining. The host won’t be trying to stump you or embarrass you! On the contrary, they feel confident in your ability to shine for their audience. So, you should too!

Step Two: The Interview

Now, it’s time for the main event!

Choose a quiet space to chat.

Find a quiet area with little to no distractions to complete your interview. Try to remain seated during the conversation to reduce background noise. If you’ll be on video chat, choose a well-lit area, and wear something that makes you feel like the best version of yourself.

Test your microphone and camera.

If needed, be sure to test your computer’s microphone and camera before the interview to make sure everything is working properly. If you’ll be using headphones, check those as well.

Pretend you’re on TV, even if you aren’t.

Whether you’ll be on Zoom or doing an audio-only interview, it always helps to pretend you’re in front of a live audience. If you smile and stay upbeat, the audience will be able to hear the enthusiasm in your tone of voice.

Remember to state your book’s title.

If you can, be sure to mention the title of your book multiple times throughout your interview. This will help listeners to remember it, making it easier for them to look you up or buy a copy later on. This is also important for live interviews, as you’ll help listeners who are just tuning in to discern who you are and what you’re talking about.

If you need to correct the host, do it kindly.

Sometimes the host will get it wrong. They may mispronounce your name, or make an error in reference to your book, such as stating an incorrect publication day. If this happens, take the opportunity to share the correct information with the audience, but be generous and kind when doing so.

Keep your answers personable and succinct.

Try to respond with short, focused answers, aiming for roughly 30 seconds per response. If you talk for minutes on end, it may be hard for listeners to maintain their focus. Aim for clarity, and arrive at your main point quickly.

Avoid jargon and filler words.

There’s a time and place for everything. Technical programs may warrant more technical language, and casual programs may warrant more uses of “like” or “um” in your speech. But for the most part, try to avoid these faux pas.

Use the “bridging” technique.

This will help you transition from the host’s question into an answer that you feel comfortable providing. A few sample “bridges” are:

  • I’m really glad you asked that because…
  • Now that you mention it, this relates to something I’ve been thinking about…
  • It’s funny you should say that because…
  • Thinking of that from a more broad perspective…
  • Along the same lines…
  • I’m not sure I can answer that precise question, but I did want to mention…

Wrap up on a positive note.

While you’re still on air, be sure to thank the host for their time and mention that you enjoyed the conversation.

Step Three: Post-Interview

Don’t neglect these last few tasks!

Follow up with the producer/host via email.

Send a personal note thanking the team off-the-air. When you’re ready to promote your next book, you’ll be glad you did, as you may have another invitation to come back on the show!

Ask if/when the interview will be posted online.

Keep an eye out for the link and share it on your social media. Be sure to tag the show as well.

Playback the interview and make notes for improvement. 

No one will have a perfect interview on the first try. But if you choose to learn from your mistakes, you’ll make your next interview that much better!

If you implement these interview tips, let us know how it goes. We can’t wait to see you succeed!

What are the benefits of different types of media coverage?

Yes, book reviews are great, but they aren’t the only type of media coverage that can be used to promote your book! As an author, it’s best to be open to other unique media opportunities. If you extend your sights beyond the traditional book review, you’ll find various effective promotional tools you can use to get your name in front of readers.

Guest articles

Articles you write, whether they’re being published in a newspaper or online, are an excellent tool for author branding because they allow you to position yourself as an expert. In an article, you will get to emphasize your viewpoint, sharing what you’re passionate and knowledgeable about in your own words. Here are some tips for writing guest articles.

Local and regional media

Some authors get their strongest support from local and regional media; people love to see members of their community succeeding and doing positive things with their lives. And as a bonus, this local coverage helps show independent bookstores in your area that there’s interest in your book within the community.

Promotional giveaways

Giveaways put your book directly in the hands of avid readers, which will help drum up support for your work over time, as these readers leave reviews for your book online, or spread word about it to their friends and family. You can try setting up a giveaway on your social media or, Goodreads offers authors access to their giveaway program for a fee.

Radio shows and podcasts

Audio interviews allow you to express yourself. Hearing an author’s enthusiasm about a book is infectious — you may be surprised to discover that you can pull in potential readers with little more than your personality! Check out more here about how radio and podcasts can be valuable marketing tools.

Book blogger spotlights

Features with book bloggers can be easy to arrange, and are great for SEO! When a blogger is swamped with review requests and can’t possibly add another book to their TBR, ask them if they’d be willing to share a spotlight for your book instead. All you’ll need to do is share the book blurb, your bio, cover image and headshot, and *tada* you get exposure.

Cover reveals

One way to take advantage of a beautiful cover is through a cover reveal. These scheduled unveilings help build excitement for upcoming releases and may help increase pre-orders as well! Learn more here about setting up a cover reveal.

Excerpt placements

Excerpts give potential readers a sneak peek at your book. If you highlight the right excerpt, you’ll have your reader hooked, and they may buy a copy of the book simply because they’re dying to know what happens next!

Bookstagrammers, TikTokers and other Influencers

Think about the advertising rule of 7: A potential reader must see a book at least 7 times before they’ll be enticed to buy it. This is especially true for debut authors or those who don’t have a fan base built up already. Ideally, readers will need to see your name and the cover of your book various times on social media. Before long, they’ll begin to wonder, “what’s this book everyone’s been raving about?” and they’ll grab a copy of their own to find out. Influencer support is very powerful!

It’s true that not all media opportunities will work for every author, but we encourage you to try as many of the above as possible. Having a diverse array of coverage for you and your book will help you to reach new audiences all while solidifying your position as an author-expert!

For more information about these different types of media coverage, be sure to click the hyperlinks above and check out our other articles.


An Eye On Our Authors: Books Forward July 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the July 2023 newsletter here!

What’s a DNF? Bookstagram terms you need to know

As a bookstagrammer or even as a casual observer of the bookstagram community, you probably love the beautiful covers, collectible editions, swoonworthy reads, honest opinions, seriously hot takes, and books that you just need to know about. However, like any online community, bookstagram has created a language of its own referring to things only book readers will understand. 

If you’re new to the whole world, then I’m here to share with you some of the most commonly used terms and phrases you will find across the captions of millions of bookstagram photos.

TBR: To Be Read

The most commonly used term for folks who love to create a hopeful pile of books they wish to read. These are the books kept in waiting, held off until the perfect moment when someone will pick them up and actually read them. You will find yourself adding a ton of books to your TBR after a day of perusing bookstagram.

DNF: Did Not Finish

One of the most incredible things about reading is that it’s completely subjective. A book that someone absolutely loves will not be someone else’s cup of tea. And as a bookstagrammer, you’re bound to try a lot of books in hopes of finding the golden needle in the haystack. And if the books don’t live up to your standards or the hype, you’re encouraged to put the book down and step away. Life’s too short to read books you don’t like.

NRN: Not Right Now

A more recently coined phrase, this is to describe a book that you’re enjoying, but could be enjoying more if life wasn’t getting in your way. If you’re a mood reader like me, you end up trying a bunch of different books that read well, but you know if you weren’t worried about that deadline at work or the kids’ soccer game on Saturday you would better enjoy it. There is a better time and place for it. Those books are placed back on the shelf, back on your TBR, in hopes for a better reading day.

ARC: Advanced Reader Copy

As a bookstagrammer, you end up becoming a book influencer. Your taste in books has amassed a certain following, and it’s drawn the attention of many publishers who would love a little space on your page. Publishers may approach your DMs with a possible ARC, an advanced reader copy. Sent to industry professionals, booksellers, librarians, and journalists at major media outlets, an ARC allows professionals to read a book before anyone else can to discern if the book is worthy for coverage or a space on their bookshelves. As bookstagram and booktok trend upward for bookish exposure, publishers have shared copies of these limited ARCs to influencers as well in the hopes of a little bit of ad space on their page. Any publicity is good publicity.


Similar to an ARC, NetGalley is a website that provides industry professionals, book bloggers, and book influencers access to early copies of books. Instead of a physical copy of the book, they are provided safe access to eBook versions. While many publishers may require approval before grabbing a copy, this is also a great place to read indie and self-published books that you may not find normally on the bookstagram platform.

HEA: Happily Ever After

According to the Romance Writers of America, a romance novel must contain two criteria:

  • The story must focus on the couple and their relationship
  • It must end in a happily ever after (or happy for now)

The term “HEA” refers to the books that have that happy couple ending up together in the end. Perhaps it’s forever and perhaps it’s for the time being, but an HEA is that tingly happy feeling you get when you finish a novel and all is well in the world.

A slump

The most dreaded moment in any reader’s life is a reading slump. This typically takes place when you’ve read way too much and now your reading energy is tapped out. You may need a break. You may need to embark on your other hobbies or read something smutty to get over it. While there’s no rhyme or reason as to why someone enters a slump, it’s always best to take it in stride, go with your gut, and hope that the slump only lasts a day.


Similarly to a night of heavy drinking, a reading hangover is when you’ve just finished a 600-page book about a girl and her dragons within two days and it consumes you to a point where you can’t think of anything else. You try to read other books, but they don’t hit the same way. You try to go about your day, but all you can think of is the world that you just popped out of. The sun is brighter. Sounds are harsher. You keep thinking about that one detail that didn’t make sense or that moment when they finally kissed rather than how to function in real life. You just want to go back to dragon world and live there for a little while longer.

ACOTAR: A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas 

This abbreviation is actually in reference to one of the most popular fantasy series on bookstagram. You may have seen it around, heard about it, wondered what it’s all about. And the reason why you may be curious to check it out is because everyone talks about it. So if you ever see ACOTAR, it’s probably going to be about this series.

CoHo: Colleen Hoover

If you’ve been on bookstagram over the past few years, then you probably know who Colleen Hoover is. My mom knows who Colleen Hoover is with the immense popularity of her book It Ends With Us. So if you ever see the phrase “CoHo” hanging around in the bookstagram world, know that it’s referring to this author.


Books Forward BFFs July 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the July 2023 newsletter here!