In your opinion, what's the key to getting an agent and then a book deal?
Okay, not to sound like Miss Snark here because as we know, I don't always agree with her, but honestly, there's no special key, secret handshake or magic ticket. The key is to write a good book. Period.
Actually, I'll amend that. There are SO many agents out there, I'd say that the key to getting an agent is to write a pretty good book. These days, some agents are willing to take on diamonds in the rough and work with writers until the ms is ready to send out. But there's just no way that you're going to get a book deal if you write a crap book. Too many people have to approve the purchase of said book (see a previous blog entry on how difficult it is for a book to get bought - usually upwards of 5-7 people have to agree on the purchase) for it to be drivel.
Now. All of that said, an enormous amount of shitty books are published, and honestly, I have no idea how or why. But I'm guessing it's because these books appeal to a market and the publisher knows that even if the novel isn't going to win any awards, people are going to read it because, let's be honest here, book preferences are totally subjective and while I'm not likely to buy, for example, a romance novel, hundreds of thousands of others are. So what I might consider crap, others - and this includes agents and editors - might consider good writing. Or at least marketable writing.
So...how do so many bad books get published anyway? And how do they find agents and editors?