Path to Publication, Part I: Research Agents/Publishers

Path to Publication Introduction

I hope you’ve taken the time to think about your goals as an author before reading these tips, because starting now, knowing whether you want to publish with HarperCollins or an equivalent (aka a big publisher) or if you want to self-publish will make all the difference.

The post is divided into two parts: agents and publishers


If you are looking to publish with a publisher that only accepts submission from agents, want to make money from your book, want a professional’s advice during your publication journey, and/or just think it’s what you would feel more comfortable with, get an agent.

Agents are great because they are highly motivated to place your book with the best publisher possible. (Their payment is a percentage of the advance offered by the publisher when the book is accepted.) They have a finger on the pulse of the book market and know what will sell. They often make recommendations of how to change the book to make it more attractive to publishers.
Because agents are so great–they find a publisher for you!–it can be as hard to find an agent to represent you as to find a publisher to publish your book. Every agent is different, and there are thousands of them. Where do you start looking for one?
Step 1: Scour the web for published books that are similar to yours–maybe they take place in the same time period or have a similar conflict or have a young girl protagonist or have talking animals. I recommend subscribing to Publishers Marketplace, a $25/mo subscription to a website that records all book deals, including author, manuscript (MS) summary, agent, and publisher.
Example entry from Publishers Marketplace–for a book I’m editing <3
Search for books that are similar to yours and make a list of agents who repped those books. Then look up everything you can about those agents to see if they’d be a good fit for your book. What books they’ve repped that are similar to yours? What books do they like to rep? What format do they require for a query letter? What other material do they require in a submission (like a marketing plan or chapter summaries)? What publishers they’ve placed books with? Make a big list and put them in order of who you think will be most likely and start querying!
Get ready for rejections. Rejections suck. They are also necessary. You don’t want an agent to accept your book unless they’re passionate about representing it. And don’t give up until you’ve queried A HUNDRED agents!
If you are looking to publish with a smaller publisher that accepts submission from authors or a self-publisher, want to retain as much control over your book as possible, and/or don’t want to spend a year finding an agent, find a publisher.
There are respected small to medium sized publishers who don’t require authors to submit their manuscripts through an agent. (This blog post is out of date, but it gives you an idea of the presses out there that accept un-agented submissions.) Just like the agents, the more research you do up front, the better match you’ll find for your book. Use the same criteria to find a publisher as I listed to find an agent: research what books they have published that are similar to yours and what they require for a submission.
The Literary Marketplace is an old website that you can make a free account with that lists all publishers in the US. A little out of date, it’s a good place to find a bunch of publishers that you wouldn’t be able to find just through a Google search. Make a list and start querying!
Next week: creating an internet presence

Every Author Has a Path to Publication

A friend from college recently asked me “How realistic is it for someone like me to publish?”, and it echoed a discussion I had last weekend with a woman I edited a book for. With these two conversations in mind, I want to share what I’ve learned about the publishing process in the hopes of encouraging authors that every author has a path to publication.

I have three main tips I’d like to share–research agents/publishers, create a presence on the internet, hire an editor–the details of which I will include in three upcoming blogposts. But I want to start with some encouragement.

As a first-time author, you’ve written a book that you and maybe a few friends who’ve read it think is good. Maybe you’ve never heard of agents and have no idea how the publication process works. Maybe you’ve queried a few agents because you read that was the next step to publication, but they passed. Maybe you think you need an editor but aren’t really sure. You scour the web but everyone has their own ideas of how to get published.

Each author has his or her own path to publication often shaped by factors outside the author’s control–what’s hot right now in the book market, what books a publisher has already published that year, and other arbitrary, mysterious factors. Every author has a path to publication. You can do this.

At the end of the day, though, think about what you really want–what your goal is for you and your book. Do you want to be published by a big publisher? Are you willing to spend money (on an editor, a website, writing conferences where you can meet agents and publishers, etc.) to get published? Do you want to one day hold a physical copy of a book you’ve written in your hands? Do you want your story to be the best it can be? Do you want to make money from your book? Is writing a hobby you’d like to share with your family and friends? Thinking about where you want to end will help you a lot in deciding what you need to do now to get there.

What I’ll share in the next few posts are actions every author can take to meet their publishing goals.

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