Monday, April 30, 2007

Publishing Questions

I suspect the newest edition of Writer’s Market has just been published. Why? Because I’ve been receiving a lot of email questions about the business, things I would assume people should know before they begin the submission process. My personal opinion is that Writer’s Market is the easy way out and used primarily by new or inexperienced writers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great resource to begin your search with, but once you’ve narrowed your agent list from Writer’s Market you need to take the next step and review other resources to know for sure they are a fit.

You should also be aware that as far as I know, Writer’s Market still doesn’t have a strong vetting process. In other words, you can’t guarantee that all of the agents listed are reputable. So for that reason alone it’s imperative that you do research well beyond Writer’s Market.

To make my life easier I’m going to try to answer some of these questions in one place. That way, when they come around again next year I can simply supply people with the blog link.

I am an unpublished author and I've been doing some research on this. I know there are no types of reading fees, but what other fees are there besides your cut of the royalties? I mean, surely you guys don't pay out of pocket for advertising and things like that in hopes of making a big sale . . .

A literary agent is an author representative. My job is to look after the interests of my clients—authors. I represent the author in the sale of her work to publishers, which includes submissions, contract negotiation, the collection of money, handling other rights, as well as working with the author on career guidance and planning. I do not publish the book, advertise them, handle distribution, or any of the other jobs that are the responsibility of the publisher. And yes, I am paid entirely on commission.

I recently wrote a fictional book that is around 125 pages. It comes under the category of mystery/thriller. Everyone who has read my book really likes it. There are some mistakes in the book that can easily be corrected, but how should I go about getting published, because I do not know what should be the next step that I should take after writing the book?

I’m a literary agency, not an editing service. I want to see your book only when it is completed and polished and you feel it’s in fabulous shape and publishable.

How do you go about getting your book published?

You learn about the industry first. You polish, edit, and revise your book. You research literary agents and understand the different genres. You know which genre your book is in and you target only those agents who represent those genres. You then submit according to their individual guidelines. That means writing a strong and professional query letter. That also means learning to accept rejection. Once you get an agent she will start submitting to publishing houses on your behalf and you will work together to make that deal.

Oh, and 125 pages, assuming it’s double-spaced, is way too short. Fiction should be a minimum of 75,000 words for some categories, but primarily between 80,000 and 100,000 words. If yours is too long or too short, it’s time to edit and revise.

A proposal or partial consists of a synopsis of your entire book, including the ending, and the first three chapters, but no more than 50 pages. Make sure it’s the first three chapters.

Publishing is a business. Agents and editors don’t do these jobs as hobbies and publishers are in the business to make money, like all businesses are. Therefore you need to start thinking like it’s a business. You wouldn’t become an accountant without learning how to account. So don’t think you can get published without learning how to get published first. There are a lot of great books and resources on the subject. I’m sure I can get some people to make recommendations. . . .



kris said...

I highly recommend the Sell-Your- Novel Toolkit, by Elizabeth Lyon. It's a great introduction to the business side of writing. She talks about publishers and genres, agents and critique groups. She provides many samples of query letters and spends two entire chapters on the deaded synopsis. In short, she walks authors through the entire process of preparing your query, synopsis, and proposal, providing them with the background to start submitting in a knowledgeable and informed way. Excellent resource.

Laura K. Curtis said...

People really email you these questions?? Oh, my. You'd think if they could find you, they could find the information they need. It's not exactly hidden...

Anonymous said...

I really like that reference to a "fictional book." I'm all smiles!

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


yesterday i got a "nonfiction novel"


Anonymous said...

:) :) :) :)

Sam said...

Would you take an author on a proposal if the book wasn't finished?
(Let's say the author has a track record of published books behind her.)

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


Absolutely. Once you have published most likely I will take you on proposal. One of the perks of being published is that you can sell on proposal.