How to find an Agent / Publisher – For Novels
Once you are happy that your work is as good as you can get it you also need to compile a synopsis and preliminary letter.
Decide which publisher you are going to send it to. Ask yourself if a publisher is the best route for your work or if you would be of more benefit going to an agent instead. Many writers do not understand the difference between Agents and Publishers so here is a brief summary:
Agents – A good agent will actively seek a reputable publishing company and book deal for you. They look after your interest. You pay them a percentage once a deal has been secured. You should look out for companies who ask for money before securing you a publishing deal. This is why agents can and should be very picky when choosing new writers to represent. If they cannot find you a deal they will have lost a lot of time and money trying to do so, so it is within your and their best interest to totally believe in your work and to have a good working relationship together.
Publishers – A publisher will pay you to use your novel for maximum gain and return. Publishers can be slightly more demanding than agents if they do not see a return on their money and time, and there will be far more pressure on you to work effectively with your publisher. Publishers as a whole are much harder to get a deal from than an agent because they are taking on less and less new writers. Most Agents come from a publishing background and have set up their own companies to make the transition easier. Unless your work is outstanding it is unlikely a publisher will have the confidence to take on your work. However, it is not unheard of for new writers to be taken on directly by publishing companies.
Once you have decided that you would like to go ahead with finding a publisher or an agent you need to find one that will be suited to your work and your genre of novel.
Finding out what type of writing an agent or publisher handles is much more difficult. Write & Share will soon have a comprehensive Directory where you can search specifically under Genre to find agents and publishers that accept manuscripts of your genre. Until this is launched however, it is a long process of calling/researching each publisher or agent you are interested in and asking them if they would be interested in receiving a submission of your novel and genre. It is worth taking note of the receptionist/person’s name you have spoken to and including this in your preliminary letter (E.g. – Dear …, further to my conversation with… I would like to enclose…etc). This lets the agent/publisher know you have done your research before sending in your manuscript.
It is good practice to research the company you are interested in online before sending your work. Do they have a good number of reputable authors on their books? Do they have a proven track record? It is wise to choose a company you feel will be able to represent you effectively and whom you would have every confidence in working with.
Both agents and publishers prefer you only submit to one agent or publisher at any one time. However, as they can take up to 3 months to reply to your work this could be a very long winded process. I would suggest selecting a select handful of agents or publishers only to send your manuscript to at one time.
Select 2 or 3 sample chapters that you would like to send. Do not send your full manuscript unless you have been asked to do so. With a novel always send the first chapter and it is good practice to keep the chapters in order unless there is a particular reason to do otherwise. If you do not feel your first 3 chapters are the strongest of your book then you need to look at why this would be the case and I would advise looking at improving/re-writing your first few chapters. If you do not find that they convey you as a writer in the best light then why would a publisher or agent want to take on your book?
Attach a synopsis of between 300-500 words. Attach a preliminary letter which should be approx 1 page long. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of your material.
Print your work in a sensible (e.g. Arial/Times New Roman) typeface, double spaced, on one side only of the paper (white A4 general purpose paper is fine) and bound with only one or two elastic bands. Do not hole punch your work and put into a folder. Do not put your work into a cardboard folder. Both of these are deemed inconvenient to the publisher or agent who is going to be reading it.
Re-check your work before you slip it into the envelope and send. Compile a tick-list:
- 2-3 Chapters of your manuscript
- Preliminary letter
- Self addressed envelope
Once you are confident you not only have everything required but that you are 100% happy with the way it looks then there is only one last step to complete.
Send your work in the post.
Your work will arrive at you chosen agent/publisher, along with hundreds of other manuscripts and will be put into a ‘slush pile’. Many agents / publishers consider 99.9% of the work they receive as ‘un-sellable’ or ‘badly written’. Despite the statistics, most companies will at the very least take the time to read all submissions. Mostly all companies have designated ‘readers’ who trawl through the ‘slush pile’ hoping to clinch that next great novel. It is within their best interest not to overlook a good novel – because when they find that needle in the haystack it could pay their salary for anything up to 2 years.
However, it could be that your novel is in fact great, but that the company feels they cannot sell it. If this, or for other reasons they decide to reject your work, you will receive a letter stating that they do not wish to represent your work. Agents and publishers do not have the time to go into detail explaining why your work has been rejected because they just receive too many manuscripts to have the time or resources to do so. With this in mind it would be fruitless to call and ask why your manuscript has been rejected.
There is a small chance that the ‘readers’ find your work appealing, in which case your work could be ‘called in’. This does not mean that they are offering you a deal of any kind. It means that they see promise with your manuscript and are interested in reading more. This is of great merit because such a small percentage of writers receive a ‘call in’. However, there is still only a small chance they will inevitably take you on and it is wise to note you are still in uncertain territory.
On an ending note it is wise to consider the probability that your novel will be rejected and that you will have to persevere to succeed. Even if your novel is fantastic you may not have found the right agent/publisher to appreciate your work. And it is a good question to ask yourself that if your novel is so fantastic why is it being rejected? Could it be that you need to get your work polished by a professional copy-editor? Is it that your work shows signs of greatness but there are holes in your storyline and characters? Is your work sellable?
Think of yourself as a publisher or agent – why would you invest money in your story? Look at market trends and the probability of your work fitting into this. Include these selling points in your Preliminary letter to back up your reasons for considering your work.
Writing is about constantly learning and improving so I suggest that if you are feeling disheartened by the process of submission, you are aware that you are not alone. Use Write & Share to connect with other writers and learn from their experiences and tribulations. There is an anticipated BILLION writers around the world fighting for their work to be seen, and it is your job to make sure yours is seen and loved. You owe it to yourself to keep improving your work and trying.
Filed under: Finding an Agent / Publisher