Mainstream Publishing -Fiction and Memoirs.
Congratulations on finishing that Manuscript. (MS).
What’s the next step?
First, decide if you wish to SelfPublish or go Mainstream. If it’s the latter, and it’s fiction, most Mainstream Publishers will not accept unsolicited MS, so do you want an Agent or will you go straight to an Independent Publisher (Indie)?
It’s OK to submit to both categories and to a few agents/Indies at the same time, but keep a record and keep it personal. No-one likes beauty parades and after spending so long writing the novel or memoir, check that you are submitting to people who are going to be interested. Just a little more research can save an awful lot of time and remember, most agents live in and around the publishing hub, London. And yes, of course they talk to each other…
So, who does what?
Sell and license rights to a variety of media (not just book publishers) at home and abroad on behalf of their client authors with whom they have a contract on each book for the full term of copyright. Agents receive a commission on authors’ earnings, typically 10 to 15 per cent on earnings from home sales but rising to 20 per cent on deals made abroad.
Once an agent has taken on an author, it’s their job to pitch the book to the right editor in the most suitable publishing house. This includes Indies, in fact some smaller publishers do not accept non agented MS and Amazon’s White Glove Program can only be accessed by agents on behalf of their clients.
First let’s understand the process. Once a book is acquired from an author, it has to be edited, designed, produced, marketed to the book trade and readers, and sold to bookshops or the end- purchaser. Once the book has been printed, it has to be stored, orders are taken from retailers or consumers, and the book is then dispatched from the warehouse.
These days it’s a pretty straightforward choice: agents can submit your MS to Major Publishers’ something you alone are not able to do. If you go to an Independent Publisher, you don’t necessarily need an agent, but they can be useful. There’s no harm in trying both options. The main requirement is that you notify those you have applied to if an offer is made to represent you. This is surely common courtesy and can also perhaps persuade others to consider making you an offer, too. An agent manages the commercial aspects, for example by placing the author’s work with the right publisher or fuelling competition between publishers (on major books by holding auctions); negotiating deals to secure the best terms; by submitting their own contracts to licensors weighted in the authors’ favour; checking or querying both publishers’ advance payments against royalties, and royalty statements, and chasing debts. Most authors are unable to market the rights on their work worldwide so they mainly allow publishers to do so on their behalf. An agent representing an author may limit the rights granted to a publisher, and their territorial extent, and license the rights retained on behalf of the author to other firms at home and abroad. But, as with everything, it depends on the individual circumstances. A publisher investing a large amount, for instance in a new writer on a two-book deal, has a strong case for acquiring wide territorial rights and the sharing of other rights.
Going it Alone
Help is always on hand. Once you have received an offer you can, for example, join The Writers’ Guild, or The Society of Authors. Both provide a contract vetting service.
How to Find an Agent or Publisher
These options are for agents and publishers within the UK and are no more than a couple of suggestions, they are certainly not an exhaustive list. However, we hope they help.
The Association of Authors’ Agents:
This has links to the various members’ sites where you can then check their submissions policies. It is more of a starting point than anything, but it is FREE.
The Writers and Artists Yearbook Online Listings Directory (W&A )
According to their website they have: nearly 5,000 contacts for the book publishing industry, over 500 online-only entries, plus 35 literary agents from European and non-English speaking countries.
(It also has 125 self-publishing providers, which may or may not prove useful.)
You can search by name, location and keyword e.g. ‘romance’, by entering your search terms in the boxes;
browse by category on the Explore Categories page e.g. Literary agents UK and Ireland or Literary agents overseas; and save your favourite entries – a great tool for creating a target list for your submissions.
It costs £19.95 for twelve months, but there is no doubt that links are a whole lot easier than typing in the address each time which you had to do with the printed lists.
The Agent Hunter
Full Disclosure: The Agent Hunter offered us the chance to review the site in exchange for a free subscription and as it is something we had already recommended to some of our members, we decided to check it out.
This is another searchable database which has compiled details of agencies and agents, their likes and dislikes and submission policies. It also offers lists of independent publishers. Provided this is kept up to date it can do a lot of your sifting work for you. Fees start from as little as five pounds, making it better value than the W&A and there are no adverts (or attempts to offer Solutions Providers/Vanity Publishers.)
There is no doubt that the filters available can help narrow the search down quite substantially. Choose from amongst the following:
Client List – open to new clients, looking to add to list
Opportunities to meet
Key Entry Search Value
Agent Hunter is new – which means it should be relatively up to date, but as with all databases, there is no guarantee it is error free, something the site acknowledges and is transparent about:
“We do try very hard to stay comprehensive and up to date, but mistakes will creep through. If you spot any omission or error, please let us know. We check/update every entry at least annually, but the key entries are updated more often than that.”
Information is compiled from a number of sources:
“We get our data from agents’ websites, published directories, the Bookseller magazine, the Association of Authors’ Agents, the Publishers’ Association, other public sources of data, our own contacts, and from agents themselves.”
Personally, I’d like an additional filter added: whether they accept submissions from outside the UK, but that aside, I really like it. Another great feature is the ability to dovetail between agents and agencies and then check out Independent Publishers, too.
This is a great jumping off point before diving into the agencies’ or Publishers’ own websites and, for as little as a fiver, offers great value.
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