Select and Work with an Agent or Publisher

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Decide What to Write and Learn How to Publish

Section 3: Select and Work with an Agent or Publisher

Elaine L. Orr


Publishers have always received far more manuscripts than would ever make it to bookstores. Since we authors bought computers, they would drown in unsolicited manuscripts if they accepted them. To say nothing of the cost of reviewing them.

Thanks to mergers, there are fewer large publishers than in prior years, which means fewer places to submit a book. Small presses may accept work directly from you, but large publishers require you to use an agent, and agents only make money if they sell your work. They need to be very selective.

Publishers and agents specialize, and nothing irritates them more than you being unaware of what they want. You are wasting their time.

If you do send an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher, it will not be opened. You may never know what happened to it because they don't want exposure to books they do not request. Five years from now someone might say, "I sent publisher ABC my manuscript long ago, and this book they just put out sounds a lot like my work." Trust me, publishers won't plagiarize. But this is moot because only an agent will send them material.

Perhaps the most important word to take away from this section is guidelines. Agents are clear about the type of work they want to represent and publishers are clear about the kinds of books they want to publish. Read their guidelines, which are on their websites, very carefully.

Maybe this seems discouraging so you want to handle your book yourself. Before you consider self-publishing, review the four lessons in this section.

Help an agent choose you

Know types of publishers and how to find them

Assess a publisher

Work with a publisher

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