How to Find an Agent or a Publisher for Your Book

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There are more options for publishing a book these days, but if you have your heart set on a traditional publishing house, it can seem like a daunting task to land a contract with one. If you aren’t sure how to make your authordom dreams come true, read on to learn the basics of pitching your book to an agent or a publisher. 

Need support in navigating the publishing industry? We can help you find a literary agent.

Do you need an agent?

There’s no single right answer to whether a writer should use an agent. Literary agents are publishing industry experts who are useful for many authors, but they aren’t a requirement. However, if you want to go the traditional route and sign with a publishing company, then you will most likely need a literary agent. Very few, if any, publishing houses will accept unsolicited manuscripts.

The pros of using an agent are:

  • They can negotiate the best deals with a publisher.
  • They can provide further advice on your manuscript.
  • They can help you publish with one of the “Big 5” (most of what the big publishing houses print comes through an agent).

The cons of using an agent are:

  • They get a large commission (typically 15%) from your advance and book sales.
  • They take very few clients at a time, so you’ll end up waiting for your turn.

How do you submit to a publisher?

  1. Send a query letter

Most publishers will not accept an entire manuscript; instead, you send them a query letter. This is basically your elevator pitch: a short synopsis of your book and perhaps other information, like comparable titles and the target audience. A query letter is just a page long, so only include the most important details of your book. You want to entice, not give away everything. Check with the publisher or the agent you’re reaching out to as they may have specific requirements—for example, they may want an author bio or a sample chapter attached.

  1. Have the final manuscript ready

After reading your query letter, an agent or a publisher may request the full manuscript, so make sure it is ready! This means having your book edited, proofread, and properly formatted. Don’t query agents until your book is completely finished. After all, you don’t want it to be rejected because it wasn’t professionally polished.

  1. Follow up (and move on)

If you haven’t heard back from an agent or a publisher after sending a query, follow up with them a couple of months later. If you still hear nothing (or receive a rejection), move on and send a query letter to a few more agents. Try not to take it personally: Agents only accept a few clients at a time, and bigger publishers are inundated with queries (so, don’t forget to try smaller presses!). Research which publishers might be a good fit based on their brand or audience. 

Send out maybe 10 query letters at a time. After a suitable amount of time has passed, send out another batch. You might not hear back, but don’t let that dishearten you. Rejections are a normal part of the publishing process, and you will probably have to query a lot of agents before you receive an email saying that they like your manuscript.

To find the right agent or publisher, take advantage of our targeted lists. We provide contact lists of agents/publishers who would be a good match for your book.

  1. Negotiate

If you get an offer, congratulations! However, don’t be afraid to research and negotiate. Find out if it’s a good offer—talk to other authors (join a local writers’ group or an online author community). Publishing houses aren’t fazed by negotiations; this is business, after all.

Hopefully, these tips will get you one step closer to publication. If you still need a helping hand, don’t forget to check out our author services: We cover everything from manuscript critiques to marketing.

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