Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

At a certain point in a writer’s career, he or she will be faced with a professional dilemma: should I get an agent? At one time, the general consensus was that every writer needed an agent if they wanted to experience any kind of success. That’s not necessarily the rule of thumb today; the rise of e-publishing and self-publishing are giving writers a lot more options. Many writers have been published without the help of an agent, and many writers with agents are still waiting to see their names in print. In this post, we’re addressing the most common concerns on this topic to help you wade through the uncertain waters of signing with an agent.

What can literary agents do for your writing career?

What does an agent do?

An agent works on your behalf to sell your manuscript to publishers. Among other things, they act as the liaison between the writer and the publisher. They will advocate for the creative integrity of your work, keep you on track with your writing schedule, help with the editing process to meet publishers’ requirements, negotiate a good deal, secure foreign and screenplay rights, and much more.

Even though writing is a creative process, successful writers know that it is still a business. Many writers are too busy doing what they do best – writing! – to pay enough attention to the business side of their work. This is where the agent comes in.

Do I need an agent?

The answer will be different for each writer, but the real answer is no. You do not need an agent to get your work published. That being said, you may want to use an agent in order to save you time and improve your success rate. Agents have expert knowledge on the publishing industry, and know which markets are best suited for your writing – knowledge you may not have.

An agent is only necessary to help shop your novel. You won’t need an agent if you’re writing short stories or poetry. A good time to look for an agent is when you’ve completed at least one manuscript and have a good idea of what your next few books will be like.

How do I find an agent?

Keep in mind that just because you want an agent, does not mean they necessarily want you! An agent is looking for material that sells, and if they don’t think they can sell your work, they probably won’t want to waste their time. With that in mind, begin browsing the internet for agents who are accepting new clients, and who focus on your genre of writing.

Next, you’ll submit your query. This should include: the first three chapters of your manuscript, a brief synopsis, and a cover letter listing your publishing history and asking for representation. Most agents will include submission guidelines on their websites – be sure to read these carefully! It can take time to find an agent; they get nearly as many submissions as publishers. Be patient and do your research to make sure you’re reaching out to someone who’s a good fit for you.

How do I recognize a bad agent?

Many writers are nervous to sign with an agent because they’ve heard horror stories of agents ripping their clients off. Here are a few warning signs:

–          If an agent charges you a fee to read your manuscript, or any upfront expenses
–          If an agent refuses to give you references of books or authors he’s recently helped to publish
–          If the agent recommends you pay a “book doctor” to edit your manuscript
–          If the agent refuses to give you the names of the publishers they’ve submitted to

If you have a circle of writer friends, talk to them first. Are they happy with their representation? Have they had any bad experiences with a particular agent? Word of mouth is the best place to start. Also, every country has its own literary agents association. Any reputable agent should be listed here.

How does an agent get paid?

Your agent should not get any money up-front. They only receive payment when you do, and normally get about 15% of the advance and royalties on your book.

We’d love to hear from you! Tell us about your experience with agents in a comment below.



Rejection – it’s a necessary evil that every writer must experience. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a seasoned veteran, the truth is that in your lifetime you’ll receive miles more rejection letters than you will acceptance letters. I’ve heard it said that for every manuscript that gets accepted, a good twenty get tossed. Some rejection letters are constructive. The odd few can be just downright hurtful. Regardless of how many times, or why, your manuscript gets rejected, here are some tips to help you get through it.

1. Be persistent

Did you know that the first Harry Potter book was rejected 14 times before finally being published? In fact, many now famous authors went through years of rejection, but aren’t we all glad they kept at it? What eventually set them apart was that they didn’t give up. One rejection letter is not a reason to give up on a manuscript, and it’s certainly no reason to give up on being a writer! Get yourself into a cycle where as soon as you get a rejection letter, you send the manuscript back out to a different publisher.

2. Don’t take it personally

It’s very difficult not to take it personally, but you have to believe that it is not about you. Most editors are looking through dozens of manuscripts a day, but only have the space or budget to publish a very small percentage of what they receive. Because of this, they’re looking for reasons not to publish your story – they’ve got to whittle down that pile somehow! This means that most of the time, your story is being rejected for very insignificant reasons, not because of the quality of your writing.

3. Learn from your mistakes

Sometimes an editor will give you specific instructions on how you can improve your manuscript. Take these into consideration before putting your story back into circulation, and make the changes if you agree with them. Be open to their suggestions, and don’t let your pride get in the way. At the end of the day, editors are looking for work they know they can sell – they’re the best people to be critiquing your work.

4. Rejection-proof your manuscript

Before you send in your manuscript, make sure you are giving the editors as few reasons as possible to reject it. If you’re submitting to a magazine or journal, read back-issues to make sure you’re bringing something new and fresh – most magazines won’t print more than one story about the same topic within a couple of years. While you’re flipping through old issues, you’ll also get to know its tone. This will help you better determine whether your writing will be a good fit. Don’t send in a romance story to a publisher that mostly prints horror!

Another way to rejection-proof your manuscript is to read the submission guidelines very carefully. They will specify how many pages they’ll accept, the proper way to format (font size, margins, etc), and any other particulars that might seem insignificant to you, but are a really great way to whittle down that pile of hopeful manuscripts we were discussing earlier.


We’d love to hear your stories about bad rejection letters. Share them in a comment below!