Agents or publishers? Who should you approach first?

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"Most new writers think getting an agent will be easier than getting a publisher. I think the reality is quite different."

Agents or publishers? Who should you approach first?

A friend recently asked me to meet up with his flatmate, also a writer, to give some advice on how to find a publisher.

As we chatted and he talked through his experience so far, one thing really hit home. Most writers think it’s easier to get an agent than a publisher and most go down this route first, then end up feeling dejected.

Agents are NOT an easier route to market than publishers

The truth is, it’s hard to get a publisher – but harder still to get an agent.

When I finished my first novel, I did what most other writers seem to – I looked at the publishers I knew and quickly found that you need an agent to submit to many of them (because they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts).

I was then (swiftly in some cases, over a period of months by others) rejected by a number of agents. So I had a rethink and did some research. In fact, there are a lot of publishers out there who will accept unsolicited manuscripts. A lot. There are writing competitions and novel competitions and loads of ways for new writers to get noticed.

My point is this: I absolutely believe writers should have agents – but they aren’t your only option when you’re starting out.

In the end, I sent some publishers my novel submission… and in stark contract to agents, of the 8 publishers I sent Beat The Rain to, 3 expressed an interest.

So why do most people think agents are their only route to market?

I think it’s because people only think of the biggest of the big hitters like Penguin Random House or Harper Collins or Pan MacMillan. All fantastic and something to aim for, definitely, but also much more competitive and hard to get a foot in.

And they mainly require that you have an agent. But here’s the thing:

If you’re a new writer, you are high risk for an agent

Generally, agents only get a percentage of your earnings. They get a percentage of what is left after the stores and online retailers have taken their cut – some may only get a percentage after the publisher has taken its cut.

Whatever the detail, this means in practice is that an agent isn’t going to take you on unless they are sure you are:

  1. Going to get picked up by a publisher
  2. Going to sell a lot of novels (a lot, not just in the thousands, but the hundreds of thousands)

If you are a new and unknown author, you’re arguably a bigger gamble for an agent than a publisher. Add to this the fact they don’t know how well you’ll be able to market yourself and it becomes about so much more than your manuscript, no matter how good it is.

Try publishers as well as agents

So, my advice if you’re an unknown author or previously unpublished (without a ‘name’)? Don’t just target agents – go for publishers as well. Research the numerous publishers out there looking for debuts and who want new writers in your genre. There are many, and they want great writers on their books.

I’m not saying don’t find an agent – far from it. But before looking for one, do everything you can to get out there, get published and sell some books. Once you’ve proved yourself, once you’ve got solid numbers, you can find the right agent for you.

Pre-order Beat The Rain

Here’s the ‘go on, buy my book, you know you want to’ bit.

My debut novel Beat The Rain is published by Roundfire Books and will be available in bookstores on 29 July 2016.

The novel is available to pre-order now from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells and other online retailers. If you like the look of it, don’t wait – pre-order a copy now.

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Buy from Amazon.com

Agents or publishers? Who should you approach first?

A friend recently asked me to meet up with his flatmate, also a writer, to give some advice on how to find a publisher.

As we chatted and he talked through his experience so far, one thing really hit home. Most writers think it’s easier to get an agent than a publisher and most go down this route first, then end up feeling dejected.

Agents are NOT an easier route to market than publishers

The truth is, it’s hard to get a publisher – but harder still to get an agent.

When I finished my first novel, I did what most other writers seem to – I looked at the publishers I knew and quickly found that you need an agent to submit to many of them (because they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts).

I was then (swiftly in some cases, over a period of months by others) rejected by a number of agents. So I had a rethink and did some research. In fact, there are a lot of publishers out there who will accept unsolicited manuscripts. A lot. There are writing competitions and novel competitions and loads of ways for new writers to get noticed.

My point is this: I absolutely believe writers should have agents – but they aren’t your only option when you’re starting out.

In the end, I sent some publishers my novel submission… and in stark contract to agents, of the 8 publishers I sent Beat The Rain to, 3 expressed an interest.

So why do most people think agents are their only route to market?

I think it’s because people only think of the biggest of the big hitters like Penguin Random House or Harper Collins or Pan MacMillan. All fantastic and something to aim for, definitely, but also much more competitive and hard to get a foot in.

And they mainly require that you have an agent. But here’s the thing:

If you’re a new writer, you are high risk for an agent

Generally, agents only get a percentage of your earnings. They get a percentage of what is left after the stores and online retailers have taken their cut – some may only get a percentage after the publisher has taken its cut.

Whatever the detail, this means in practice is that an agent isn’t going to take you on unless they are sure you are:

  1. Going to get picked up by a publisher
  2. Going to sell a lot of novels (a lot, not just in the thousands, but the hundreds of thousands)

If you are a new and unknown author, you’re arguably a bigger gamble for an agent than a publisher. Add to this the fact they don’t know how well you’ll be able to market yourself and it becomes about so much more than your manuscript, no matter how good it is.

Try publishers as well as agents

So, my advice if you’re an unknown author or previously unpublished (without a ‘name’)? Don’t just target agents – go for publishers as well. Research the numerous publishers out there looking for debuts and who want new writers in your genre. There are many, and they want great writers on their books.

I’m not saying don’t find an agent – far from it. But before looking for one, do everything you can to get out there, get published and sell some books. Once you’ve proved yourself, once you’ve got solid numbers, you can find the right agent for you.

Pre-order Beat The Rain

Here’s the ‘go on, buy my book, you know you want to’ bit.

My debut novel Beat The Rain is published by Roundfire Books and will be available in bookstores on 29 July 2016.

The novel is available to pre-order now from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells and other online retailers. If you like the look of it, don’t wait – pre-order a copy now.

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Buy from Amazon.com

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