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View Full Version : agent first, or publishing company first?



NiallMcF
06-12-2011, 02:20 AM
i read that the best way to get published is to approach publishing companies, rather than agents. once you've gotten the interest of a publishing company then agents will be beating down your door. agents are not supposed to help you get published, their supposed to help you get a good contract.
however, i heard this from an american author. i'm based in ireland. does the same advice apply on this side of the atlantic?

alleycat
06-12-2011, 02:23 AM
In the US someone is generally going to want to get an agent first. There are a few exceptions.

third person
06-12-2011, 02:26 AM
An American told you that load of bollocks? For shame.

Cyia
06-12-2011, 02:36 AM
i read that the best way to get published is to approach publishing companies, rather than agents. Then someone is an idiot or a liar. once you've gotten the interest of a publishing company then agents will be beating down your door The majority of larger publishers won't read anything not subbed by an agent. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. Even with a contract in hand, the agents in question still have to read and love the work before they can represent it, and the answer, isn't always "yes" agents are not supposed to help you get published, their supposed to help you get a good contract.Sounds like someone's having you on. Agents help you ready your work with the final tweaks it needs for publication, then they use their contacts and experience to submit to targeted editors who are looking for or might be interested in your specific work.
however, i heard this from an american author. i'm based in ireland. does the same advice apply on this side of the atlantic?It doesn't apply on either side of the Atlantic. Even the presses that allow author submissions will take far longer to get back to an unagented author in most cases, and worst case scenario, if you sub to editors first, then you burn bridges an agent can't cross again if the editor says no.


In the US, you write a query (for fiction), then submit it to agents along with 5-10 pages included (pasted into the email, not attached).

In the UK, so far as I know, it's a cover letter and 3 chapters, to agents. I've only ever subbed to one UK agent, and was directed to guidelines on how to submit with the cover letter, etc., because I botched it. I've heard the same from people here who live "over yonder".

Filigree
06-12-2011, 03:08 AM
I second the caveats. Those few publishers still taking unagented mms can take several years to get through their slushpile. And you cannot do multiple submissions, as you can with agents. Do you want to be on submission for up to five or six years with a single mms? Once you do get a publisher's attention, it's nearly always vital to have an agent to look out for your interests.

suki
06-12-2011, 04:20 AM
This advice was common ten years ago...for some genres, and some agents. While some still believe it to be accurate, it's not longer the norm for most genres. It's also very risky.

In general, once you have widely shopped your novel to publishers, many (most?) agents will take you on unless you have a good offer already on the table - meaning if you shop it widely, and don't find a deal, many agents will not consider trying to sell it, even if they think it has potential, because it's already been widely rejected. So, it's the riskier avenue - because it's often all of nothing.

And when you shop it yourself, you likely won't be able to target specific editors, meaning you have an uphill battle of getting through slush and to the hands of the right editor by chance. And if it gets into the hands of editor A, who rejects it, it might never be seen by editor B, who would have loved it and fought to acquire it.

Whereas, any agent worth having will know precisely which editors are the best shots for acquiring it, and might work with you to help it become publishable if not quite there yet.

So, you can certainly shop publishers first, but if you do, you are far decreasing your chances of finding an agent unless you get an offer.

~suki

Susan Littlefield
06-12-2011, 05:03 AM
I live in the US, so I can only speak for what I've been learning here, especially from people at this forum and those who are published in my area.


i read that the best way to get published is to approach publishing companies, rather than agents.

For the US, I have heard the opposite, to start with agents and try publishers last. Agents do help you get published, plus they know a whole lot about who to contact, etc. then writers know.



once you've gotten the interest of a publishing company then agents will be beating down your door.

Really? This does not sound accurate to me, because agents don't go out hunting for clients. I what you say may be more an exception rather than the rule.


agents are not supposed to help you get published, their supposed to help you get a good contract.

I would think they work to help you get a good contract and to get published. After all, they make money from your books, so they must do more than just helping you get a contract.


however, i heard this from an american author. i'm based in ireland. does the same advice apply on this side of the atlantic?

An American author told you this? Maybe his experience has been different from what I have been learning.

waylander
06-12-2011, 12:28 PM
Whoever told you that is years out of date. The majority of publishers will not consider un-agented subs and those that do can take literally years to reply.
Get an agent

NiallMcF
06-12-2011, 01:54 PM
so the general consensus is that the advice is not accurate. i've just checked and the book i read it in was written years ago. this may have been good advice a long time ago.
i always thought it was agent first, publisher second, but the advice from this guy threw me off, cos he's a very successful author, and publisher.
thanks for clearing it up people.

James D. Macdonald
06-12-2011, 03:58 PM
It varies by genre and by press.

Unless you're well-enough wired in to the world of publishing to know which presses to approach, it's in your best interest to have an agent, whose job is to be well-enough wired in to the world of publishing to know which presses to approach.

Debbie V
06-13-2011, 10:06 PM
Seek an agent first because if every publisher has rejected your book the agents won't have any place to submit, but if every agent rejects it you can still go to publishers.

Seriously, picture books don't need agents. Enough companies accept them that you can get published without one. For novels, an agent is highly recommended.

ZapAdRem
06-19-2011, 03:10 PM
I would definitely get an agent. They know who will want your MS and will try to get you a good deal for it.

blacbird
06-22-2011, 10:37 AM
You can't get published if you don't have an agent, and you can't get an agent if you haven't been published, so I'm told.

Having no first-hand experience with either, I can't comment further.

caw

Anne Lyle
06-22-2011, 10:44 AM
Don't listen to blacbird, he's an old cynic :)

All I can say is, it's certainly still possible to get a publisher first, at least here in the UK, but it usually happens via some kind of direct networking, not by submitting to publishers' slushpiles. I met my publisher at a convention, and one of my fellow authors met them through Twitter. Srsly.

I wouldn't say agents were beating down my door to rep me, once I got an offer, but I was able to go to the agent I wanted (who had already requested the full) and ask him if he'd like to rep me. That was a nice feeling!

Any "how to write" book that is more than 5 years old is likely to be misleading when it comes to the "how to get published" part. The landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade. Take this writer's advice on dialogue, pace, or whatever, but anything about the business? Come to an up-to-date source like, oh I dunno, Absolute Write?

Becca C.
06-22-2011, 10:46 AM
You can't get published if you don't have an agent, and you can't get an agent if you haven't been published, so I'm told.

Not true on either count, fortunately :) there are publishers who will consider unagented submissions, and pretty much all agents will take on debut authors. A brand-new author is less of a financial risk than a previously published author with only a so-so sales record.

blacbird
06-22-2011, 10:51 AM
Don't listen to blacbird, he's an old cynic :)

I find the "o-" word offensive, and prefer to use the more politically correct term "chronologically successful".

caw

NiallMcF
06-24-2011, 06:27 PM
thanks for the input ann lyle

Anne Lyle
06-24-2011, 06:31 PM
You're welcome!

quicklime
06-24-2011, 06:57 PM
i read that the best way to get published is to approach publishing companies, rather than agents. once you've gotten the interest of a publishing company then agents will be beating down your door. agents are not supposed to help you get published, their supposed to help you get a good contract.
however, i heard this from an american author. i'm based in ireland. does the same advice apply on this side of the atlantic?


I think you simply heard old advice....that seemed to be a fairly common addage not that long ago, but things change.

Few publishers (the big ones, and people usually advise you to work from the top down) take submissions "cold" and many will not take many subs even if you query first.....plus the slush pile is incredibly long, and you don't control who sees the story.

An agent can fast-track the process; they can't get you a sale, but they can target your request and get it accepted or rejected considerably quicker....

NiallMcF
06-29-2011, 06:36 PM
yes that seems to be the case quicklime. it was dated advice.