Finding an agent / publisher?

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Pencrafter

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I’ve read some threads in this forum and finding agents and publishers whether for children’s books or not seems daunting. Lots of scams, lots of everything to navigate. How does one learn where to begin?
 

mrsmig

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Research. Research, research, research.

Start at your local bookstore. Go to the section where you can find books like the one you've written. Start pulling out recent titles, read the acknowledgements (because most authors thank their agents there) and make notes of both agent's name and their agency, if mentioned. Do this a bunch. Then go to the internet and research those agents. See if they're listed on Query Tracker and what their response time is like. Look for them on Twitter and if they have a profile there, follow them - many will post what they're reading and what they're looking for.

All this research will help you narrow the field and avoid the fly-by-night types. Good luck.
 

Laurel

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First, decide whether you're looking for publishers or agents. I don't recommend to subbing to both at the same time. If you get an agent, the agent won't be able to sub to publishers you've already subbed to (at least not with the same manuscript). I think it makes sense to try for agents first. If you don't get one, or if you get one but then part ways if your book doesn't sell, you can contact publishers on your own. Many big publishers only accept agented subs, but there are some respectable publishers that don't require an agent.

For agents, look at what they represent and what books they've sold. Newer agents should generally have support from an established agency. Google the agent and check the Bewares section here to look for any red flags. Also think about what type of agent you want. For example, do you want an editorial agent? Do you want to write in multiple genres?

For publishers, look at what they've published. Do the books have good covers? Are they well edited and formatted? Do they have good reviews, including professional reviews from places like Kirkus and SLJ? Again, Google the publisher and check the Bewares section here to look for red flags. Don't just go off the publisher's website, which could be misleading.

Don't give an agent or publisher money. An agent works on commissions, and a traditional publisher pays the author, not the other way around. Also avoid publishing contracts that require you to buy a certain number of books. This is just another way of charging authors to publish. Traditional publishers usually provide a small number of free copies (up to 20, in my experience, but sometimes fewer) and the option to buy more, usually at a discount.

If you get offered a deal and you don't have an agent, do some research on standard contracts, as well as clauses to avoid or negotiate. It's always good to have the contract reviewed by a publishing expert.
 

VeryBigBeard

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There aren't that many scams.

The thing is, the scams prey on people who want so desperately to be published that they'll overlook the usually very obvious warning signs. So the real trick is in having the right perspective. Of course you want to be published pretty badly--but view it as a career. If you're looking for an agent, you want a business partner, someone who can help not just with this book, but all the books you plan to write.

That will filter out most of the crummy ones by default. The mistake people make is they focus on just achieving publication. Publication isn't the end of the line. It's the very beginning of it, really.

You still need to do some research, yes. There are agents who are above board but who don't sell enough, at least in whatever your genre is, so you may choose not to query them. I find what takes most of the time is formatting, frankly, which is a pain but it's not exactly hard: just check the sub guidelines, make a list, note what each agent wants next to their name, put an email together, and query.

There are lists of agents all over the web. You can use the index in Bewares & Background Checks here, if you want. Or QueryTracker. Or anywhere else--one thing about agents is they talk to and about other agents, so you can search one and find another.

Here's a post I did a while back with more detail on how to actually do the granular research, which has a couple links to the agency lists at the AAR/AAA.

I sympathize that it can look daunting, but the question you have to ask yourself is: is this what I want for my book, and for the work I've put in?

Good luck!
 

lizmonster

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To all the excellent advice here I'll only add: pay attention to how you feel when you communicate with them. You don't have to be best buddies, but this person is going to be a business partner in what you should both want to be a successful venture. You should be able to ask questions comfortably and not fear reprisals. And if you have any kind of "hmmm..." response when you talk to them - think long and hard before you ignore that.
 

Pencrafter

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I’m a little concerned about using Twitter for this. Is it truly a solid way to research agents?
 

mccardey

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I’m a little concerned about using Twitter for this. Is it truly a solid way to research agents?
Some agents give brilliant twitter. @jounwin talks a lot about books, publishing and good and bad haircuts.
 

Pencrafter

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Thank you. I’m sure some agents are great but is Twitter itself a bit of a security risk?
 

lizmonster

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I’m a little concerned about using Twitter for this. Is it truly a solid way to research agents?

Agents say a lot of interesting stuff on Twitter. It's worth noting that in this day and age, every agent knows how to look good on Twitter. It's not a substitute for other research.
 

AW Admin

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Thank you. I’m sure some agents are great but is Twitter itself a bit of a security risk?

Not any more than anything on the Internet is.

You have copyright from the moment you start to created. Ideas aren't unique. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's the unique expression of those ideas that matters.

- - - Updated - - -

Thank you. I’m sure some agents are great but is Twitter itself a bit of a security risk?

Not any more than anything on the Internet is.

You have copyright from the moment you start to created. Ideas aren't unique. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's the unique expression of those ideas that matters.

- - - Updated - - -

Good agents have writers with books you can find in your local book stores and libraries; not online stores, physical stores.
 

Gillhoughly

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THIS.

Start at your local bookstore. Go to the section where you can find books like the one you've written. Start pulling out recent titles, read the acknowledgements (because most authors thank their agents there) and make notes of both agent's name and their agency, if mentioned. Do this a bunch. Then go to the internet and research those agents. See if they're listed on Query Tracker and what their response time is like. Look for them on Twitter and if they have a profile there, follow them - many will post what they're reading and what they're looking for.

When you find some possible agents, see if they have blogs. They might mention what they're looking for, past sales, submission dos/don'ts, writing advice, etc. It's one way to get a feel for their personality and professionalism.

It's a good idea to follow blogs of those you may not sub anything to in order to learn about the business side of the industry.

If they charge a reading fee, a processing fee, ANY kind of fee, drop them. Anyone who wants your money before making a sale is a scammer.
 

Pencrafter

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In what way?

Heh...the geek in me wants to jump in head first with tech; the artist in me has a deep-seated suspicion of tech, especially of Social Media with respect to the abuses committed on those platforms.
 

mccardey

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Thank you. I’m sure some agents are great but is Twitter itself a bit of a security risk?
You don’t to tweet out - just following is a good way to find out who and what they are currently repping and how supportive they are
 

Debbie V

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Also, you can often find agent interviews online. Some of them hint at personality. And check submission guidelines carefully. Agents use them to see who can follow directions. Publisher's Marketplace is another good resource, but it costs. Many suggest buying a subscription for a month or two. You can subscribe to Children's Bookshelf for free. It's a newsletter put out by Publisher's Weekly. It lists recent deals. This is a great way to see who is selling. I've also found comp titles there. Truly this is a great way to learn the industry. The SCBWI has a listing of publishers and agents in The Book. (Verify submission info on any party's website since printed material becomes outdated and SCBWI may not update the online version regularly enough.)
 

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