Welcome to Paducah Prose Writers!

We are looking for writers who need a little constructive critisizm and can dish it out as well as take it. If I'm talking about you, bring a few pages of anything (the good, the bad, and the really rough drafts) and read for us. And don't worry, we're all as shy, nervous, and scared as you are!
All gramatical geniuses, professional editors, and english majors are also welcome, no reading submissions required.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Elements of Publishing: 2. Agents vs Publishers

Editors are those mysterious people behind the curtain at the publishing houses who acquire and fixes books for publishing.

Why would you want to go through the extra step of getting an agent. You're a writer, not a movie star.

The world of publishing has changed a lot from what most of us knew (if we ever noticed it at all). A writer no longer sends off a freshly typed or neatly and written manuscript to a publisher with enough stamps to get it back. If you send a manuscript to a publisher a very under - underling will throw it away. They will not look at it, they will probably not even read the name on the package.

Some publishing houses will except a query letter. To send them a query, you must look them up on the Internet, find out their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Most publishers and agents now prefer e-mail to US Mail, now-a-days.

There are very few of these publishers left. So how does a writer get their books before publishers?


A literary agent is a go between. They work very hard for their contracted writers for no money until they sell the book. Then they receive a percentage of the writer's income. An agent earns this money by using their reputation and contacts with editors to sell your book. Because their income is based on your income, they will get you as much money as possible.

Also, agents deal with the business side of publishing every day. They understand and can help with the contracts you will sign. They will check the math when the publishing house sends out papers saying you will get virtually no money for (fill in the reason). Your best interest is their best interest.

That is why an author would want an agent. The reason publishing houses want to work with agents is because they have found a person, not on their payroll, who will weed through all the crap (and some of the gems in the rough); who will walk the writer though first edits, and again weed out the authors who can not be worked with because of personality malfunctions. Why wouldn't a publishing house refuse to work with authors if they can help it.

Here is your biggest reason to find an agent. Lets say you send your query letter to every publisher who will take it, and every last one rejects it. So you think fine, I need an agent. Whatever networking your agent can do is undermined by you because publishers will not accept resubmissions. So that good editor friend that your new agent is having lunch with has already rejected you. (This is probably not the end of your career, or anything that drastic, because of the number of publishers that do not except public submissions.)

For me, and many other authors, this process is very difficult. They query process is extremely impersonal. You send in the best query you can and get back form letter rejections. Despite my best efforts, I do have trouble not taking it personally (like that teacher who doesn't like you kid).

Also, you are left wondering is it my query letter, is it the premise of my book, or is it just a busy agent who might like my book, but is rejecting most things because they are already selling several books at a time. Some agents my only sign a dozen books a year, and sometimes they express (via blog) their regret at passing up some probably great books.

As an unpublished author, this is all new, and it is hard to know if you're good enough. Then you hear about some b*** who got offers from the first two agents she sent queries to and then had a publisher in a week (you know who you are, and selling your soul to the devil is cheating...how did you contact the devil anyway, e-mail me at...)

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