how do i get connected to a best seller company, i love writing and i want my book to be published?
- 1 decade agoFavorite Answer
check out the site for writer's digest magazine
I know some people here have told you to send it out to publishers but that's not really true. Here's why:
Publishers publish different genre novels, books, etc. It is a waste of your time and $$ to send stuff to a publisher that he doesn't publish. That's like sending a cookbook manuscript to a children's book publisher. You need to know who publishes the kind of books you write or you will waste your time and make yourself look stupid.
On Writer's Digest, you can find out how to order the book that all writers use to send out stuff. It's a marketing device and is relatively inexpensive to order. This is really the only way, if you don't have an agent. And you must beware, as some publishers WILL NOT accept a manuscript if it is unsollicited. Good luck with your book.
- 1 decade ago
Well, first you need to figure out what type of writing you do, romance, fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, teen angst etc... You need to go to a book store and go to the genre of your writing style... and see who the publishing company is for that type of writing. This will make sure you won't waste your time submitting into a publishing company that doesn't print your type of writing. Then you need to make yourself known, go to local Open Mic Nights (If they have them, they have them here) Read your writing every time they offer something like that. Make friends, network... some people there may have connections. Then you submit to magazines, poetry anything. Find a magazine that will publish your stuff. Call radio stations and ask if you can read over the air. Publishing companies won't give you a second glance if you never done anything like this before, you need to make yourself look like you've been doing this all your life. Have some people read your book and write a review on it. If you're in school, submit it to your teacher (someone with an unbiased view) and save that to put in your portfolio when you submit it. Save everything and anything you do relating to your writing and submit it with your book. An agent would help you out, but if you haven't much money, do it yourself. Make it happen and don't give up. Good luck to you.Source(s): Creative writer
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Submit your book to as many publishers as you can, and hope/pray/whatever that one takes it. That is the only way to get published.
- 1 decade ago
You must write regularly, submit regularly, and repeat. No one will publish a "I want to be published but don't submit" person. Got to try and try again and never give up... Then you will be on your way to literary stardom. It works.
- How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Get an agent or start your own website with some of your work. Get a following.
- Simple1Lv 61 decade ago
you have to start somewhere
- Cherokee BillieLv 71 decade ago
CREATURES OF THE PUBLISHING JUNGLE
And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws till Max said, "BE STILL!"
-Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
The world of publishing is like a jungle, where all sorts of creatures interact in an ecosystem that somehow works and thrives but may seem dangerous and puzzling to the outsider. As an aspiring writer, it's very easy to get lost or swallowed alive.
As you venture through this jungle, it's helpful to have an understanding of who does what and to have some sense of how to distinguish between the antelopes and the zebras.
So let's take a look at the various "creatures" of the jungle, the people responsible for turning the ideas of writers into printed words. This information will prove useful when we get to next week's topic - targeting who and where to send your work.
First we'll examine the habitats of these creatures, then we'll take a look at the creatures themselves.
Publishing houses are the companies that produce books. The term "house" is a quaint holdover from the days when many of these outfits were located in townhouses. Today, most publishing houses are located in office buildings - some posh, some functional, some empires occupying numerous floors, some little more than closets. Publishing houses are a diverse lot.
Once upon a time, there were many major publishing houses and they were run by people who loved good books and that was the modus operandi of the publisher - to publish great stuff. Times have changed in the jungle. The big man-hunter came, in the form of media conglomerates, and bought up the major publishing houses with one primary goal in mind - to churn out profits. These conglomerates didn't stop there. To economize they merged numerous major publishing houses into extra-big publishing houses. Nowadays there are only a handful of major publishing houses, among them Random House, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins. Most of these major houses answer to corporate boards and stockholders and all that comes with the safari of high-end business.
But not all of the publishing houses that got devoured became extinct. Many of them still exist as branches of the existing major publishing houses. The larger publishing houses typically have subsidiary branches that are known as imprints. Even before the days of consolidation, imprints existed. Now there are even more of them. For example, Bertelsmann AG, a big German conglomerate, owns Random House. Random House has over 80 imprints, including such former houses as Bantam, Doubleday, Knopf, Crown, Ballantine, and Vintage.
Many imprints have specialties, like children's books or science fiction. Some only do paperbacks and others are in charge of things like large-print and audio books. And sometimes the imprints within a house work on similar books and actually compete with each other. In these situations, the imprints operate somewhat like brand names, offering similar products with a different branding, like the difference between Banana Republic and the Gap, both of which are owned by the same company. Imprints run the gamut from quite large to very small. Some of the smaller imprints are named for and run by prominent editors.
The vast majority of the books you're likely to find in a big bookstore or see on a best-seller list are published by one of the major houses, all of which are located in New York City. In the publishing jungle, NYC is the hot spot.
The big publishing houses, however, are not the only game in town. Not by a long shot. There are hundreds of so-called "small presses." Depending on their size, they publish anywhere between 50 books and a single book a year.
There are levels of smaller houses. Some of them aren't that small, publishing a large number of books per year and racking up substantial sales. These places are really more like medium-size houses and often they're referred to as "mini majors."
Then you have the truly small houses. These houses tend to specialize. For example, Ten Speed Press does travel guides and Soho Press is dedicated to new writers. The smaller the press, the more agile it is, having fewer people to answer to and lower financial expectations. These publishers usually have more leeway to take a risk than the larger houses.
While the big houses are almost entirely located in New York City, small presses can be found all over the place, and not just in major cities. The small presses have far less marketing muscle than the larger houses, but, then again, sometimes a small press comes out with a "sleeper," a book that takes off. Take, for example, the mega-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, published by Health Communications out of Deerfield Beach, Florida.
Many universities have publishing arms, known as "university" presses. As you might expect, the slant of their publications is scholarly and high-brow. Scholarly credits count for the author, and often the works are evaluated by outside academic experts.
Most of the books purchased in regular bookstores are known as trade books (not to be confused with trade paperbacks, which are defined in the Week 1 lecture). Non-trade books refer to things like textbooks, reference books, and professional/technical books. For non-trade books, the procedure for getting published is somewhat different than with trade books.
Magazines are fleet of foot. They create issues at a frequent pace - usually a on a weekly or monthly basis - having less time to deliberate on every decision than a publishing house. Their decisions are often guided by what they need right now, in the upcoming issue. Do we have a profile this month? Do we need something light to balance the war news? The need for writing is also considered against the amount of photography and ads in a given issue. The content is also somewhat dictated by the desires of the advertisers (though many in the business will deny this).
There are a staggering number of magazines published. In the U.S. alone, about ten new magazines appear every week. But it's difficult to make a magazine economically viable and so they go as fast as they come.
Geared for the general public, consumer magazines are what most people think of when they think "magazine." Known as the "glossies" because of their glossy paper, there is an aura of glamour attached to the consumer magazine world, and some say the more "glossy" the magazine, the more glossy the attitude. Famous publications like the The New YorkerandCosmopolitan are among the "glossiest."
As with publishing houses, most of the major magazines are now owned by large corporations. For example, Conde Naste owns such well-known magazines as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, Premiere, Road & Track, and Architectural Digest. (If you want a glimpse of Conde Naste attitude, check out their new Frank Gehry-designed building in Times Square.) Most of the major magazines are headquartered in the hot spot, New York City.
Most consumer magazines specialize in some way. Some specialize in a generalized way - news, fashion, sports, entertainment, etc. - while others specialize in a very specific way - economic news, teen fashion, sailing, home video, etc. Visit a large magazine rack and you'll get some idea of the vast array of selections among consumer magazines. There is, seemingly, a magazine for everyone.
Aimed at specialized business markets, trade magazines are made for pretty much every industry out there - doctors, vending machines, pool cleaners, you name it. Though these magazines are not usually read or even seen by those outside their fields of specialization, there are many of them. Trade magazines have attitude too, but in a different way from the consumer magazines. The trade magazines are expert at covering their given fields and they're very serious about these fields. If you have knowledge that would make you qualified to write for a trade magazine, the folks at the magazine might be happy to hear from you. What they lack in glamour, they make up for in accessibility to new writers. (Some newspapers exist that are the equivalent of trade magazines.)
Side note: The term "trade" is confusing. In the book world, "trade" means a book is relatively mainstream, and in the magazine world "trade" means periodicals aimed at a very narrow audience. And then "trade paperback" refers to something else altogether.
Newspapers are even more fleet than magazines, coming out at an even faster pace. (Isn't it fitting that Fleet Street in London is home to many of that city's newspapers?) The majority of newspapers come out daily, with a lesser number appearing on a weekly or monthly basis. The death of the newspaper has been predicted for a long time but it hasn't happened. Still, one out of three Americans read a newspaper, making newspapers the most democratic of the publishing forms. Newspapers have their own brand of attitude. They may not have the literary prestige of books and magazines but there is a journalistic pride among newspaper folks, making them feel, in their own way, superior.
Though there are only a handful of national newspapers, they have wide circulations and wield considerable influence. Most every town and city in the U.S., no matter how small, has a local daily newspaper, and these publications are the mainstay of news in this country, often being read by a sizable portion of the people in any given community. There are also local papers that appear on a weekly or monthly basis. Some of these are designed for an isolated geographic area, perhaps even a neighborhood, and some are "alternative" papers appealing to a young, hip readership. Often these weekly/monthly papers are distributed for free.
As in the other parts of the publishing jungle, the corporations now control many of the nation's newspapers. For example, Gannett owns the national USA Today, as well as over 75 local newspapers.
Fastest of all are the online magazines. They come and go even faster than their print magazine counterparts, especially the ones that are not cousins to print magazines. And they turn out material at a very rapid pace, akin to the pace of a newspaper. (And let's not forget that many newspapers have online cousins, sometimes offering material that is different from their print versions.) In line with their electronic speed, the staffs of online publications tend to be young and daring.
A trade magazine equivalent exists online, known as "business to business" websites. And though not every commercial website qualifies as an online magazine, most every commercial website has need for written content, providing plenty of opportunities for writers.
Literary Magazines/Genre Magazines
Things are much more laid back in the lairs of literary and genre magazines, specializing in literary and genre writing, respectively. These publications come out relatively infrequently - usually quarterly, sometimes monthly. The staffs are small and the pressures low. There are usually no advertisers or corporate boards to answers to. Here, the editors get to publish what they like, without being overly concerned with financial consequences. This ease comes with a price, of course. The people that work at these places earn little, if any, money for their efforts. Mostly they are there for love.
We might compare editors to lions. Editors are the kings of the publishing jungle, the ones around whom everything revolves. You live or die in the publishing world by decree of the editors.
The term "editor" is a confusing one, as there are many different types of editors. To make things more confusing, different titles are used by different companies and the terms sometimes differ between the arenas of books, magazines, and newspapers. But a certain editorial hierarchy exists throughout the publishing world, and it's helpful to understand this pecking order. So let's take a closer look at the genus Editor.
Top Cat Editors - Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief, Executive Editor, Managing Editor, Publishing Director, Vice President
Editors with titles like these are the ones who run the publishing houses, magazines, or newspapers. They oversee the "vision" of the organization and they are the ones responsible for the organization's economic well being. Though these people were probably drawn to the business by their love of the written word, they are now in a position where they must closely watch the bottom line. If the company doesn't prosper under their watch, they are likely to lose their jobs.
The top cat editors are the ones who make the final decisions about what does and doesn't get published. If they want you in print, you're in print. With the larger organizations, it's difficult to make direct contact with editors at this level, unless you're a well-known writer. But in the small organizations, the person at the top may also be the person answering phones, making coffee, and doing everything else.
Mid-Cat Editors - Senior Editors, Acquisition Editors, Editor, Senior Associate Editor, Department Editors (Features, News, Sports, etc.)
These editors do most of the gathering of material. In the book world, they acquire books. In the magazine and newspaper worlds, they find the material or assign writers to fulfill their ideas. These editors also edit or oversee most of the editing that is done on the written works. When one thinks of an editor, toiling away with a manuscript or growling orders to a writer, these are the people being thought of.
But the mid-cat editors do not have absolute power. They have been in the business long enough to garner some respect and clout but they don't run the place… yet. They present their books or ideas or articles to the editors above them for approval. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't.
In the book world, some editors specialize in a certain type of book, but many of them work on a great variety of material. An editor might be simultaneously shepherding a cookbook, novel, and self-help book toward publication.
In the magazines and newspaper worlds, these editors often head up certain departments. For example, the Sports Editor of a newspaper oversees everything that appears in the sports section. The magazine and newspaper editors are perpetually working against the ticking clock of a deadline. Magazine editors measure what they need in words, newspaper editors measure it in column inches, and both are usually harried about filling in their needs.
Very often, these editors develop relationships with writers that last over many years and many projects. They like to find people they like and trust with whom they can work on a recurring basis. The risk is much lower than with a newcomer. Can you blame them?
If you want to get something published, sooner or later you'll have to get one of these mid-cat editors to welcome you into his or her den.
Little Cat Editors - Associate Editors, Assistant Editor
These are entry-level jobs, usually held by young people newly out of college. They are notoriously overworked and underpaid. Their jobs can range from secretarial work to assisting editors with crucial decisions.
Don't underestimate these folks. They can be tremendously important to the emerging writer. They are usually the "front line," the first people to read manuscripts and queries sent in. Though they are trained to reject most of what they see, they also know they can win points by spotting a jewel and passing it on to their superiors. And the fact is that most top cat editors started out in this lowly position.
The Editorial Meeting
The editorial meeting is common to publishing houses, magazines, and newspapers. This is the tribal council of the jungle, where editors of all types convene to discuss the projects at hand. Projects are either born or killed here, giving these meetings a mythic importance. Typically the mid-cat editors pitch their projects to the top cat editors, who eventually render a final verdict on what gets published.
In the book world, these meetings can be grueling affairs. The mid-cat editors often give detailed presentations on a prospective book's merits and financial outlook. Usually many questions are asked. Eventually the top cat editor gives a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or agrees to lug home the manuscript to read. The choices made here are often very tough - weighing prestige and literary merit against the brass tacks of commercialism. Often the Sales and Marketing people are involved (see below). Understandably, these meetings can become quite heated. The little cat editors take mental notes, dreaming of the day they'll be running the company.
In the deadline worlds of magazines and newspapers, these meetings are briefer. Decisions are made and implemented quickly, contingent on what is needed or not needed for the upcoming issue. If an idea or piece is liked but not immediately needed, it may be placed on hold for a subsequent issue.
In the book world, a developmental editor is sometimes brought in if a project needs a lot of work, assisting the writer on bringing the project into final shape.
Copy editors go through the text to be published or printed with a fine-tooth comb, correcting grammar, punctuation, and logic problems. With a book, a writer will have some back and forth with these people after a final draft has been turned in. You may be amazed to see how many edits can appear on a single page. With a magazine or newspaper piece, the writers are not always consulted about the copy edits.
OTHER BOOK CREATURES
The Sales and Marketing Department
The sales people are in charge of selling the books to the bookstores. The marketing people are in charge of promoting the books. In the bigger publishing houses, where Commerce rules, these people have quite a bit of say in what does and doesn't get published. The mid-cat editors often consult with the sales/marketing people before presenting their ideas at the editorial meetings. And the top cat editors often listen to the sales/marketing people to determine the profit/losses of a potential book. For this reason, these people are often present at the editorial meetings.
The Production Department
Here you'll find all the people that put together the physical book and deal with the handling of the book. The art department creates the dust jackets and book covers. The design department creates the look of the book itself - typeface, margins, etc. The promotion department creates ads and displays for the book. The publicity department arranges for media coverage of the book. The distribution department collects the books from the printer and delivers them to the bookstores. Does every book get the same amount of attention and care from the Production Department? No. Priority is given to the books with the higher expectations.
Book packagers operate somewhat like publishing houses. They create books. The difference is that after the book is created, the packagers sell it to a publisher, who takes charge of the sales, marketing, and distribution. It's like the publishing houses are co-producing the product, which allows the houses to have more books without too much extra work. Sometimes book packagers are referred to as "book producers" or "book developers."
To create their books, packagers go through much the same process as a publishing house, including finding and working with writers. Most packagers tend to specialize in a type of book, like sports, music, home repair, etc. Many packagers specialize in books with extensive production needs, like pop-up books for children or elaborate coffee-table books.
Unlike publishing houses, however, packagers generally create their own book ideas then find writers to execute the ideas. Sometimes the writers are credited, sometimes not. Either way, they get paid.
Booksellers might be considered the elephants of the jungle. In a sense, they have more weight and power than anyone else. After all, a book won't generate much profit unless it's in the stores. There are three kinds of booksellers: wholesalers, chains, and independent bookstores.
Wholesalers buy millions of books a year from all of the major and minor publishing houses and, in turn, sell them to the stores. They act as middlemen. Bookstores buy from wholesalers because of the ease and the markdown. Instead of buying, say, 4 books from Random House, 3 from St. Martins, and 7 from HarperCollins, a buyer can just get them all from a place like Ingram, the largest of the distributors.
The chain stores are the big bookstore operations that have stores all over the country, like Barnes & Noble and Borders. In somewhat the same category, there is Amazon, which sells only through their website, and super-stores, such as Target and Wal Mart that sell books alongside all their other products. The vast majority of books sold nowadays are sold through the big chain stores. As a result, theses stores have an indirect say in what gets published.
The independents are the privately owned bookstores, like The Tattered Cover or Strange Planet. In these stores, the stock is often determined by the stores' specialty or the taste of the owners. Once the bread and butter of the book industry, these guys are now running for their lives. No one loves books more than the independent store owners, so you might want to consider helping them out by shopping in their stores.
Many people don't realize that bookstores actually buy books on consignment, meaning the stores can return unsold books to the publisher and get a return on their money. This is yet another reason the publishers need to be cautious about the books they publish. If large quantities of a book are returned, the publisher can take a real financial bath.
Book clubs are organizations that suggest books to their members, usually once a month, and offer a discounted price on the books. In days past, there were a lot of clubs, and they would compete with each other. Now virtually all of them are owned by Bookspan, which was formed when Book-of-the-Month Club merged with the Literary Guild. Bookspan has many small clubs that specialize in genres, like romance and science fiction, or topics, like cooking and history. The suggestions themselves are made by the clubs' staffs or by a panel of respected judges. The clubs then make deals with the publishers. If a book club is interested in a particular book, the sales can be greatly boosted.
If editors are like lions, perhaps agents are like tigers. They have many of the same skills and characteristics of editors, but they're often leaner, meaner, and better dressed. Indeed, many agents are former editors, searching for higher income and more control of their careers.
An agent represents writers, handling most business affairs related to the writer's work. This includes: selling the writer's work, negotiating the deal, overseeing the contracts and paperwork, and arguing on the writer's behalf, when the need arises. For these services, agents do not directly charge the client. Instead, they take 10 or15% of everything the writer makes with the works represented by the agent. (The norm is now 15%.)
Editors and agents have a symbiotic relationship. Editors rely on agents to screen out bad work and bring in good work. Agents rely on editors to pay out money, for themselves and their clients. The relationship works, keeping relative peace in the jungle.
Before we proceed, let's be clear about something. For the most part, agents only represent books - fiction and nonfiction books. They typically don't bother with short fiction, poetry, magazine, or newspaper work. Why? Because the financial return is too low for the investment of time. True, agents occasionally deal with these things but that is usually because they are trying to place the work of their existing clients, to help these people build a profile - a profile that will support their current books and/or lead toward future books. It's usually a waste of time trying to interest agents you don't know in your short fiction, poetry, magazine, or newspaper work.
Most agents have a deep appreciation for the written word. That's what drew them to the publishing industry. But, first and foremost, they are running a business. If they don't sell books, they won't eat well and they'll have a tough time sending their little cubs through college.
Another thing to clear up. Agents that represent writers are known as literary agents. Not to be confused with talent agents, who represent actors, directors, and models. Most literary agents either represent books or dramatists (playwrights, screenwriters, TV writers). Some agents handle both book writers and dramatists, but most specialize in one or the other.
Do you need an agent? Theoretically, no. There is no technical or legal reason you can't sell your book directly to a publisher. However, nowadays it's extremely difficult to get your work considered by the major publishing houses without an agent. These places have become so big and money-oriented that they mostly only consider work coming from agents. When they do look at the work of an unagented writer, they don't look as carefully as they would with an agented work. If you have hopes of being published by a major house, then, yes, you pretty much need an agent.
If you're aiming for a small or university press, you still have a chance without an agent representing you. But even then, an agent would be a great help. Getting any kind of book published is damn difficult. The process is made much easier if you have an agent greasing the wheels. Quite simply, an agent gives a writer credibility.
Is it worth it to surrender 10 or 15% of your earnings to an agent? Probably so. For one thing, agents are good at negotiating deals, meaning they can often get you 15% more money than you would have gotten had you negotiated your own deal. Also, agents perform a multitude of valuable services for their clients.
The Agent's Job
This is how an agent works.
An agent decides he or she wants to represent a writer. This will be because the agent likes the writer's work and/or thinks the writer's work is saleable. An agent usually won't take on a client unless they feel strongly about the client's work. The agent doesn't make a dime off this person until something is sold. Since it takes plenty of hustle and time to sell a work, agents are only interested in projects they believe they can sell. Though an agent may choose a client based on one book (or book proposal), agents typically are looking for clients who will be turning out books on a semi-regular basis. They are more interested in professional writers than dilettantes or one-book-wonders.
The agent then offers the writer advice on the book (or book proposal), helping to get the material in the best possible shape. Most agents know a thing or two about good writing and they certainly know about what is and isn't saleable.
When the agent feels the work is ready, the agent takes the work to the appropriate editors and tries to sell it. One of the key benefits of agents is that they know the book people. They deal with them on a regular basis. They know who likes what, who is looking, who is in power. Agents also know who to stay away from. Much of this knowledge comes from the frequent mingling agents do with editors. In fact, agents and editors spend an inordinate amount of time having lunch with each other (like animals at the watering hole). Book publishing is a world of relationships and, as far as the writer is concerned, the relationship between editors and agents is crucial.
If a publishing house shows interest in a work, the agent negotiates a deal for publication. Agents are highly skilled at the art of negotiating. They seldom accept the first offer. They strategize, hype, and hustle to get the best possible deal for their clients (and themselves).
If more than one house wants the book, the agent and the writer get to pick which house they prefer. Sometimes an "auction" is held, where the houses bid against each other for the work. (This is something of a jackpot for the writer as the auction causes the price to escalate.) Though money is often the deciding factor in these situations, it's not necessarily the only factor. There are instances where a writer may prefer to go with less money to place the book with the house that will give the book the most attention and care. How well the agent and writer like the editor who will supervise the book can also be a factor.
Once a house and price is agreed upon, the house sends the agent a contract. The agent spends time refining the contract, looking out for the best interests of the writer. The modern publishing contract is a devilishly complex document dealing with hardcover and paperback rights, foreign sales, audio/film/TV rights, etc. These contracts wouldn't make much sense to a layman, but agents well understand their intricacies.
Then the writing or revision process begins. Even if the writer has sold a book that's in great shape, the publishing house will want further work on the piece. If the writer and editor are having problems with each other during the writing/editing process, the agent intervenes on the writer's behalf. The nice thing is, you can let the agent play "bad cop" to your "good cop."
Once the book is out, the agent keeps an eye on the sales of the book, making sure the writer gets the proper royalties (if royalties are involved). And the agent continues to act as the writer's advocate in all matters relating to the life of the book.
The agent also helps to shape and build the writer's long-term career, offering advice on which projects to pursue or how the writer should promote him or herself or any number of things. A good agent would like nothing more than for a client to grow and prosper under the agent's tutelage.
So, you see, agents provide many valuable services, more than earning their "take" of the action.
However, some writers over-rely on agents, and this is a mistake. Here are some things an agent does not do:
• An agent is not a magic carpet ride to success. Agents do not sell everything they represent. Very often, an agent will try to sell a work, with the greatest of confidence, and no one will buy. Agents get rejected too.
• An agent is not there to be a friend. You may, of course, become great friends with your agent and many writers have, but "friend" is not part of the agent's job description. They may do little or no hand-holding through your problems. And the agent may not stick with you if your work is not selling.
• An agent may not give the same amount of attention to a client who makes little or no money as to the clients who make a good deal of money. They need to maximize the profitability of their time. This is a business.
• An agent will not work with you intensively to make a rough-shod work better. It's mostly the writer's job to get the work in great shape. And, even if you are an existing client, an agent may not represent something of yours if they don't think it's saleable. It's possible to be rejected by your own agent.
Types of Agencies
Agents work for companies called, surprisingly enough - agencies. These are a bit like law firms, where the money collected goes into a pool, the portions being divvied out according to an agent's position in the company. Agencies come in different sizes - big, medium, and small.
Only a handful of agencies qualify as big. The large agencies have a platoon of agents working for them in a suite of offices. They also tend to be the more powerful agencies, largely devoting their services to heavyweight writers. The William Morris Agency (WMA) and International Creative Management (ICM) are the biggest literary book agencies. The large agencies are corridors of power, respected and feared by the publishing world.
The majority of agencies are small affairs, with one or a few agents. Many agencies are one-person shows. Some of these small agencies operate on the fringe, mostly dealing with small-time contracts, little known in the publishing world. Then again, some small agencies are highly respected, representing some big-time writers and wielding considerable influence. Small agencies are often named for the agent who founded (or single-handedly runs) the agency.
The medium size agencies usually have 4 to 10 agents in house. Some of them lean toward the prestigious sheen of the big agencies, while others lean toward the outsider grit of the small agencies.
In the large and medium agencies, you will find a hierarchy of agents. Sometimes the levels are designated by the terms "senior agent" and "junior agent." As you might expect, the upper level of agents have more experience and/or clout than their lower level counterparts.
Most agencies have assistant agents, excepting some of the one-person operations. Like the editorial associates, the assistant agents are usually young people, newly out of college, working at low wages. Much of their work is secretarial, but then they often have the "ear" of the agents. They are often the "front line," the first people to read the queries and manuscripts that come in the mail. Though the assistants are not agents yet, most are hoping to earn their stripes and work their way up the agent hierarchy.
The majority of literary book agents are located in New York City, and it can be argued that the NYC agents have a distinct advantage over their counterparts elsewhere. They have more access to and usually stronger connections with the editors at the major publishing houses. Even so, some fine agents work outside of New York City, staying in touch with frequent trips to the city.
Are their any cheats and con-artists wearing the stripes of an agent? Actually, yes.
There are about 350 members of the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR), a professional organization for agents that defines the ethics and practices of the business. If an agent belongs, you can count on the agent being trustworthy. He or she has the seal of approval from his or her peers. (If an agent is caught violating a rule, that agent gets kicked out pronto.) But not all agents belong. There are more than 350 agents floating around, many more. Some of the non-AAR agents are perfectly legit. And some are not.
How do you know if an agent isn't trustworthy? Here's the biggest warning bell: if an agent asks you for money. The most common method is an agent requesting a "reading fee" to consider your work. Sometimes agents also insist you hire a specific book "doctor," who will then give the agent a kickback. All of this is wrong and frowned upon by the AAR. Legit agents never ask their clients or prospective clients for money, except sometimes to cover minor expenses like postage and copying fees. If an agent tries to get money from you, chances are this person makes his or her money that way, not by selling books. Give a polite "no, thanks"and keep looking.
Who Are These People?
So who are these people, really? Perhaps you have romantic visions of editors and agents. The book editor wearing a cardigan, puffing a pipe, penning letters to the great minds of the world. The magazine editor decked out in heels and haute couture, haunting the hottest parties and night-spots. The agent swinging multi-million dollar deals with film studios then passing around the champagne glasses in madcap celebration.
Or maybe you have a darker vision of these people. Perhaps you view them as rude and elitist, people who would never bother to consider your work because you're not famous or you didn't attend the "right" schools or you live in Peoria. (And, yes, it's true that many of the major editors and agents are Northeastern Ivy League Democrats.)
Well, maybe the people in those visions exist, at least some of the time. But for the most part, these visions are false. Editors and agents are just regular people. Some you may not like, some you would find delightful, some would leave you indifferent. The vast majority of them, however, are smart, passionate, and hardworking. You'll be better off if you understand that and respect them for it.
And here's the really key thing you should know about editors and agents. They are swamped with paper. Projects they're shepherding into print, projects they're sifting through as possibilities for publication. Every day they face down endless letters, manuscripts, and contracts. Every week tons of new material is coming in, some of it asked for, much of it unasked for. If you visit the office of an editor or agent, the dominant feature will be papers and books/magazines/newspapers everywhere - on overloaded shelves, overflowing desks, stacked on the floor. (The phone will be ringing a lot too.) Agents and editors spend so much time reading, most of them end up reading material at nights and weekends, not to mention while riding the bus or waiting at the doctor's office or even cycling at the gym.
Here's the point of this observation. Editors and agents simply don't have TIME for you and your project unless it really catches their attention. And they simply don't have TIME for your project unless the writing is top-notch. And they simply don't have TIME for you if you're anything less than professional.
However, if your project is attention-getting and beautifully executed and you are a dream to deal with, well... that's what they want. That's what they need. That's what they look for. That is the diamond in the rough that will make their day and possibly help their career. If you meet all that criteria, then these incredibly busy people might very well make time to incorporate you into their hectic lives. And then, you just may end up learning to like them a lot.
The focus of this lecture has been on helping you know who's who and what's what. In the next lecture, we'll discuss how to choose who to target and how to get to those people. And now that you know a little about the creatures in publishing, you'll have a much easier time navigating your way through their spooky jungle.