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Agents and/or Publishers


So some people swear by having an agent. Agents know the best way to go about things, they have connections already, they know what works and what doesn't, and they basically co-ordinate everything so you have the least stressful time possible.

Others say agents are a waste of money, and that submitting work right to the publisher is all you need to do - that it really isn't that hard, and that you have more control.

So I'm curious, what do you all do already - for those already on the way to being published - or what is your plan? Are you looking at getting an agent first, then letting them find you a publisher, or are you only going to submit to a publisher and have no interest in an agent?

Or another way? As I'm sure there is another way - do publishers sometimes accept you, then put you onto an agent? (I think it's possible, but not 100% sure...)


I would say it depends on how well you know the industry, and what you are trying to sell. If you want to try to market your book to a big name publisher (Del Rey, Ballantine, etc.), don't even bother until you've found yourself an agent. If you are submitting to smaller publishers, and you've done something with the industry before (editing or you've submitted to magazines or something before), then you probably don't need one.


Personally I think I'll be having an agent, since I want to submit to Harper Voyager and money isn't really a problem to me - I don't mind the agent taking a cut. And I have several names of agents of my favourite Australian authors, so once I've written something worthwhile I'm almost confident I'll snag one of them. ...Key words being 'once I've written something worthwhile'.

I also flounder a lot with things like this, so I'd work a lot better with someone telling me what to do every step of the way.

I just wanted to know what everyone's personal plan was, if they have one yet ^^

Philip Overby

Article Team
I know TOR accepts manuscripts without an agent, but you'll probably be in a slush pile for a year (or more) before hearing anything. I've submitted some of my non-fantasy work to small press publishers before, and they usually don't care if you have an agent. I'd say if you are going to try the big ones, get an agent. Another thing about agents is that the good ones won't ask for "finder's fees" and all that crap some of the scam artists try. Also, just because someone has finished a manuscript, doesn't necessarily mean you can find an agent. Agents are just like editors: they only pick up what they think will sell.
Personally I'm looking at the agent route. Especially with my personality the way it is, I don't think I could continue to harp publishers without some knowledge of the industry, neither would I know what to do if I was picked up nor would I have the capacity to market myself properly. So, in that, it would be good to have someone there who can provide me with some guidance. I also tend to get extremely busy with things, so to have someone there to take away the stress and time consuming issues would be fantastic and would allow me to focus more on the things I need to do to make it work.


First, I think that any agent will more than pay for their percentage in the contract bargaining deal. Unless you consider yourself a real tough dealer (and chances are, unless you've been an agent yourself, you're fooling yourself) they will get you a better deal than you would otherwise.

Second, many publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, or only glance at them in 'spare time' which is rarely.

Third and finally, you won't pay an agent unless he gets you a deal. Zero overhead. That's not bad, really. Keeping that in mind will keep you safe from lots of scams, as well. I've often said to my fellow aspiring writers that the only thing a wary author has to fear is not being good enough.


From what I've read, the argument in favour of using an agent vastly outweighs the argument against. But I simply wouldn't know how to go about finding an agent in the first place. Not that I've tried, but I guess a Google search would be a start.


I've brought up Dean Wesley Smith and his pov on agents before; basically, I like what he has to say and probably wouldn't get an agent. But at the same time, I think agents are appropriate for some people, but not for others.

As some have said earlier in the thread, the really big publishers usually don't take un-agented manuscripts; that sucks, but that's the way it is.

I guess if you want to get an agent (which actually, scratch my earlier rejection of agents - I'm undecided on that front), do your homework and do your best not to get scammed. Anyone can call themselves a literary agent - it doesn't require certification after all, so be careful.
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From what I've read, the argument in favour of using an agent vastly outweighs the argument against. But I simply wouldn't know how to go about finding an agent in the first place. Not that I've tried, but I guess a Google search would be a start.

The best thing to do is find authors that write similar things to what you want to write. Then you find out who their agents are (if they have them, of course) then you apply to them, explaining that you're similar to xx author or book series, and would like for them to represent you.

At least, that's how authors have told me to go about it. One of my favourite authors has even offered to put me in touch with her agent when I'm ready :)

I think in the Writers Marketplace books, there's lists of agents as well? But I'm not too sure - I'm waiting to have a look at the Marketplace... AFTER I've written something, and finished it, and feel I want to go all the way with it ;D
Just chiming in with a quick note on Xlibris.
They have an -awful- reputation as a vanity press.

[Publisher] Xlibris - Absolute Write Water Cooler

All of the drawbacks of self-publishing... none of the benefits of trade publishing.
Their "publishing packages" are a clear violation of Yog's Law: "Money flows towards the writer."
(Note that the man who coined Yog's Law, "Uncle Jim" Macdonald, comments on Page 4 in that link)


AgentQuery.com is a good way to find agents who are interested in your genre, includes lists of authors they represent and books published by those authors. It's a good resource for query letter advice, rather sucessful examples and critiques.
I'm planning on submitting to Tor and to agents both. I'm also thinking of epublishing on the Kindle.