Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Query - I Gotta Get an Agent!

That seems to be the battle cry of most writers. But, you want to know a secret? You don’t need an agent!

Agents are great!. They locate the best publisher for your book and negotiate good contracts.

However, agents are difficult to acquire. They seek celebrities, professional experts, and those with an established platform or proven track record. A first time author with little or no background experience will have a tough time finding an agent.

The best advice I ever received on the matter was from author p.m. terrell. (Who does in fact have an agent.) “Find a small to mid-sized publisher first, put out a couple successful books, and you will have a much better chance finding an agent.”

Wow! You mean I don’t need an agent?

There are over 100,000 publishers in the USA alone. With the exception of the six big boys in New York City and other large publishers, most take direct submissions without an agent. We’re talking well over 80,000 publishers here!

How do I find these publishers? A Google search of “publisher - your genre” will turn up numerous companies. Other website resources -
Every Writers Resource
Publishing Central

The ones who accept direct submissions will have submission guidelines on their website. These will state what each editor is seeking and what is needed in terms of query letter, synopsis, outline, etc.

Make a list (the bigger the better) of the publishers who are currently accepting your genre. Cross-reference each one on Preditors and Editors . Now you are ready to begin the query process!

If you are just beginning or querying agents has beaten you down, start querying publishers. Keep sending out queries to agents, but focus on those publishers. You will increase your chances of success tenfold in the process!

The Query series will continue next week…


  1. I absolutely agree. Small to mid sized publishers are happy to work with you if you don't have an agent. That's how I started with Midnight Ink. Moving on to a bigger publisher, though, you'll need representation (but by that time, it's easy to come by...that's how I got mine.)

  2. That sounds like good advice. I have never tried to get an agent, only sent to publishers who still accept unsolicited stories.It would be nice to have one, though, it would take out one of the hard parts of writing. . . figuring out who to send the manuscripts to!

  3. From a reader's viewpoint, I think the public isn't aware or sometimes forgets all the hard work authors go through to get that book we love on the shelf. Very informative post.

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. Many thanks for the tips, although I am not a novelist I am thinking of doing another poetry book.

    Have a lovely day.


  5. Thanks for the informative post.

  6. I agree that an agent is not 100% necessary. I don't have one and I found a publisher within 3 months. Book 1 has done well, and book 2 (also without an agent) will be out in the Fall.

    Authors don't make a lot on their books (unless you selll tons!), so giving away 10 or 15% up-front didn''t appeal to me.

  7. Well from an unagented author whose first book will be published next year, I completely agree!

  8. It certainly opened up options for me!

  9. I'm glad you do, Elizabeth! Trish had two books published with a small publisher when her agent came calling. It just gives writers more options.

    Janet, explore the links and you'll probably find more. Also visit BEA's site - they list everyone who is displaying at the BEA.

    Good stuff, Jill and Alissa!

  10. Really good advice, Diane. Thank you, not only for saying that writers don't always need an agent, but for telling us how to go about finding a small press.

    Straight From Hel

  11. Oh how I wish I'd known you when I finished my memoir. I had no idea you could approach publishers directly, so when I couldn't land an agent after trying for 1 1/2 years, I self-published. Now, I wonder if I could pitch the memoir to small publishers even if it's sel-pubbed.

  12. yeah for sure. go small presses! I'm going to. people might want to check out this too. The list of small presses in this sight is just MASSIVE!!!!

  13. So glad to see this post Diane! There are excellent small presses out there seeking submissions!

  14. I agree – you can be published without an agent. I thought I was really lucky to have snagged an agent. She ended up wasting a year of my life. I found a publisher on my own - after my contract with her expired.

  15. There are so many different options (and oppinions on said options) that its so hard to know which direction to take! This sounds like sound advice and I'll be sure to look into it. It's great that people have had success through this method.

  16. Karen, that's why I tell writers research the industry in depth!

    Allomorph, thanks for the additional link!

    Jane, that is awesome! And landing an agent doesn't guarantee one a publisher.

  17. Great post, Diane! I don't have an agent and I've had two non-fiction boks published with a small publisher. Sure, I'd like to have an agent eventually but I've also learned a lot working with the publisher directly.

  18. Thanks for the tips Diane. I will check them out. I read your post on Self Publishing and Vanity Press, and found it very informative and interesting. I appreciate all the effort you put into the articles.

    I put the links, and the self pub post, on my favorites to refer back to during my search for publication.

    Its nice to see so many happily -unagented, published authors here. Its very encouraging.

    Again, thank you for the referrals.


  19. This post has been BOOKMARKED for future reference!!

    Thank you!

  20. Good stuff, Talli!

    Donna and DL, glad you found it useful.

  21. That's what I decided. Agents are getting harder to find than publishers so...I don't know - that just doesn't make sense to me. Especially for genre fiction ...

  22. Good advice. I haven't reached that stage yet, but I'll keep it in mind when I do. :)

  23. Great advice! The publishing world is certainly changing.

  24. Another winning post, Diane. This puts things back into a more hopeful perspective. I will note this post for future reference.

    Tossing It Out

  25. One thing I've learned about querying agents is the fact that they get many queries, don't have much time, and prefer succinct queries.

    Oh, and the same goes for most publishers!

  26. That's excellent advice, and something that's so often overlooked.

  27. Small publishers have been very good to me. My fifth ya novel will be out in June, all from small publishers. An agent someday perhaps.

  28. Definitely something to keep in mind. And nice to hear, too. So often, all you hear is the opposite. I think there are a lot of options for publishing out there, and it's worth investigating all of them.

  29. Great advice. I've just started looking at small publishers and have been surprised and pleased to find what is out there!

  30. Nadir, but at least it opens the door to more possibilities than querying agents alone.

    Beverly, success stories are always good to hear!

  31. AnonymousMay 28, 2010

    Actually, one friend who now has an agent went the manuscript contest route. She got her MS in front of editors and sparked interest, and an offer, then went to agents with that offer and asked if they'd like to rep her. So that's another option for writers.

    Excellent post, good lady!

  32. Here's the advice I give my clients. It depends on your dream. There is a way for every title to find readership these days, that's for sure. If you want your book to be published with a BIG publisher and hit the bestseller list and think you would complain all the way to the bank if your book sales don't meet your expectations then at least go for that agent first. If you have passion for writing and don't mind growing your career as most of us have to anyway, well...there is more than one way to go about it.
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Get other free advice like this in my SharingwithWriters newsletter. Just send me a SUBSCRIBE notice to HoJoNews @ aol. com.

  33. Simon, that works as well! It's all a matter of doing somethiing of note to get attention.

    Carolyn, always best to increase one's chances - go for both.