Writing Q&A: Agents and Publishers
Thanks everyone for your sweet comments on my photos yesterday! For those of you who were wondering, the photos are indeed for my second book, which is due to come out in December! I just recently received the cover art, and I’m waiting for the okay from Zondervan to share the cover and title with you. So stay tuned! 🙂
I’m so enjoying answering all the questions that were sent to me! This weeks’ round-up includes all the questions I received regarding agents and publishers.
- What “route” to being published do you suggest? What should I do to a manuscript before I send it somewhere?
Before you send your manuscript out, you want to make sure it’s ready to be published. Proofread your writing carefully, and look for blatant grammar, spelling, and situational mistakes. Things like that, while they may not seem that important to you, will come across as annoying and unprofessional to agents. Ideally, you should be finished with all of your editing when you send out your work. You should be one hundred percent happy with your book. You should have already gone through several rounds of editing. Agents want to see your absolute best effort. Don’t put off fixing anything—Trust me, they’ll have plenty additional problems they want to fix even after all of your edits.
The first step to being published is to find an agent. I’ll explain what an agent does in the question below, but for now let’s just say that finding a good, respectable agent is very important. Do your research! Check out books from the library on the Christian market. (This is a great resource!) Google agents online. Look carefully over their websites and check out their authors. Have you heard of any of these authors? Are they relatively successful? Have any of them written books similar to yours? If so, that may be an agent worth sending your work to.
When it comes time to contact agents, you should have already done your research. Most agents have lists on their websites explaining exactly what they want you to send them. Some will want the first three chapters and a full synopsis; others may only want a short cover letter. No matter what, make sure that every proposal is polite and interesting. You want them to be interested in hearing more about you and your book! Try to be as personal and complying as possible. As an author, your biggest problem is going to be finding an agent. Once you’ve signed with one, your work is over! Your agent will be the one to talk to publishers.
- What exactly does an agent do?
An agent is basically the go-between for you and the publisher. Agents are usually past authors or publishers who are very well-known in publishing houses. My agent, for example, worked at a major publishing company for years before he retired and started working as an agent. As a result, many top dogs in the publishing world are already familiar with him and some are even his good friends!
Once you sign on to work with an agent, that agent’s job is to represent your book for a certain amount of time (usually a year), and work out any publishing deals that may happen during that time. When I signed with my agent Bill, it was his job to go out and “court” the different publishing companies, looking for someone to pick up my book. He would meet publishers at conventions, send emails, and make phone calls. Within a month or two, the representative he’d been speaking with at Zondervan told him that they were interested in signing my book! All because of Bill’s contact with her. A Zondervan agent probably would have never returned phone calls or emails from a fifteen-year-old girl, but they didn’t mind working with a professional, qualified literary agent on behalf of her.
- How much does an agent charge, or do they charge at all?
This is very, very important: NEVER, EVER PAY AN AGENT ANYTHING!!! You should not owe your agent a cent until you’ve made your first dollar. There are so many fake, shady men and women out there who may try to take your money under the promise that they will make you rich and famous, but do not trust them. Your agent’s salary totally depends on your salary. If your agent gets you a contract with a publisher, and that publisher sends you a check, you pay your agent out of that check. Usually an agent’s fee is 10-15% out of your royalty checks. If your agent fails and you never get a publishing deal, then you shouldn’t owe him a penny!
- How much money are you earning off of Interrupted, and how much would a new author expect to earn?
It constantly cracks me up how many people ask me this question. And I always feel kind of awkward answering it. So, normally, I do my best to shrug in a semi-cute way and say, “I don’t know! I make more than I would flipping burgers, that’s all I’m going to say!” 😉 But, seriously, it’s not that much money. The money I make from one book could probably pay for a year of college, but I couldn’t buy a house or anything. But, for a teenager, it’s still a pretty good sum of money!
- Do you know of any Christian publishing houses in Australia/New Zealand/Canada/[insert other country here]
Hmm… Another question I get asked a lot. Sorry, but the answer is no, I don’t! 😦 I actually know very little about publishing companies. That’s something you should probably ask an agent. I do think that publishing companies are willing to publish books by international authors, though! My agent Bill also represents the NY Times best-selling author Ann Voskamp, who lives in Canada. So it is possible to be published with an American publishing company, even if you live overseas.
I hope this answers some of your questions! As always, feel free to ask more! 🙂