View Full Version : Agent or Publisher?????

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

Chris G.
June 26th, 2005, 11:48 AM
I have a written a fantasy trilogy. Should I seek an agent or a publisher?

Will the fact that I have written a trilogy in less than a year seem impressive or pretentious (I'm a new/unpublished writer.) and should I mention this in my queries?

Also, this trilogy is just the beginning....I also have about 3 - 4 novels in "pre-planning" one of which I intend to be a chronical. Should this be mentioned as well? My chronical has already been started as I complete proffreads/rewrites of the trilogy.

Word counts are the following:
book 1 = 163,700
book 2 = 163, 100
book 3 = 419,989

June 26th, 2005, 01:32 PM
Agent. An agent will help get you a publisher. Though there are some here in this forum who know more than me about these matters, so don't count on my opinon too much. :confused:

Rocket Sheep
June 26th, 2005, 09:53 PM
In the US, I'd say agents first... if no bites, rework your ms (you may even have some marketability feedback by then) and try publishers who take ms (not that many) starting with the large ones, working your way down to the tiny independants.

James Barclay
June 27th, 2005, 04:28 AM
It's a really difficult question to answer. My editor will say, if you ask him, that a good writer will inevitably be published. No timescale attached to this, of course but the point is that although an agent may well get your book in front of an editor more quickly, if you are good enough and submit to a publisher directly, you will be picked up. One day.

The key is to examine very closely the individual submission guidelines for each agent and publisher you want to approach and follow them to the letter. I know people are concerned about the length of time it takes to get a response and this is a function of the density of submissions. And if a publisher says they do not accept unsolicited mss, a phone call can tell you if they'll take yours anyway. You never know unless you try. Again, my editor would say that not having a slush pile would have deprived him of many of his authors (Richard Morgan, Al Reynolds, Steph Swainston...me).

I also know the accepted rule is only to submit to one place at a time. I don't subscribe to this. Agents commonly make multiple submissions to publishers, so why should an unagented writer not do so? No reason I can see. But if you are making a multiple submission, say so and explain why. Again, if your book is great, no publisher is going to turn it and the income it may generate down because you sent it elsewhere at the same time. And if they do, more fool them, frankly.

As a note on reality, my editor gets, on average, one new submission every working day. That's just my editor. So do all the editors at Gollancz. If every publishing editor and agent has the same density of paper hitting their desk, then you can see why it takes so much time to respond. And you have to consider that an editor has to spend more time looking after the authors they have than looking for new ones.

So, agent or publisher? Either. One will not necessarily get you published faster than the other. Pick your targets carefully, be sure your works is as good as it can be, make sure your intro letter (indeed all your submission) is first class and be prepared to wait.

But go back to my first point, if you're good enough, you'll be seen and picked up. One day :)


June 27th, 2005, 05:37 AM
I've oscillated back and forth on this issue for a few years. For what it's worth, I'm American, seeking American publication.

Ask yourself these questions:

- Do I have my heart set on trying the major publishers first?
(If so, an agent is probably the way to go, since most major houses don't take unsolicited material.)

- Do I want to see my trilogy in print as quickly as possible?
(If so, you should probably try small press publishers first.)

- Has my query letter been successful at least once?
(If so, you may have a better chance at getting an agent.)

- Is this trilogy the pinnacle of my writing career to date, or do I have something better in the works? (If your next novel is going to outdo your current work, you're probably better off sending your first work to the small presses, aiming for critical acclaim and sales, so that you have a track record for future publications to sell on.)

And so forth. There are many factors to consider. Good luck!

July 1st, 2005, 01:03 AM
SF/Fantasy is one of the few areas of fiction left where some of the major publishers will look at unagented material. It also has a burgeoning small press market going on and most of those presses pay little or no advances against royalties and deal mostly with unagented authors. If you're writing children's sf/fantasy, many children's publishers look at unagented material. So it is possible to go searching for a publisher without an agent. It also may vary depending on what country you are in. The British market is smaller and run differently than the U.S. market. The Canadian market has no genre publishers, and so on.

The reason those publishers don't want a lone author doing multiple submissions, NOM, is that you aren't an agent with a whole list of authors, some of whom they may want. They have very little incentive to look at an unknown, unpublished lone author putting them in competition with other publishers and having no clue what he is doing. Easier just to refuse to look at your work, although they seldom do that. Publishers often take forever to look at unagented submissions. So most authors do submit to multiple publishers and don't tell them. This is not a problem unless you get two publishers interested in you at the same time.

But the real reason to have an agent is not because the agent can go to major publishers who only take agented projects or because the agent can officially make multiple submissions to publishers. The main reason to have an agent is that the agent works for you and cares what happens to you, since that also means income and glory for the agent. Whereas the publisher doesn't care about you that much and will happily give you a deal as favorable to the publisher as possible, for as little money as possible. The agent protects your interests, negotiates you the best deal, knows what language needs to be in the contract and can get you better written terms than you can on your own (as precedent,) harangues the publisher and uses the leverage of their whole client list to get the publisher to live up to its commitments to you, solves problems, makes sure you're getting paid what you're owed, may help you with your manuscripts as an additional reader and editor, tracks sales, helps you plot your career. Also very important, the agent retains and sells for you subsidiary rights, which might not seem very vital at the beginning, but may become so, and the agent will be a lot more interested in trying to get such sales than the publisher's subsidiary rights department will.

There are authors who know enough to manage their careers without an agent. In the children's field, also, it's quite common for authors to be unagented. But on average, I've found authors know diddly squat. While you may not start out with an agent, at some point, you're going to want one, especially if you can't afford an expensive literary properties lawyer. Whether you can get one is a big question, since only a handful of agents rep sf/f authors. But it's worth trying, especially, as Abbey says, if you're dealing with the big boys. Of course, the small presses have the most horrible contracts.

July 1st, 2005, 02:04 PM
I think KatG covered all my reasons for trying for an agent at present. I don't have the knowledge, nor the time/desire to learn another trade/business to that degree at my time of life. I will what I can, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts then I would rather someone else whoi knows what they are doing do the dealing