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How to find a publishing house (or an agent)??

edited January 2016 in Off-topic
Hey guys ;)
last week, I have met one of my cousins, I haven’t seen for ages… while we were talking about some stuff going on, he told me that he started writing a novel a few months ago, which is nearly finished. So now, he is looking for a publishing house or an agent, to get his novel published. But due to his lack of knowledge and reputation, he already got rejected by several publishing houses and is still looking for one, that accepts also unknown and inexperienced writers like him… he is totally green and for that reason, I would like to ask you guys: how did you manage to get your book published and how did you find an agent or a publishing house??
Do you know someone, who also accepts unknown and inexperienced authors like my cousin?
I really do hope, that your have some advices for my cousin, so he finally can become a “real” author ;)


  • It might be a good idea for your cousin to get more involved himself in the world of writing forums. How come you are asking on his behalf?

    In the meantime, tell him to look at The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

    Also tell him that he has a long haul ahead of him. You have to persevere, work through the listings and get your submission and your novel perfect. If he only started a few months ago, I would say that it's unlikely it would be anywhere near ready yet.
  • Publishers and agents are looking for finished books - not the start of one. He needs to get it written before asking people to look at it with a view to buying it.

    And what TN said.
  • LizLiz
    edited January 2016
    Virtually no-one gets their first novel published - in fact there's an average of 10 years after starting writing before even someone who does get their first novel accepted, gets published. Writing takes time to learn, practise and improve.

    You wouldn't expect someone taking their first piano lesson 'a few months ago' to be playing concert halls any time soon.

    There is no 'trick' to getting published other than being a fabulous writer. It makes no difference if you are a novice or already published. I know several authors whose second or subsequent books have been rejected.

    No agent or publisher would reject someone just because they aren't published yet. Only if their writing isn't good enough.
  • And why do you keep winking? Are you suggesting we know a 'back way' into publishing, or have snuck a backhander into the palm of our agent?
  • There are a lot of people on here who have written books but don't have an agent or a publisher for them. Some have self published, some have stuck the novel in a drawer after countless rejections (that'll be me!), some have written several novels and finally struck gold.
    I can understand you not realising quite how hard it is as I didn't realise it myself when I started out. And it doesn't mean your cousin should give up - just be realistic about the chances and keep writing in the meantime. Writing takes practice like everything else.
    As others have said, first finish the book, polish it, make it as good as it can be, then try the W&A yearbook for agents who represent that kind of book.
    There's not really a shortcut.
  • Writing a novel and submitting it within a few months is very fast. Too fast. Even short stories need to be set aside for as long as possible before a writer revisits to edit... and edit... and edit...

    If he's inexperienced and rushed the job, he will always be rejected.

    Novels are long-term projects. Authors are long-term investments. Publishers and agents are in business for a reason.

    If he's happy with the end project, why not self-publish it? Get it out there and move on to the next idea. But even self-publishing authors are rejected - by readers.
  • Finding an agent or publisher is possibly the most competitive thing you could ever do. You need to be or do quite a lot of the following: outstandingly talented, commercial, persistent, lucky (right desk, right time), you need to research your targets and your markets, be ready to self-promote (preferably to have a platform already), you need to polish your work to the nth degree, write a great cover letter and synopsis, have a manuscript that engages from p1 and sustains it throughout. I could go on.
  • And the next book idea lined up and ready to go meanwhile.
  • *feeling a bit sorry for JollyJoker*

    But -seriously - all these comments are valid and telling it like it is.
    It's just not possible to write one draft of a book (which sounds like what your cousin has done/is doing) and for it to be at a publishable standard.

  • Hi again :)
    thanks a lot for your honest answers and your advices! As you all know, I am not a “real” author myself and I have never thought about publishing, but I do love writing! Therefore, I was wondering how those things work… and you are absolutely right: my cousin has to do the research, but if I am able to help him by doing some research too and asking experienced writers like you guys are, I definitely will (I hope you don’t mind ;)) As far as I know, this novel is not his first attempt but this time, it seems to be good enough to get published (in his opinion) so I wanted to ask you for some advices first, before he is taking some actions like self-publishing and invests a lot of money… We both do understand, that becoming a published author is a very difficult thing to do and that it will demand a lot of patience and perseverance. So, we have done a lot of research during the past two weeks and found some publishing houses like novum publishing, that are specialised in unknown and inexperienced writers like him… As we were looking through their website (especially their publishing list), we also found some well known authors and their success stories… so, maybe he should give it a try? But first we would like to know if you have ever heard about publishing houses like them or made some experiences?
    Thanks again for your help! ;)
  • I would be cautious. There aren't any (that I know of) traditional publishers that invite you to submit the complete manuscript in this way. I suspect they will offer a deal where you contribute to the costs of publication. That's not a good way to become a published author.
  • edited January 2016
    I've had a look at the website and a lot of alarm bells start ringing.

    They do say upfront they are a shared costs publisher - i.e. the author had to pay money to have their book published. They also say that all 'good' (by what standards?) manuscripts will be offered a contract. Presumably if it is really good and they think it will sell then they will ask you to contribute less than if it's OK, but uncommercial.

    The English on the site isn't great either - presumably translated from the German - so it doesn't bode well for how much attention they would pay to a manuscript if they are lax with their own website.

    There are lots of publishers about like this, in my view not much (if at all) better than a vanity press.

    If your cousin is really confident maybe he should send his manuscript - or part of it - for an appraisal by one of the reputable firms like Cornerstones. It does cost money, but it might stop him wasting more if the book really isn't up to scratch.
  • Agree with Heather completely.

    A writer I know lost control of his print rights by signing up with the wrong publisher because he didn't realise what he was committing himself to.
  • Google it. There are way too many questions about this company for my liking. Remember that any company can publish your work if you pay the cash; they cannot ever promise to sell it, and they may not even promise to try. Once they've got your cash, they're in profit. Why should they do anything on your behalf to eat into that profit?
    Don't touch it. Your cousin could publish his own book himself via Kindle and not lose money, even if he never sells a copy.
    If he wanted to do it really well, he should get his book professionally edited - almost impossible to do properly yourself even if you are great with grammar - and get a decent cover made. Both of these will cost him, but they are things that could lose him sales if ignored.
    Whichever way he goes, he should get professional advice before signing any contract at all.
  • He could also look out for competitions. Some publishers run these to encourage new talent. He should look at the terms and conditions carefully though as some are a lot better than others.
  • I do love writing!
    What kind of thing do you write?
  • @BaggyBooks & Heather: Thanks for your advices! But why do you think that such a cost-sharing thing isn’t a good way to become a published author? I kind of thought, that in the end, it doesn’t matter how a book got published… honestly, it looked pretty normally to me that inexperienced authors have to contribute to the costs of publication, or am I wrong? :/

    We haven’t talked to them yet, but my cousin is thinking about sending them a part of his manuscript or meeting them for further information…

    @Mrs Bear and Carol: Thank you! We already googled them and found some reviews on different websites. Most of them seemed rather satisfied with their services and contracts (some of their authors already won a few prices) therefore, we were thinking, that he should give them a try… for sure, he has to be very careful, but he wouldn’t sign any contract, if he has a bad vibe about this.

    Kindle may also be an option… but it is very important for him, to have someone that holds his hands during the whole process. Therefore, having an agent or a personal custodian would be rather helpful to avoid potential risks or wrong decisions.

    But how much is it, to get a book edited professionally and to get a decent cover? It would be nice, if you tell us a bit more about your experiences :)

    @ phots moll: Thanks for this one! We haven’t thought about that, but definitely worth a check! During the past few years, I have been writing several poems but currently I am thinking about writing my first (romantic) novel :P

    What about you? ;)
  • @BaggyBooks & Heather: Thanks for your advices! But why do you think that such a cost-sharing thing isn’t a good way to become a published author? I kind of thought, that in the end, it doesn’t matter how a book got published… honestly, it looked pretty normally to me that inexperienced authors have to contribute to the costs of publication, or am I wrong?

    You need to do the sums – can the costs be recouped? Self-publishing can be done on a very tight budget. Contributing to 'cost-sharing' will mean you are contributing to a company's turnover and profit. Does it matter how a book's published? Depends why you're publishing it. If it's just to hold the book in your hands and not worry about how much it cost, then no.

    How much for a good cover and to have a book professionally edited and proofread? Less than cost-sharing.

    Lots of advice here: http://allianceindependentauthors.org/?affid=2339

  • Cost sharing sounds OK in theory ... but if publishers expect to make money from a book then they'll be happy to take it on and will pay the author in order to obtain the rights to publish it. If they don't expect to make money and therefore want the author to help with the costs, how will the author recoup her investment?

  • What about you? ;)
    I write lots of short stories, a few articles and I've self published four novels - three of them romances.
  • Me? Apart from a few articles and short stories that some desperate magazines have published, I bask in the reflected glory of my clients.
  • edited February 2016
    Sharing the costs - usually means paying for all of them and a little bit on top to increase the firm's profit. Self publish by all means - it works brilliantly well for some - not great for the majority. If you think about how much you'd pay for the privilege of working with a vanity publisher and instead used those funds to self publish and have the work properly edited and critiqued and use whatever's left for marketing you'd probably achieve a lot more AND control everything.
  • You still have to market a vanity published book and get no help with that - the publisher does nothing to sell your book at all - they have no distributer, to get books in shops. You have to pay for a load of your books which will already be printed and may not sell them all. Using Create Space means any book ordered will be printed on order - so no wasting of anyone's money. Any mistakes can still be changed.
  • Well summed up, datco.

    Sadly the only people who make money with these companies is the company.
  • Right now I'm on Twitter, having come across #Pit2Pub.

    It's a bit manic, but there are lots of publishers looking at pitches. If your pitch gets liked, then that's an invitation to submit to them.

    I've just been liked by two publishers, but they are in Texas and Canada!

  • Sadly the only people who make money with these companies is the company.
    I know one or two authors who have made money. But they had years of experience before they took that step and weren't 'new' writers. I think that's the key point to make here - don't pay someone to publish your early work. You won't recoup the cost.
  • Agree with above comments - do not pay publishers to publish your work. All publishers will look at work from debut writers, although to approach some you will need an agent. I would advise your cousin to buy the Writers and Artists Yearbook or go to the library and use their copy. Work through the lists of publishers and agents and select the ones that look suitable. Then start the long haul of submitting. It's exciting but time consuming! There are countless reputable publishers you can submit to - there is no need to go with a vanity publisher. Or try agents - you do tend to get a faster reponse time and occasionally some feedback too if the manuscript is promising. If your cousin is finding the whole process confusing then submitting to agents is probably easier. Look at their website first to make sure they accept the sort of work you want to send them and who to address your email to. They usually ask for three chapters plus synopsis (a page summary of your work) and a covering letter/email. You can submit all this by email so there is no cost. Good luck to your cousin!
  • @Baggy Books & Phots Moll: Thanks again for your advices and suggestions (and the hyperlink!!), I really do appreciate it :)) We don’t know yet, how those things work with this publishing house, but we are going to find out… hopefully there is anybody, who can tell us a bit more about them. I can assure you, that it is not about “just hold my own book in my hands”… but if we were wealthy, we wouldn’t have to care that much about money and just take the risk :P

    @datco2014 & Liz: I guess you both are right.. but if its only a small amount, wouldn’t it be worth a try? Furthermore, I have read on their website, that they will take care of the PR and Advertising stuff, as well as layout, graphics and so on…

    @Lou Treleaven: Agents may be another possibility, but isn’t finding an agent as difficult and time consuming as finding a publishing house (that don’t demand cost-sharing)? Thanks anyway for this one! We will definitely try to contact some agents too and maybe, send them a few chapters ;)

  • @datco2014 & Liz: I guess you both are right.. but if its only a small amount, wouldn’t it be worth a try? Furthermore, I have read on their website, that they will take care of the PR and Advertising stuff, as well as layout, graphics and so on…

    Where will they advertise? Have you seen an advert for a self-published book?

  • You do see them in the writing magazines - these companies advertise them. Not sure that's effective - whilst we support the authors we know, we can't support them all. Those adverts really only promote the publisher, not the authors and their books. And it allows the company to comply with what it offers - advertising and marketing a book.
  • Quite - and as there are so many self-published books, I wonder how many can actually be advertised in this way (once a month?) and how many time if they get in at all?
  • And what actually qualifies as an advert? I'd want to see examples of an actual campaign.
  • edited February 2016
    One way to see how well their marketing works is to look in your local bookshops and libraries and see how many of their books are stocked. If there seem to be a lot - and they're selling well or regularly being marketed then they probably do a decent job.

    Check Amazon rankings and number of reviews too. Compare with books by other publishers and see if they're somewhere close.
  • JollyJoker, your cousin might want to try a competition that looks at the first few pages (or first few chapters, etc) of a novel. There are a few around and although they tend to be relatively expensive - around £15-20 usually - they would help him establish whether or not he is on the right track. Even if he didn't win, a place on the shortlist of a competition would be something an agent or publisher would be interested to hear about, as it helps show that independent people have read and enjoyed the work.

    Some of these competitions also offer critique services, which might highlight any issues in the opening chapters that your cousin could work on before forming out for a full professional edit.
  • @Liz&;Baggy Books: Yes, they are advertising their books not only in magazines, but also on book fairs and events… and their own website of course ;) After some research my cousin did too, he told me, that they will also release a press statement and send some sample copies to radio and TV stations, to attract potential readers attention… Though, we will have to ask them for an example of an actual campaign… we will also ask them if they take further actions relating to PR and advertising and how exactly they will look like.

    @Phots Moll: You are absolutely right! Therefore, we have looked in some local bookstores during the past few days and we have seen a few books that are published by novum… some of the authors were Germans, so we looked them up in google and found some pretty ancouraging success stories. A sales man told us, that one of those books is a real bestseller (not only in Germany but also in the UK) But I can assure you that we will definitely check them out on amazon too!

    @danfango: thank you very much! Phots moll already recommended it warmly to us and we are still looking for some around… but are there any important competitions you both can suggest? …would be very helpful for our research ;)
  • Interesting. Tell us which books have sold 'really well'. And in German? Can understand if in Germany - but it costs a packet to get a book translated.

  • The difficulty with advertising in writing magazines, book fairs, etc. is that the audience will be (mainly) other writers. There's a limit to how many books other authors can afford to buy.

    In today's post I received a copy of a client's book. She did it herself - albeit with my assistance. The Kindle version has already paid my fees (copy-editing, proofreading, uploading, tweaking, liaising with cover designer) and those of the cover designer. She's appearing on local radio, arranged signings and author events. Everything she earns from the paperback version is pure profit. The book is based on blog content and she had created a substantial fan-base. Despite much of the content having already been read for free, those readers have invested in a copy of the complete saga.

    Your cousin could achieve all that.
  • Which bookshops were they stocked in? Major retailers or independent bookshops?
  • edited February 2016
    Is your cousin based in London? If so this might be of interest (if the book fits the criteria) https://www.lbbd.gov.uk/residents/leisure-libraries-and-museums/libraries/library-events-and-activities/pen-print-real-people-real-stories-book-challenge/

    You only have to have a first chapter and synopsis/proposal ready to submit at end of March. There will be 12 shortlisted, who will get mentoring to finish the book and then with the option of either a self-publishing contract or aid with approaching agents/publishers at the end.

    And it's free.

    Maybe worth an enquiring email?

    (Me & my writing partner were shortlisted last year but we declined self-publishing to try the traditional route of agents/publishers first).
  • @Liz: I can’t remember the title exactly („wanna live“ or so) but the author’s name was Anja Milo and she has already has won a few prices with it… I don’t know how much it is for translation, but they definitely offer it.

    @baggy books: I have to admit that I have never been on a book fair since yet, but I thought that there are some potential readers too? Although, the main reason for exposing a book on a book fair, is to attract potential readers attention, or am I wrong again? But many thanks for telling me this awesome success story! That sounds really, really promising ;) did she has to pay fees in advance, to get her book edited and proofread by you?

    @carol: they were stocked not only in major retailers and independent bookshops, but also in amazon and other online shops…

    @jediya: Yep, he is based in London, so many thanks to you for this hyperlink! That sounds very interesting and promising too :D definitely worth a try and his book would also fits the criteria… but what kind of book did you and your writing partner submit last year and how did the “traditional route” work out for you?
  • I tried to read up on this topic since it sounded interesting, so if you don't mind me butting in: I have looked at the website of the publishing house you mentioned Jollyjoker, and it looked legit to me! I am not pretending to know much about publishing as it isn't anything I am considering myself (neither do I know any published author personally), but this is just my humble opinion. I know you should steer clear of vanity press, however if a publishing house offers certain services that you would otherwise have to pay for in any case (like PR, marketing, etc), I think that them asking for is fair enough.
  • LizLiz
    edited February 2016
    If it was a fair price it would be fair enough. But imo they are asking an enormous amount that most people will never pay back. Plus, the elephant in the room. What no-one is saying is that they will publish any old rubbish. Stuff that doesn't have an earthly chance of being sold except to the victim's family and friends.

    We have no way of judging the content of jollyjoker's friend's (or cousin's) book, other than that he or she has not really been writing that long.

    Most writers are writing for at least 10 years before producing anything near publishing standard. And most first novels don't get published, it's the one after, or the one after that - as they hone their craft.

    Even a self-published book won't sell if it is not brilliant. And if it is brilliant, it takes a huge amount of effort to publicise it and promote it and go round bookshops (individually! imagine the time that takes!) to persuade them to take the book on. No-one who has a job already really has the time.

    A traditional publisher even nowadays does not promote books like it used to - but it has the ability to get books into Waterstones all across the country which gives it the very best publicity there is - placing it under the noses of prospective buyers. You cannot buy that from a publisher such as Novum.
  • This is a fascinating thread.

    It seems that no matter what advice we share, jollyjoker and his cousin are smitten with Novum. I'd say that if they have the money they should go for it. I read and review indie books and I'd be very happy to receive an ARC of jollyjoker's cousin's book.
  • Hopefully jollyjoker and his cousin will have a more realistic starting point as a result of this discussion.
  • Mm mm. ..maybe they ARE Novum? ??
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