Literary Agents: Finding the Best Fit

Literary agents are agents who represent authors and their manuscripts, ultimately securing a book deal between the author and a publisher. Though their role isn’t essential to getting a book published, it can be beneficial because they have network connections to the best book publishers, and often have worked with successful authors before.

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Literary agents do a lot of the leg work that authors may be unfamiliar with, so their expertise is always valued. They help secure fair deals, protect authors’ rights, ensure authors are paid fairly, and act as a liaison between the author and the publisher. Furthermore, literary agents connect authors with publishers in specific genres. Because they know the market, they can guide authors in specific directions that will garner success.

Besides the technical and professional aspects, literary agents also offer camaraderie and support for the authors they represent. They are there every step of the way, encouraging authors and making sure publishers see the authors’ craft.

Because literary agents aren’t always necessary to get a book published, authors must decide if they need one. If authors want to pitch their book proposals to larger publishing houses—especially the Big Five publishers—they will need and want a literary agent to help them navigate the process. However, if authors write for a niche market or if their work is more suitable for a smaller press, a literary agent is not always necessary.

After determining if a literary agent is needed, authors must find one that works best for them. Authors can visit online resources such as Publisher’s Marketplace, which provides logs of active literary agents. Another useful resource is the Association of Authors’ Representatives, an association of over 400 members that authors can choose from and seek a partnership with. Authors can narrow down their search by category and genre to find literary agents who have worked on projects like theirs. There are other online resources that offer more ways to connect with literary agents. Print resources exist as well; the Writer’s Market, published yearly, provides information on over 500 literary agents.

Authors can also use their own connections in the publishing industry to find an agent. If they know anyone who has worked with agents before, they can ask for recommendations of specific literary agents who might be interested in working with them. They can also inquire about places or events where they can interact with different literary agents.

After narrowing down their search, authors can reach out to prospective literary agents. This can be done in a couple of ways. They can attend events that literary agents may speak at—including writer’s programs, book festivals, and conferences—to get their foot in the door. They may also send literary agents a professional query letter telling the agent about themselves, their book, how they know of the agent, and how their work and the agent’s work could create a good partnership.

Literary agents provide a plethora of valuable information that any author can learn from. Thousands of literary agents are as eager as authors to make a book deal; authors just have to start the process of finding the perfect fit.

This is the third post in a three-part series on navigating book marketing. Read “Know Your Author Rights” and “Successfully Marketing a Book: An Author’s Role” now.

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Successfully Marketing a Book: An Author’s Role

An important part of finding success as an author is marketing. Though book publishers help create positive buzz, authors must take on the primary responsibility of marketing their book.

Marketing combines elements of publicity, promotions, and public relations to generate interest from an audience and create sales. A marketing plan is a detailed plan that establishes the steps authors will take to successfully market their book. Common practices to promote the upcoming book include press releases, reviews, giveaways and contests, and sharing accompanying works.

While these practices are great and will guarantee some level of success for authors, there are other ways in which they can generate positive buzz. Essential to the marketing of a book is social media. While the publisher handles other aspects of the plan such as creating and distributing press releases, authors can take charge with their social media accounts.

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Why should authors use social media?

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are widespread platforms where millions of people interact every day. These platforms are free forms of publicity in which authors can directly engage with their audiences and promote their books. If authors create strong relationships with their readers first, they will likely already have loyal customers when their book is released.

How can they use social media?

To promote their books, authors can use social media sites to post writing advice, small excerpts from their books, and cover reveals. Creating these small promotions and linking to their author website or book page generates the elusive positive buzz authors seek.

Authors can easily engage with their audience by creating a conversation. They might ask “What is your favorite book?” or “What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?” This allows people to respond and create a connection with their favorite author. It also shows the audience that the author isn’t just trying to make a sale—they care about what their loyal readers think and feel.

For authors and their upcoming book, creating a positive image is also critical to generate positive buzz. Authors can do this by associating with prominent organizations that are appropriate to their field.

Why should authors care about their public image?

When readers think about an author, they unconsciously associate them with what they’ve seen or heard in the media. To make sure people view them positively, authors should present themselves in favorable ways. However, their presentation should still show an authentic image of themselves and their work, especially when seeking industry connections or when presenting to an audience for the first time.

How can authors create a favorable, authentic image?

Authors can join organizations that are specific and related to the genre of their works. For instance, a romance author may join the Romance Writers of America, an organization for writers of romantic fiction, to connect with people in their writing genre. This creates an opportunity for authors to reach potential customers and befriend other authors who can provide advice and support for the rest of their career.

To promote their book directly, authors can often participate in speaking engagements at organizations’ events. At these speaking engagements, authors may become “experts” on the topic of their book and relay valuable, interesting information to audiences. This creates more positive buzz and will likely result in book sales later.

Conclusion

Though publishers work closely with authors to ensure their books find success, publishers are not responsible for all of the marketing. Authors must take initiative to create a plan that will benefit their upcoming book release and their career. Social media and public image are paramount parts of the process.

This is the second post in a three-part series on navigating book marketing. Read “Know Your Author Rights” now and check back on September 21 for “Literary Agents: Finding the Best Fit”.

Interested in more great content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and find our complete catalog on our homepage.

Know Your Author Rights

It’s an exciting time when a publisher accepts an author’s manuscript. However, with the celebration comes a contract that discusses ownership rights. Authors and potential authors may wonder what rights to retain and what rights to grant to publishers. Before you make any hasty decisions, you first need to know a little more about ownership rights.

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Copyright laws legally protect original works from being reproduced and credited to other people. When you create a new work, you automatically own the rights to it. These rights include the right to distribute, reproduce, publicly display, and modify the original work.

When you begin a partnership with a publisher, these rights will shift around a bit. Ideally, a publisher will specify the rights they intend to buy. Sometimes, though, the contracts are ambiguous or unclear, often with stipulations for rights muddled by intimidating legal terms. Have no fear! If you do your research about ownership rights, you will be in a better position to retain certain rights to your manuscript and create a beneficial partnership with the publisher.

There are a variety of rights you may negotiate to retain for yourself or grant to your publisher. These rights include first serial rights, one-time rights, and second serial rights.

First serial rights mean the publisher can publish the manuscript for the first time, but all other rights remain with the author. One-time rights mean the publisher purchases the right to publish the manuscript one time. There is nothing stopping the author from selling the work to other publications at the same time. Second serial rights mean you grant a publisher the right to publish the manuscript after it has already appeared in another publication.

The most important rights to be wary of are “all rights.” The publishers’ contract may stipulate that authors sign over all rights to their works. This means your work no longer belongs to you; instead, the publisher owns it and you can’t use it again without their permission. Try to avoid signing contracts with these “all rights” clauses. Instead, negotiate with the publisher for serial rights or one-time rights, which are more beneficial because you may want to revisit your work later.

It’s important to know what ownership rights are available to you, but you may have the daunting task of picking apart the contract to make sure you’ve received a fair deal. You don’t want the experience that many others have unfortunately had. They find themselves in a sticky situation with no rights to their books, a poor relationship with their publisher, and very little success. It’s beneficial to seek assistance from authors who have already worked on contract agreements and can offer insight. It is also recommended to seek legal counsel or someone certified in copyright law to offer advice.

As an author, it’s important to research ownership rights so that you understand what rights will fit your manuscript best. Once you’ve received advice about contracts and picked the contract apart, try to negotiate with your publisher before signing. If you can’t agree on the terms, it may be best to find another publisher who can better meet your needs.

Remember, publishers want your book to be successful, so work with publishers that make you feel comfortable and confident in where your partnership will take you!

This is the first post in a three-part series on navigating book marketing. Check back on September 14 for “Successfully Marketing a Book: An Author’s Role” and September 21 for “Literary Agents: Finding the Best Fit”.

Interested in more great content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and find our complete catalog on our homepage.

A Reflection on My Time at the Press

I’ve always wanted to have a career with an English studies focus. Well, other than when I was four-years-old and told anyone who would listen that I wanted to be a ladybug when I grew up. Dreams change from four to twenty-two, that’s for sure. I’ve grown up and I’m looking for ways to have a successful career in the publishing industry. The UNG Press helped me start my journey.

In June of 2016, I came to UNG for a transfer student orientation, where I walked around campus and talked to a faculty advisor from the English department about my career goals. That was the first time I heard about the UNG Press. I’d only received a little information, but I knew I wanted to be a Press intern before I graduated. I would gain valuable insight and experience. I’d get to be in an actual publishing house around other editors. So when I applied for and received the internship position, I achieved a personal goal I’d been thinking about since 2016.

My internship with the Press has been everything I hoped it would be and more. Initially, I was so focused on being a copy editor that I dismissed other industry opportunities that were right in front of me. Working at the Press showed me those opportunities.

My internship focused on creating content for the Press’ social media platforms. I conducted extensive research about publishing and marketing and used the research to create entertaining and professional blog posts. These assignments taught me the importance of writing for a specific audience and writing concisely and comprehensively. Immersing myself in these new parts of the industry and seeing the hard work that is essential to the success of the Press has provided me with the knowledge, experience, and appreciation that I will need when I begin my career.

My internship has shaped me into a better writer and a more compassionate and experienced soon-to-be college graduate. As I’m looking for jobs that allow me to expand on the knowledge and tools I’ve gained this semester, I’ll be thanking everyone at the Press every step of the way.

I am one step closer to having the career that I want because of my experience at the Press.

Writing Ekphrasis Poetry

Do you ever see a painting or photograph that speaks to you? An entire story that unfolds in your mind and begs you to write it?

Odds are you haven’t heard of ekphrasis poetry—not the technical name, anyway. Most of us don’t even know what the word ekphrasis means, but it’s likely you’ve read or written some ekphrastic poems in your life. Ekphrasis poetry is the vivid description of a scene or work of art. It’s not only description though. You often amplify and interpret the meaning of the artwork so much that a brand new world is created for the subject.

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John Keats did it with “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which he created a life of dancing and music for a couple frozen in time on an urn. W.H. Auden’s “The Shield of Achilles” is ekphrastic as well. He reimagined the events of Homer’s description of the shield in The Iliad.  Countless others feel an overwhelming sense of inspiration to speak for and through works of art.

Writing an ekphrastic poem can be an easy start. Sometimes, it’s as simple as feeling inspired from any piece of art and putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). If you want to write your own ekphrastic poems, here are some prompts to help inspire you:

  1. Visit an art gallery or museum. Check out different exhibits and write about a specific work that catches your attention.
  2. Do you follow your favorite artist on social media? Write a poem inspired by one of their Instagram photos.
  3. Imagine van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, Kahlo—anyone!—have “lost works.” Write a poem about what you think their unseen paintings would look like. There could be a story there!
  4. Pick a painting or photograph special to you and write different poems about it. Create a different scenario each time—the possibilities are endless.

Ekphrasis poetry is all about being inspired by other forms of art. Writing ekphrastic poems can help us elicit inspiration, overcome writer’s block, and simply have fun while writing. We don’t all have to write an ode to an urn like Keats did, but we should have just as much fun challenging our writing and creative processes. So, go on! Find a picture on Instagram and write about it. Write about a very Starry Night. Just write!

What is a Backlist?

Did you know that many of the most well-known novels—even your favorites—are considered backlist titles? Everything from the Harry Potter series to Catcher in the Rye and The Handmaid’s Tale are backlist titles in the publishing industry.

A backlist is a publisher’s list of older books that are still in print, but have been on sale for more than a year. The backlist is the opposite of the frontlist, which is a publisher’s list of newly published book titles. Books often become a part of the backlist because there is limited shelf space in stores, which is usually designated for frontlist titles that a publisher is marketing extensively. Because the period in which a book title goes from frontlist to backlist is so short, most of a publisher’s title catalog consists of backlist books.

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All hope is not lost for a book when it becomes a backlist title. In fact, publishers rely on backlist titles to bring in steady revenue because, though the books may be older, they are still generating sales.

Publishers can focus their marketing on selling frontlist books while accumulating revenue from the trusty backlist titles. However, publishers also market backlist titles to generate more excitement and sales. Because backlist titles are available as e-books, their unit sales increase, which translates into more revenue for publishers.

Backlist titles also play an increasingly significant role in the revival of independent bookstores. Unlike major bookstore chains (who carry few backlist titles) and Amazon (which allows third-party sellers to make revenue off backlist titles), some independent bookstores buy in bulk from the publisher and sell a store full of backlist titles. This creates revenue for both parties and creates a direct connection with customers.

Titles such as Milk and Honey and Wonder, which have been best-sellers for at least three years, are still outselling some frontlist titles. This trend shows how valuable backlist titles are to the market. The availability of backlist titles improves the publishing market because the frontlist titles have to compete with them. Between e-books, Amazon, and independent bookstores, backlist titles have found a place in the market and will continue to compete with frontlist titles for best-seller status.

Next time you pick up one of your favorite books, remember it’s not just important to you, but also to the entire publishing industry. And when you want an older book, check out your local independent bookstore or buy from the publisher—you’ll be helping more than just yourself when picking up a backlist title!

Happy International Mother Language Day!

“Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day worth celebrating this February! Today we’re celebrating International Mother Language Day.

International Mother Language Day, or IMLD, is a day in which people celebrate the nearly 7,000 languages that are spoken around the world. Since the proclamation in 1999 by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), every year on February 21st, people have observed and preserved different languages and cultures, while also promoting peace and multilingualism.

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While International Mother Language Day is a day for celebration, its significance bears a sobering reminder of the struggles and sacrifices people in history have made for justice. IMLD is a way to commemorate the tragic events of the Bengali Language Movement in 1952. The Language Movement was an uprising in which many people lost their lives, fighting for the recognition of their mother language, Bengali, as an official language in the then-Dominion of Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). Each year, Bangladeshis remember them with a ceremony at the Martyr Monument at the University of Dhaka.

Other countries also observe International Mother Language Day in recognition of the events in Bangladesh and to convey the importance of preserving all languages. This day reminds us that language is not meant to be divisive; instead, we should acknowledge what makes us unique. We can attain unity and compassion for others by taking the opportunity to explore languages we didn’t know existed and garner new appreciation for them.

Today, it is important not just to commemorate, but also to participate! Every year the United Nations chooses a theme for IMLD. This year’s theme is how linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development. By acknowledging and using the thousands of mother languages, we can help sustain languages and ensure education for millions of people. So, what can you do this IMLD? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Browse social media to see what people are posting in their mother languages.
  2. Learn about a language and culture you know nothing about.
  3. Learn new words from a different language.
  4. Support organizations and campaigns that work to preserve languages.

International Mother Language Day is a day shaped by brave martyrs who came before us, and now it is a celebration of how our differences can unite us. I encourage you all to spend this February 21st dedicating a little time to exploring and appreciating new languages!

For more information about IMLD, visit the United Nations’ website. To keep up with IMLD celebrations, follow #IMLD on Twitter and Instagram.