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.

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!

The Creativity of the Crowd

The Crowdsourced Poetry Project is under way! We have three lines so far and are excited to see more contributions to our sestina. Go to our Facebook page to submit your contribution for the next line. Our poem so far:

I began to ask myself the questions
With answers hanging in the air
What is here is noise, above which we can hear

For those of you who don’t already know, the Press is doing an experiment in creativity where we are hoping to harness the wisdom and imagination of the public to create a stunning poem. We have chosen to use the sestina for our form, mostly because it requires no rhyming or syllable counting, making it more accessible to contributors, while its use of repeated end-words gives it just enough complexity and structure so that it won’t spin off into a wild dervish. A sestina is a poem of six stanzas that are each six lines long and then a final, three line envoi. The stanzas all end with the same six words as the first stanza, though in a very specific order. In “Sestina: Altaforte” Ezra Pound uses these words at the ends of the first six lines: peace, music, clash, opposing, crimson, and rejoicing. According to the form they reappear in the second stanza in a new order as: rejoicing, peace, crimson, music, opposing, and clash, and so on throughout the next four stanzas. The repetition of these words both allows and forces the writer to use them in new ways and with new meaning imbued each time, creating a rich tapestry of language where the pattern continues to reveal itself throughout. Please join us in our quest to crowdsource a poem; the results are sure to be interesting and possibly very beautiful indeed.

Intern Spotlight: Bryan McCloud

Bryan McCloudHello, I’m Bryan McCloud, a Junior at the University of North Georgia. I have recently joined the University Press as an intern, and desire to improve my understanding of the publishing world while here. My intent is to participate in a variety of projects, so that I can find a type of job, likely editing, that I can be comfortable with performing. This should give me an idea of what position to look for when I start searching for jobs in publishing.

 My passion for the various forms of creative expression has led me to major in English and minor in Graphic Design. I have always had an admiration for the creative expression, no matter what medium it is presented in. My admiration has compelled me to become a writer, in hopes of one day getting published. To accomplish this I seek to improve my writing capabilities and overall understanding of literature. In pursuit of my goal I have kept an open mind to other forms of writing, and have since taken offbeat classes, at least for my major, such as script writing.

Intern Spotlight: Amber Paige Lee

Amber Paige Lee Amber Paige Leewas born and raised in Alma, Georgia. At age eleven, she moved to Dawsonville, Georgia with her mom, dad, and little sister, Marla. After completing just one semester at North Georgia she moved to Orlando, Florida in January 2009 and completed an internship at Walt Disney World. She is still a seasonal cast member at Disney and works in the theme parks during Christmas and summer breaks. She also worked at ESPN Wide World of Sports for the Atlanta Braves Spring Training. She returned to North Georgia in the fall of 2009 to focus on her degree in English Writing and Publication. While at North Georgia, Amber was a cheerleader her freshmen year and is a sister of Sigma Kappa sorority. In her free time, she enjoys watching football, reading, writing, watching Star Wars, riding her horse, competing in pageants, and visiting her friends all across the United States. One of her biggest dreams is to travel to the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and all around the globe. She will use those experiences to inspire her creative writing even more. Amber will graduate from the University of North Georgia in May 2013 with a BA in English and minor in History. After graduation she plans to move to Manhattan and begin a career in publishing, while still writing on the side. Her backup plan is to get a job in editing or writing in Atlanta, Georgia. Either way, she knows her life will be a big adventure.