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The big difference: agents are slow, with response times often around weeks. But publishers are way slower: you need to allow months to get a proper response. Yes, you can trawl through the membership pages of the American Association of Publishers or in the UK the Publishers Association … but those guys have a lot of members, the vast majority of whom will be irrelevant to your needs. So really the best way to find a publisher for your book is to find other titles in your niche.

So if your book is about motor maintenance, look at the other engine-related books on your shelves. How to find who publishes a book is simple — just look inside the front cover. That page with all the tiny, boring print about copyright and that kind of thing will also tell you who the publisher is. You need to identify both the publisher you want and, where relevant, the imprint in order to wriggle through to the right desk in the right office. Make a list of those publishers — then approach them direct.

Assuming you definitely want traditional publication and again, see Option 1 for more on this , you should only really avoid using a literary agent, if:. For those reasons, direct submissions to publishers make the most sense. If you have a mailing list or other platform — for example, you have a popular blog on rose growing, and your book is all about growing roses — then self-publishing should be very simple and immediately lucrative. If you are looking to sell a novel, then you basically have to have written the book and edited it until it sparkles.

But that sounds like a hell of a lot of work for a project that might never sell, right?

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Well, luckily for you, that option certainly exists. It exists only for non-fiction, and not even for all types of non-fiction, but yes: you can offer literary agents a book proposal in place of an entire book. That book proposal might in total amount to only 10, words, and should include:. If your work is mainstream and could provide a ton of sales, then you will want to navigate via a literary agent.

If not, you can go direct to publishers. Nice, right? Although the Big 5 publishers dominate the market in sheer volume of sales, they do have one not-so-little weakness. That is that their sheer size entails a prodigious cost base, and therefore an inability to handle small but important or interesting work. For that reason, we are living in a golden age of tiny, but very successful micro-publishers.

You can find a useful list of such presses here. Though if you have one, your agent should make the approach, not you. I know several talented authors with real passion projects. Amazon charges you nothing to stock your book. It has easy tools to create your ebook and your print book. Its royalties are brilliant. You can find everything you need right here, in our Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing. Those people never succeed. To win at self-pub, you have to seek success. You have to want it. It does take some upfront spending, without any guarantee of return.

In truth, the game is usually slower and more incremental than that. In the old days, if you wanted to be a publisher, you needed to be able to print books, arrange warehousing and logistics, and you needed a big corporate sales team to persuade retailers to buy the books. In short, things were complicated, and publishers ended up combining into ever larger units in order to compete.

But then a new breed of publishers came up with a radical thought. Who needed bookshops any more? E-books and audio books dominate the market. They focused purely on that online sales channel selling print as well as e-books, but only via online routes. You need to write the kind of books that are right for a digital-first approach. In fiction, that means you are writing series-led genre. Or national newspaper reviews, because almost certainly ditto.

And any advance you get will be very small but the royalties you can expect will be correspondingly generous. And bear in mind, the scale of success here can be huge. Angela Marsons was used to getting knocked back by trad publishers … but digital-first Bookouture turned her into a million-selling sales sensation. The name of that publishing arm is, imaginatively, Amazon Publishing , or just APub. It is an odd one, though. So an Amazon author is sold by … just Amazon. More than 35 APub authors have hit 1,, in sales, and that number is expanding all the time. Mostly it looks for existing authors who could fit its template, and reaches out to them.

Alternatively, literary agents can call direct. Yes, they will produce a book, and it might even look OK. But their marketing promises are meaningless. They will not — not meaningfully — sell your book. Selling books is hardly necessary. Run, run, run from these awful humans.


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If you want a longer discussion of these appalling people and all the reasons why vanity publishing is terrible, please just read this short guide. But the big difference is one of honesty. Lulu is one example of this kind of company, but there are plenty of others. But if the basic operation of creating a book comes garnished with flaky and unrealistic promises about marketing, some horrible high-pressure sales tactics, and topped off with a crazy price, then what you have is a vanity publisher.

This option will be right for you if you just want a nicely produced book. My sister got those photos printed up into a nice-looking photo book of the day. Your work is worth it. And, well, OK. Some authors have done that, and done that successfully — James Oswald , for example. There are plenty of other examples. Really, you probably need to double or treble those numbers to get an agent properly interested.

But once your indie career is hitting those heights, what really does trad publishing offer you? And yes, I know some indie authors who make their money via self-publishing, but who dabble with a bit of traditional publishing on the side, really just to explore new things and to prove they have what it takes there too. But in general, I think if you self-publish, you should do so with the intention of self-publishing over the long term. A few years ago, a friend of mine, John Mitchinson, had a brainwave. You could build a whole community around each book project.

In a way, the whole thing could be like a modern reinvention of the eighteenth-century model in which people subscribed to a particular book project prior to publication. That was the idea. Unbound was the result — a Kickstarter for books in effect. And yes: you can crowdfund your book on Kickstarter too. The idea has been prodigiously successful, and the company is currently raising funds for a major expansion into the US.

Where books successfully meet their pledge target, the company publishes the books and arranges distribution into bookstores, as well as foreign rights sales and the rest. But fiction can also work on the site, again especially when that fiction is distinctive and a bit too quirky for ordinary Big 5 style publication. Of the social-as-storytelling platforms, by far the best known and most elaborate is Wattpad , with some 70 million users who are there for the purpose of storytelling rather than, say, watching fake news, trolling each other, or sharing gifs.

For those type of writers, social publishing can be a brilliant first route. When that digital-first publication started to make waves, James sold the rights to Random House, that propelled the book and its author to mega-stardom. In effect, that one trilogy moved from social publication, to digital first publication, to Big 5 publication with literary agent attached. Yes, you can practice your craft and build an audience on Wattpad, but you still have to make the leap from that to a more formal publication channel.

I said there were a load of different routes to publication — and by now you probably believe me. But in the end, there are two broad variants:. Both routes are great. Both options will appeal to different authors — or like me the same author at different times and with different projects. The whole thing is easy-peasy. All except the very first bit — writing a great book.

That difficulty is what makes this craft of ours so frustrating — and so rewarding. Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. More about us. Agent submission builder Get an agent in one hour. Indie marketing masterclass A self-publishing essential. How to write a novel Your free, expert tutorials. Join the list, get your gifts. Write a succinct synopsis, the easy way Write a professional query letter, the easy way Based on over twelve years of working with agents. Quick Simple Easy. How will we use your data? If you want more info, you can get it here. Build a strong underlying story structure Ensure your characters evolve with the plot Make the hardest part of writing that little bit easier.

We will now review your request and get in touch with you. Write a perfect query letter and a brilliant synopsis. In just one hour. Redraft your manuscript like a pro, with this easy guide. How to get a book published All the major options reviewed, with pros and cons for each. The secret to getting an agent. Free submission pack template. They are also there to sell your book, which they do by: Working on the manuscript editorially.

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More on types of editing. Designing cover art and preparing the book for production. Far from it. Ideally, your book will be entered into promotions, that place your book in the most visible store locations and with an attractive price reduction. Selling the book via online retailers. Although Amazon pretty much does stock every book out there, publishers still have to persuade Amazon and Apple, and Kobo, and so on to promote your book as much as possible.

Marketing the book. That will probably involve a mixture of traditional publicity such as newspaper interviews and book signings and digitally driven campaigns, probably involving social media, email marketing and perhaps some use of pay-per-click advertising.

So agents are good; they make sales; they work on commission. But it gets better. In addition to that basic sales activity, literary agents also: Offer you editorial advice to help you get your manuscript in shape for sale Run the auction process Negotiate the resulting contract Supervise the publication process , advise you on it, and act as your bull terrier if any conflicts arise Sell other rights , such as foreign language rights, audio if not part of the original deal , and film and TV rights.

How do you get an agent? The steps you need to follow are these: Generate a longlist of literary agents. You can find a full list of literary agents here for the US and here for the UK. If you sign up for AgentMatch free trial here , you can use simple tools to filter by genre, client, and more. Whittle that down to a shortlist of names.

Delightfully disturbing and sometimes funny adaptations of classic fairy tales. Very enjoyable. Dark and funny and suspenseful and fun. Would You Rather? The Female Persuasion , by Meg Wolitzer. I loved it. A woman whose daughter disappeared 10 years ago ends up in a relationship with a man whose daughter looks eerily like her own, and all is not what it seems.

All You Could Ask For

And it was stressful! But good. Hey Ladies! One of the ladies is getting married, and there are many, many emails to be sent and plans to be made. It is time for you to buy it! Two former spouses, one gay and one straight, reconnect decades later when both of their new lives are falling apart a bit. Calypso , by David Sedaris. The Mars Room , by Rachel Kushner, about a woman serving two life sentences in prison, how she got there, and how she survives. I was riveted from the first page, and it stays with you. Tell the Machine Goodnight , by Katie Williams. Less , by Andrew Sean Greer. Beautifully written, smart, and funny.

Crazy Rich Asians , by Kevin Kwan. French Exit , by Patrick deWitt. Goodbye, Vitamin , by Rachel Khong. Room , by Emma Donoghue. Obviously disturbing, but it will grab you and keep you up all night reading it. Conversations with Friends , by Sally Rooney. Two 20somethings befriend a slightly older couple, and things get messy but the banter is superb. After alien life comes to earth, the woman who made first contact becomes famous overnight and discovers fame is as weird as aliens. Family Trust , by Kathy Wang. The Idiot , by Elif Batuman. If you want a lot of plot in your novels, this may not be for you, but I really liked it.

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners , by Gretchen Anthony. A very misguided matriarch grapples with change in her family while writing cheerful Christmas letters. Nine Perfect Strangers , by Liane Moriarty. In an interesting way, but still off the rails. Please note: This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon. I enjoyed My Ex-Life! He complained all. I really liked it too.

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I bookmarked this page although I have tons of unread books. Thank you for the rec lists! The book itself is vividly written. One of her recommendations, Station Eleven, has become a favorite. I finished it, but was disappointed. It had such an intriguing premise and I loved the characters as kids, and then they ended up mostly being dull, whiny adults. I remember feeling the same way about The Goldfinch when I read that a few years ago. I loved The Immortalists!

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When my book club read The Goldfinch, we were very divided too! I also loved The Goldfinch. Glad I am not the only one that loved the immortalists! I thought the characters were so well drawn out, and I loved the question of how much of what happened to all of them was driven by that knowledge. I also loved the immortalists, it was very interesting premise and I thought it was meant to be sad and difficult to get through, show a more complex life then what we usually see in books. Might I recommend one for you to read next year: Educated.

Education is haunting. Educated was incredible. Mormon, actually. Note the role of the bishops and the LDS church in her family. In fact, her brothers, including Tyler, remain Mormon. That said, I was raised evangelical Christian and homeschooled, and though her family experience was significantly more extreme than mine I had math, science, history, etc. I literally, physically cringe when I recall my proudly-delivered 3rd-grade report on why evolution was positively a hoax.

I absolutely agree that those of us who have experienced abnormally high parental control are prone to react more strongly to it. I would like everyone to read it so they can understand how very different our backgrounds can be. Even the part of the books that are not strictly about education are a meditation on what it means to be educated: the move from unfreedom to freedom, and what that move may cost. This is How it Always Is is so beautiful, so wonderful. It really shows the excruciating pain felt by trans kids, and it might help people see how this is not a choice.

The mother in this book rocks-she is fierce and the author speaks from personal experience. Just wonderful all around. Home Comforts is amaaaaazing. Totally agree about The Power by Naomi Alderman! I read it earlier this year and think about it a lot. Sometimes his sister Amy chimes in with voices on his audiobooks, which is a delight.

I… did not care for The Power? It came so highly recommended from a bunch of sources but I just thought it was kind of a mess and its timeline was totally unrealistic. And then the frame is years later? I think about that book a lot too but mostly to try to answer its central question more satisfyingly for myself. Such an interesting premise, such a disappointing execution. I find myself thinking about the premise a lot too, particularly now I read it this past summer when I feel less safe than ever, as a woman of color.

I agree- I so wanted to love it and I found it pretty disappointing. The premise is great- but there was just something about it that I found difficult. I was searching for a book to pick for my book club next month and I think this will be it because I think the premise will give us a lot to discuss. I loved The Power, and recently finished Vox, which is quite compelling. I thought the interspersed anthropology bits were interesting but the story absolutely could have held up on its own too. I won your Cringeworthy giveaway, and it was SO interesting.

I was like one part memoir, one part intro psych. I found it fascinating from the science perspective, but her personal anecdotes also made it fun to read. It seems like such an obvious recommendation for AAM! So maybe I missed it.

Can You Name a Book? ANY Book???

I read Room in one sitting a few years ago and it is an amazing work of literature. Room had been strongly recommended by a friend. I was excited to read it.

It was a fast read but I hated every second of it. I know, I know… how could I? He was an innocent. I just thought he was a bit creepy and I wanted to know more about the mom and less about the kid. I think the mom was a strong, amazing character.