Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finding a Publisher or Literary Agent Part III by Scott M. Baker

“Great. I have my query drafted and ready to send out. Where do I find publishers and literary agents to submit it to?”

Here is where I date myself. When I first became interested in writing years ago, the Bible of the publishing industry was The Writer’s Market. Without the latest edition on your desk, your chances of getting published were slim. However, relying on The Writer’s Market today is about as antiquated as drafting your manuscript on an electric typewriter. The publishing industry now has an increasing number of small presses and a rapidly expanding market for presses who deal solely or primarily in electronic media, and these publishers open (and sometimes close) at a mind-boggling rate. The good news is that keeping track of who’s who in the market has never been easier.

I use five methods to keep track of the market. More are available, but these are the ones I primarily rely on. Use whichever ones work for you or your genre.

-- Internet-based publishers digests. There are several out there that encompass all markets and genres, but my favorite is Duotrope (http://www.duotrope.com/). Duotrope allows you to narrowly define your search parameters to provide listings based on genre, type of publication (book or magazine, print or electronic), length of work, submission guidelines, and other criteria. Each listing also contains a link to that publisher’s homepage. One feature about this service I particularly like is that you can sign up for Duotrope’s weekly e-mail update which lists markets that are open to submission, updates those markets that are dead or recently closed to submissions, and provides a list of upcoming anthologies by theme. In my opinion, this is one of the best tools for writers currently out there. Several of my works were eventually placed with publishers I discovered on Duotrope.

-- Trade journals and genre magazines. These are invaluable, especially the former. I don’t know what’s available for other genres, but for horror I rely on Realms of Fantasy as my trade journal and Fangoria and Rue Morgue as my primary genre magazines. Their value is in that they provide information on what is being published in your genre and who is publishing it. I use Realms of Fantasy to keep track of trends in the industry and use the book review sections of the genre magazines to obtain leads on publishers who work in my genre.

-- Conventions. Though less readily available then the first two, writers and genre conventions are among your most valuable resource. Publishers use these conventions to seek out new talent, so they are most receptive to hear what you have to offer. Practice your verbal pitch. You want to have a pitch that hooks a publisher in the first few sentences, but doesn’t sound over rehearsed. And be prepared in case the publisher starts asking detailed questions about your work or you. I have seen a lot of authors nail that opening pitch and get all tongue-tied during the follow-up talks. Remember, nobody knows you and your book better than you do. And if you find a publisher who wants to see more of your work, contact him/her the moment you get home, reminding him/her in your cover letter that you just met at the convention and you are sending along the material he/she asked you to.

-- Your local bookstore. You can find a wealth of information here by perusing your genre section. Check out new arrivals to see which houses have published books similar to yours, and use that as a starting point for your research. Also remember to check out the acknowledgement page, for you often get the names of editors to contact as well as literary agents.

-- Forums and Yahoo groups. These can be extremely helpful if you join the correct ones. You want to find ones populated by aspiring and/or new authors who are serious about their craft. Publishers and editors often cruise these sites searching for new talent, and if they are impressed with you they may contact you offline and ask you to submit. I have also seen some forums/groups where publishers are actively seeking out authors. You should be able to find these forums/groups by researching in your genre. (These forums/groups are also invaluable in helping you market your book, which I will discuss in the next blog posting.)

All right, ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who have been reading this blog series from the beginning, you have enough tools available to write your novel. You’ve abandoned family and friends to make the time to write and have spent the last year drafting and editing and revising and re-editing and re-revising your book. You’ve sent out an endless stream of query letters, suffered through the flood of rejections letters (or worse, the annoying lack of responses from publishers you’ve queried) but have prevailed and finally found someone to publish your work. Congratulations! Now the hard part begins.

NEXT BLOG: Marketing your book and yourself.


  1. Duotrope is very geek-centric; I love it but I think it may be off-putting to some of our less high-tech brethren and cistern. Ralan.com is a great old-school site for speculative-fiction writers of all ilks.

  2. Great info. Scott! I'd also remind readers that self-publishing can be a route to becoming professionally published. If your writing generates a following, it may peak the interest of a publisher.