There are many barriers authors must face on their road to publishing their works, the largest one being penetrating the publishing forcefield. If you’re a struggling author, you may have encountered a publishing blockade that required you to have an agent before a publisher would even look at your work, and while it may have been discouraging, its a good thing so take advantage of this.
The main reason publishers often won’t accept unsolicited submissions from authors without agents is, simply put, filtering. Publishers have to go through hundreds of manuscripts which is an arduous task; most of that time is spent zeroing out horrible writing and unsellable content. This is where an agent come sin.
Agents won’t accept manuscripts if they are written badly, and they will also need to have a place to take the manuscript with a viable selling plan. An agent will analyze your synopsis, first three chapters and decide whether the market is in need of a work like yours or if the topic has ben overrun with content. By the time a publisher receives an accepted manuscript from a reputable agent along with their sale plan, the process of weeding has already been taken care of and its a real possibility that chosen author is a good one and has a good face for the market.
Agents will guide you through your image phase and tell you if your need to change something, recommend editors and basically be on your butt to make yourself as sellable as possible. For many authors, the idea of having another person tell them that their work is subpar or to change things is something they aren’t ready to hear.
Authoring is an intimate activity which involves spending significant amounts of time perfecting a vision, having someone tell you its not perfect is something many authors take personally; so instead of making the necessary changes, they gear towards self-publishing or give up.
While there is nothing wrong with selfing it, doing it because you don’t want to make yourself as sellable as possible is not the recommended course of action; ultimately, your agent is trying to make it so that YOUR readers will want to buy your book. Bypassing them and doing what YOU want to do won’t sell. So, publishers who see you actively working with an agent will take you seriously and believe you are dedicated to what your vision is and willing to make changes if needed.
Setting up your Presence
Publishers do not have time to create your image or make you known to the world. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. This is your job and your agent’s job. Upon signing with a publisher, you will be asked what you are willing to do to promote your own book. Publishers may pick up the cost of some advertising if they feel it’s worth it; but the task of selling yourself, getting your book known and making fans is all your responsibility.
An agent can set up book conference appearances for you, recommend actions to take and help you become known to your targeted readership. After all, if you don’t sell, your agent won’t get paid, and that’s their incentive. Publishers on the other hand, will get paid either way. So when they see you working with an agent, they can sleep better knowing your are selling yourself, which makes you less of a risk.
The positive thing about this is that agents usually do not charge to represent you. They make their money through a percentage of royalties (after you’ve been published and are selling). If you really want a publisher to notice you, write a hell of a good first three chapters, edit it, rewrite it, and rewrite it again. Then submit it to an agent, if accepted, they’ll take it from there in terms of liaising with publishers. Do everything you can to be noticed, read our section on book proposals which will enlighten you on everything you need to know before you submit your book proposal to an agent and how to up your internet presence to make it more likely for them to represent you.