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Agents and getting your book published

14 March 2016

In our links this week we've teamed up a cosy story about finding an agent with a downbeat one about how publisher consolidation and focus on obvious big books is restricting authors' possibilities. If you are looking to get published traditionally, this is not a cheery situation.

Agents are key to getting to publishers, but of course you need to be able to find an agent to take you on and that is not so easy. The reason is partly consolidation in publishing, together with a relentless focus on avoiding risk in the publishing process. It's become harder and harder to sell to publishing houses as the editors have become focused on finding bestsellers and nothing else, now that the midlist is largely gone. So every bit of the agent and editor's focus becomes more hard-edged.

Does the author have a public image of some kind, or are they obviously exploitable through skilful marketing? Is the book one which will fit into a clear slot? Never mind the writing, there are peripherals considerations around the actual work which actually count for at least as much.

Which is why you need an agent to pick their way through the jungle for you and find an editor who will take you on. So what about Finding an agent - that too can be a real problem, since no agent will take you on unless they think they can sell you.

There are a great many rags-to-riches stories about authors finding a publisher after making many submissions, such as J K Rowling's, and agent David Marshall's about finding a publisher for his author John Spurling's extraordianry Chinese novel, The Ten Thousand Things, after making 44 submissions, but these only prove the point that publishers tend to want what has sold well before, not something which is different. If you can find one, an agent who is on your side will be able to make sure your book is given its best chance.

Or you could try independent publishers - or self-publish yourself of course.

Working with an agent