Monday, May 07, 2007

These kinds of posts are why I'm anonymous

I'd like to know how anyone can get a book published without an agent. I've been doing this (trying to, that is) for more than 30 years and I don't know of ANY publisher who will read an unsolicited manuscript. The field, as I see it, is set up like this: a publisher doesn't want you unless you're represented by an agent, who doesn't want you unless you have literally knocked their socks off with the query letter to end all query letters, and if the query letter doesn't turn their crank, you're stuck out in the cold. You may have the next Catcher in the Rye resting comfortably in your filing cabinet for the rest of your life, but unless you nail the publishing world with that perfect query letter, you're just another rank amateur no one cares about.
Did I get it right?

Well, yes, except for most of what you said, which was technically incorrect. First of all, my boss often does not wear socks with her sandals like I do. Second, I'm not sure what a crank has to do with being cold, but if we're supposed to have one of those crank things in the office, I should put in a complaint with the guys we rent from. I will say that it is very cold in our offices and I'm often wearing my coat in the summer, but they can't do anything about it because it's central air.

Now that I'm done being a smartass, I will say that any amount of research will inform you that may publishers DO take unsolicited manuscripts, and some of them even accept and publish them! Who knew! Publishers include Tor, Sourcebooks, Baen Books, Ace Books, Daw Books, several divisions of Harlequin Enterprises, and basically every small/independent press known to man.

Though specifically sci-fi/fantasy oriented, a great place to look up publishers and magazines that take unsolicited material is


Keri Ford said...

In the romance genre, if you are a member of Romance Writers of America, then you get a handy little list of editors that accepts unagented material, what they are looking for, and even how to submit to them. There's a couple of editors off the top of my head that you can even send sample chapters to when the publishing house's website clearly stats no unagented material or no unsolicited material.

But that info comes with the membership.

ssas said...

I actually had wonderful response from DAW. Every email query I sent was replied to promptly and politely. Ultimately, they did not buy it, but I felt the book was actually read and considered, which is why I sent it in the first place.

Anonymous said...

To the list of genres that accept unagented mss. are publishers of textbooks, reference books, university presses, some how-to/self-helps.

The pattern appears to be that niche/genre books can be submitted without an agent.

However, I know of no major imprint of the mass market/trade variety that will accept unagented submissions--for fiction or nonfiction.

Why pay inhouse staff to read the slush pile when when you can get agents and The Rejecter to do that for you. Inhouse staff is much more expensive--what with salaries, benefits,and all. It's a lot cheaper to pay for the gatekeeping with 15 percent taken out of the authors hide.

Kidlitjunkie said...

It does happen (that unagented authors get published) but to be perfectly honest, it is overwhelmingly rare. It is exceedingly rare. It is almost (but not quite) unheard of, in Major Publishing House where I work.

Just look at the odds. Unagented stuff lands on the slush pile, to get glanced at by an intern or assistant and tossed unless the query letter wows them. Agented manuscripts get read in full, often with a time limit, and actually considered.

The odds are just a heck of a lot better. It happens, but extremely rarely.

If your MS is good enough to get published, the odds are it's good enough to get agented, too.

The Rejecter said...


Did you read my post? Did you follow the links? There are fiction imprints that accept unsolicited work.

Anonymous said...

love this blog, it's very informative. thanks :)
(read and subscribe)

Anonymous said...

Yes, ma'am. And thank you for your time. I'm looking into them (although around twenty of them seem to be closed until further notice, and the big ones want only established writers). But it's definitely an improvement over what I faced in the 70's, long before the Net.

Shawn said...

I read your post. Did you?

Thanks for the link, but there was nothing particularly helpful for lit fict writers looking for a list of editors who accept unsolicited. The site was kind of like Duotrope without the organization or the ablity to search by criteria.

Generally, smartasses are funny. That hatchet job of yours came off as merely meanspirited and hostile.

Adrienne said...

Anon 11:30

You do know that agents do a lot more than work as gatekeepers right? Because the way you write of agents taking 15% "out of the author's hide" suggests you don't believe these agents have earned it.

My agent totally deserves 15% and I don't begrudge her it a bit. In fact I serve up that particular piece of hide on silver platter, with chocolate cake for dessert.

If you are interested in what an agent does beside gatekeep, please feel free to check out my blog entry on the subject:

(sorry rejector, I know it is bad form to link from a comments section, but I really hate it when people diss agents like that!)

Kidlitjunkie said...

Anon and shawn, do your own research.

The fact is, many houses take queries or unsolicited MSs, but the chance of getting one published is exceedingly poor. But they do take them. (If they fit the submissions guidelines.) And once every blue moon, they publish one.

Welcome to the wonderful world of publishing.

Anonymous said...

I've published multiple times in the children's market. I have no agent. It can be done.

If someone hasn't been able to hook an agent or a publisher after 30 years of trying, maybe... just maybe... it's the writing? Maybe? Just a suggestion... after all, one never stops learning to write, does one?

Anonymous said...

There's a reason why publishers won't take unagented lit fic.

To echo someone else: if your writing is good enough to get a publishing contract, it's good enough to get an agent. And many agents, while they need to be "wowed" by a query, will go on to read the enclosed or following pages even if your query isn't spectacular.

But why wouldn't you be able to make your book sound as good as it is?

Anonymous said...

To the other "anon" (after 30 years of trying, maybe... just maybe... it's the writing?): I landed an agent in 1974. He took one of my very first novels, kept it for three years, then returned it, suggesting that I "might want to speed up the pace a bit," but that "no further editing is needed." (HUH?) Then he blamed the stock market on our lack of success and said that the book field might improve once the economy recovered. This happened during a decade that (for those of us who still remember) was notorious for scammers. There was no email, no Net, no keyboards, no Preditors & Editors, and no Writer Beware. We had Writer's Digest and The Writer, and Literary Marketplace for those of us who could afford it. You typed out your ms., sent it to a publisher, and waited, sometimes for six or eight months. If the ms. did come back (I've had several that NEVER came back), it was a mess and had to be completely retyped. I finally grew so frustrated that I had to stop altogether for the sake of my sanity. I got back into it 20 years ago, found another agent, and went through the same drill, this time with email, the Net, and all those other neat technical advances. After three years and no sales with this guy, I pulled my manuscript and am starting over.

You could be right--maybe it is the writing. Or maybe I'm just a guy who can write but keeps finding the wrong agent.

Anonymous said...

"just a guy who can write but keeps finding the wrong agent."

Depends. Were the two non-performers your only offers, or did you find them first and not search any further? If you had a choice, why did you pick them?

If you didn't have a choice and searched for a while before finding two not-good agents, yeah, it could be the writing. If you jumped into a contract twice with bad agents, you might have the writing down but not know how to find a top performing agent.

Or maybe, like me, you write books that only you and people like you would enjoy. I, too, had two no-sale books with an agent who isn't a scammer. But I do take part of the responsibility; if the books had been marketable, he'd have sold them. They weren't. We both tried, and failed.

Jeff Draper said...

Shawn, smart asses aren't just generally funny, they're specifically funny as well. Especially when they're successfully walking the line between meanspiritedness and hysterical sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

Relax, Shawn. Her snark may have rubbed you the wrong way, but please remember that the Rejecter (and most other people on this planet) was not put here just to do you favours. It's pointless to sneer at something you got for free.

Put all that fire into your writing and all the energy of your outrage into getting published. Getting angry at random internet people doesn't help you, but channeling your frustrations appropriately might.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time understanding why people who think their 60,000 words are gold piss and moan about writing a one page query letter. Or are their writing talents so limited?

As an aside, has anyone ever written a novel entirely in query lettters?

Anonymous said...

shawn -- Rejecter did a previous blog on lit fic and how it can operate via a different process

anonymous writing for thirty years: anonymous 4:55 brings up some excellent questions, but I have a few more. For instance -- during those years of silence from your agent(s), what were you doing? Were you writing other books they could have sold? You mentioned it was one of your "first" books, so I have to assume there were more but you don't mention them.

"This happened during a decade that (for those of us who still remember) was notorious for scammers."

Unless those agents charged you fees you haven't mentioned, they don't sound like scammers -- just people who were unable to sell your book. They could have been under-qualified -- but then, why did you chose them? And even great agents have books they love that they simply can't sell. It happens. It's up to the author to produce more material so the agent can see if they can sell that.

I don't mean to beat up on you. But it makes me cringe to see comments like "I've been writing for 30 years and no bites yet," which strongly imply the system is deeply flawed and the author is the one who gets it "taken out of [his/her] hide."

I just hate to newbies to get the wrong impression. Even after signing a contract with an agent, an author isn't helpless against non-sales, lack of communication, or long waits. There's still stuff they can do.

Shawn said...

Barking up the wrong tree.

I wouldn't solicit an editor. Once the question was asked, I was curious to follow the Web site link and see Rejector's resource.

The resource just wasn't much of a resource. Whoever wrote the original question attempted to research the answer to a question which has been lurking in the back of my mind for a while.

I guess "hysterical" is a matter of taste. I missed the funny. It seemed like a legitimate question to ask of someone in the industry (Rejector).

The answer was harsh and made sport of the person asking the question.

If a Rejector is going to hoist the "it's nothing personal, but your writing sucks" flag, that's cool. But then you kind of forfiet the right to flip a smarmy middle finger to a regular schmo asking a simple question.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, Shawn. You went to a recommended link, didn't think it was helpful and decided to hold Rejector responsible? What do you expect her to do, program a database and website herself so you don't have to do your own homework?

Wow. Just, wow. It's people like you that suck all the goodwill out of people who go out of their way to help strangers. The Rejector took some of her valuable time to share her thoughts as well as a link, and you chewed her out like a brat who isn't happy with just one candy bar.

I got the Rejector's snark - she was poking fun at all the obvious cliches in the writing of a person who has been trying to get published for 30 years. I didn't interpret it as meanspirited or "flipping a middle finger" at all. If she'd snarked the writing and not answered the question it would be one thing, but she gave her answer, and a resource. What do you want, Veruca, a golden ticket?

Quit ruining this for the people who do appreciate the Rejector's free (!!!) insight.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the fact that if your query is fiction you need to include sample pages with your query. Any agent reading them will instantly recognize the next "Catcher in the Rye" after the first paragraph if the novel is really that amazing.

Anonymous said...

I do not know my novel, written after two years of hard work, will ever be published. Self publishing, I once tried for my first novel, with no success, only few books to give to friends free, somehow,one sold by publisher.
Yes, it seems that neither agent nor a publisher accept unsolicited manuscripts.