Thursday, February 10, 2011

AWP Recap #1- Agents & Editors: Best Practices for Securing Publishing Partners

Song of the Day: Syrup and Honey by Duffy

   Hello all! In a panel led by Poets & Writers' editor, Mary Gannon, a series of questions were asked and editors and agents answered. The following is a recap of the questions asked and the combined responses of the agents and editors on the panel. The panel consisted of Julie Barer, Robert Lasner, Corrina Barsan, and Greg Michalson.

Is there anything an author can do to either help or hurt them before they are published?

  • It helps to know who your market is and have an idea of who you would like to publish your work.
  • Get Your Manuscript into the best possible shape it can be in.
  • Make sure you read what agents accept by visiting their websites and doing your research.
  • Watch what you post online (especially with respect to social media). You should always be putting your professional foot forward.
  • If you get published, remember this is a business.

When evaluating who to represent or what books to acquire, what do you consider?

  • Phenomenal Work. The quality of the work in most important.
  • Platform helps, but for fiction, it's about your work. You don't need to be previously published in a journal for example, in order for us to accept you.
  • What also helps is when an author shows that they want to do the work. Being published in a lit mag shows the agent and or editor that you've taken initiative with your career. It shows that you can push your work on your own. Lit mags also help agents and editors find you, and it's a good way to help get you used to rejections.

In terms of submission process, are there things that stand out to exhibit an author's professionalism?

  • Other than a misspelled editor's name? All fun and games aside, you don't have to use gimmicks if the work is good.
  • Practice with people including friends and family. Engage them and tell them about your book. Doing this will help you practice pitching.

Once a book is accepted what's the editorial process like?

  • Typically, an author will get an email saying congrats. Then we have to discuss when the book is going to come out (distribution is a complicated process). Sometimes we may think the book needs work. So we'll ask an author to do some editing. We'll also sit down and explain the publishing process and then we'll go over marketing.

Other Miscellaneous advice from the panel:

  • If your book needs editing then you must have the stamina to see it through the edits. You have to accept the possibility that you may need to go through four or five rounds of editing.
  • A good agent will help with all of the negotiating (that's why it's important to do your research).
  • The easiest way to change the publishing industry is to put your money where your mouth is. "You" are the target audience. Buy more short story collections if you want to sell your own and have a stronger market for them. Buy debut authors in hardcover. Prove to publishers that the business works. If you want people to buy your book, but you don't support other writers, why should anyone support you?
There it is! Hope there was some useful information in there for everyone!


  1. Great info, Racquel. It's so true the part about being careful what you publish online or on social networks. I also agree that once you get published it is considered a business so you should stay on top of your book and keep a professional attitude. If you create a bad name for yourself it'll follow you like the plague. This is a small world and publishers and editors talk among themselves.

  2. Great info! I long for that day when I can receive a "congratulations" email about my work being published. :)

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for this post, Racquel - awesome info! :-)