If you are a writer who wants to go the traditional publisher route, you may need an agent. However, if a literary agent does not accept your book, you may still be able to find a publisher. In their competition with self-publishers, some publishers have taken a more proactive approach by inviting submissions without agent representation.
Publishers Accepting Un-agented Submissions
If you want to take a chance on submitting your work without an agent, please keep in mind that such submissions are invited during specified periods. The notifications on the publishers’ websites will explain what categories are being solicited and what is needed in the submission—such as a synopsis, parts of the drafted manuscript, a short note about the author, and/or something else.
Notable publishers such as Little, Brown, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan, Jonathan Cape, and Tinder Press now accept un-agented submissions. The Bookshed is keeping a list of publishers accepting un-agented submissions on its website. The Bookshed’s current list includes more than 35 publishers as of December 8, 2015.
Talented Novice Writers Welcomed by Young Editors and Small Publishers
As Ken Follett points out on his website, small publishers and young editors want to find a talented unknown with bestseller potential. He explained that even if a first book is not superb, these small publishers may still take a chance on a novice writer with promise. He said that his first accepted book was flawed, but it was still accepted and published because the publisher believed he had promise.
Normally, the complete manuscript is required. In some cases, an outline and some chapters are sufficient. An outline is useful as it reveals what the story is about and how it progresses from start to finish. But, the actual work is needed to see the ability of the writer. Nataly Kelly informed readers in Huffington Post that after failing to get an agent she contacted an editor through LinkedIn. So, social media provides another way to contact publishers.
Agents are Valuable
Agents are valuable for publishers because they filter what they receive. Agents help writers by offering their books to the appropriate editors and/or publishers. They also help writers navigate the complexities of the process. Nataly Kelly told her Huffington Post readers that even though she found a publisher without an agent, she got an agent afterward to help her through the contractual process. She said the agent’s assistance was invaluable.
There are many ways to find an agent. Even the phonebook is a useful resource. Other sources include AAR-online.org—the website of The Association of Authors’ Representatives in the US, and Writers.net. Be aware that agents are usually specialists.
Try traditional publishers because they will help market and sell your work. You can always try another publishing method if you fail to get your work accepted by a traditional publisher.