Literary agents represent your work to publishers. They have established relationships with editors within publishing houses and can find the best fit for your work. They also look after negotiations with contract details and can provide representation if any part of your book is illegally reproduced.
Reputable agents will be up to date on current publishing trends and can give authors expert advice on market changes and shifting trends. An agent also serves as an expert in market sales, so they will help ensure your book gets a good cover design, and more attention from the publisher’s publicity department.
Agents track payments to see that the author is paid, and paid on schedule by the publisher. An agent is paid only when the writer is paid – so you can bet they will have accurate records of all payments. Having an agent look after this detail is a real advantage as it puts a distance between a writer and any conflict they might have regarding payments.
Many authors publish their work without agent representation, but of course the authors themselves would then be responsible for finding a publisher and securing a book deal.
Getting yourself a literary agent can be as frustrating as getting your book published. There are approximately 30 literary agents in Canada, most of which only accept a few clients a year. Referrals by people who work in the publishing industry or are on that particular agent’s client list increase chances of keeping your query out of the slush pile.
Many agents only accept query letters and not unsolicited manuscripts. Be sure to review all submission guidelines on the agent’s website before submitting your manuscript. Take note of any submission requirements and areas of interest or specialization.Some agents may allow a partial submission along with your query.
Polish and perfect your query letter and submission with as much care as you have invested in your manuscript, as this is the first impression they have of you as a writer and a professional.
After receiving your query, the agent may ask for a full submission to determine whether he or she is interested in representing you and your work. If an agent is interested in taking you on as a client, he or she will contact you with a letter of agreement or contract outlining the terms of your arrangement.
Most agents receive hundreds into the thousands of queries each week and therefore turnaround time for a response from agents can be anywhere from 3 to 6 months or more. Be patient. It is appropriate to contact the agency via email if 3 months have passed without contact.
Download our list of Literary Agents and begin researching to see whether any are a good fit for your manuscript. For a more complete listing of literary agents in Canada, please refer to Quill & Quire’s Book Trade in Canada, available in the reference section of most public libraries.
Do some research. Ask other writers if they’ve had any dealings with the agent or know anyone who has. Search the agent’s name on the internet. How long has he or she been working as an agent? Which authors have signed up with the agent?
You can also check out the listings under “Agents and Attorneys” at Preditors and Editors.
Copyright protection is automatic under Canadian and international law from the moment of creation of work, provided that the work meets these three criteria:
1) The work must be original.
2) It must be fixed in a somewhat permanent material form.
3) The author must meet the qualified person requirements set out in the Copyright Act.
Registration is not required for protection in Canada, however, the Copyright Act provides that a certificate of registration of copyright is evidence that copyright exists and that the person registered is the owner of the copyright. Having your work on the Register of Copyrights may also help those wishing to see permission to use the work. For more information go to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office at www.ic.gc.ca
Keep in mind that there is a cost associated with registering copyright, and if you decide to copyright every work you create, you may not receive a return on your investment.
Mailing a copy to yourself is not the same as copyright registration and is not a form of copyright registration, nor is it a reliable form of evidence of copyright ownership because there are several ways with which registered mail can be tampered with (for example, mailing yourself an unsealed envelope and entering contents at a later date).
There is no harm in mailing yourself your own work, but it will likely not be given serious consideration in the event of a legal dispute.
One thing you can do to help support a claim of copyright is saving the different versions of your work on your computer, beginning with the earliest, and maintain back up files. Of course, if the other individual has computer files with original content predating yours, you will not win a lawsuit unless you have compelling evidence of copyright infringement.
An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric code used to uniquely identify a book, right down to the language, publisher, edition – and whether it is an ebook, paperback or hardcover. It makes life easier for booksellers, libraries, schools, book distributors, and anyone searching for a particular book.
There is a plethora of information available out there, and more than one route to publication. You can research details online by Googling “getting published”, or look to one of many current “How to get published” books on the market.
If your manuscript is finished and polished to a high shine, there are several avenues for you to consider for publishing your work:
• Send a query to an agent asking him or her to represent you and sell your book to a publisher
• Send a query to the editor of a publishing house
• Build your credentials by getting published in literary magazines
If you are sending queries, always do your research and carefully follow the specific agent’s or publisher’s submission guidelines.
Traditional publishing means you will need to submit your work and have it selected for publication. There is no fee associated with this form of publishing.
Publishers may take unsolicited manuscripts from authors, but often find books via literary agents. Publishing houses pay for the editing, marketing and production of a book, and will sometimes give an advance to the author upon signing the book deal. Authors receive a royalty (7-12% of cover price for emerging authors), based on the book sales.
Because publishers are taking a financial risk before the book earns any sales, they only take on select books that they feel will be successful in the marketplace. Most publishing houses are inundated with unsolicited manuscripts on a regular basis, so becoming a successfully published writer takes a lot of determination, research, luck, and tenacity.
Self-publishing means you pay to have your work published and may manage some or all of other parts of the book publishing process such as editing, cover design, marketing and production. If you pay a fee to have your work published, your work is considered self-published.
Small independent publishing houses (referred to as indie presses) are independently owned publishing houses. You still need to send queries based on guidelines posted on their individual sites and have your manuscript accepted for publication.
Remember that if you pay a fee to have your work published, that is considered self-publishing. If the publisher covers all publishing costs, that is considered traditional publishing, regardless whether it is with a large house or an independent press.
This answer has been excerpted from “Self-Publishing & POD Services” an article by author Victoria Strauss, reprinted with her permission in the Winter 2014 issue of our Canadian Author ezine.
“Print on demand (POD) is the commonly used term for the digital printing technology that allows a complete book to be printed and bound in a matter of minutes. Digital printing makes it easy and cost-effective to produce books one or two at a time or in small lots, rather than in larger print runs of several hundred or several thousand…
“A few POD services are free or very low-cost, but most will set you back anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Typically, POD services’ contracts take only nonexclusive digital rights, and can be terminated at will. Low-cost POD services such as Lulu.com and CreateSpace let authors set book prices and control profits, but other services determine the prices and pay the author a specified percentage of the net (cover price less discounts)—recouping their manufacturing costs at the point of sale.
“Though POD services began to appear only a little over a decade ago, they’ve become what many people think of when they think of self-publishing. However, it’s worth remembering that there are important differences between using a POD service and self-publishing the traditional way.”
Victoria Strauss is a co-founder of Writer Beware.
In today’s market, authors have more options than ever in terms of deciding how to pursue their publishing goals. What do you want to get from the publishing experience and what does “being published” mean to you?
If you think self-publishing is the best choice for you, be prepared to act as your own agent, editor, book designer, publicist, distributor, and marketing expert – or to pay for each of these services in order to produce a professional book that finds success in sales.
Understand that any avenue to get your work published is an arduous path that requires research, tenacity, and patience. Professionals of any sort – from athletes and musicians, to those in science, medicine, or law – don’t achieve success easily. Nor do writers.
Dedication to your craft is only one part in the business of your written work. Be prepared to work for success regardless of which publishing route you decide to take.
• Send your manuscript to the right publisher – ones that publish in your genre. Do your research.
• Determine who publishes material that is similar to yours by visiting bookstores, and researching similar work in your genre. If you can’t find anything like yours to compare it to, you haven’t looked hard enough. Know your own work.