The website of the historical fiction writer.

The Festival of Writing 2013 Part Five: The Agent and the Publisher

After lunch there was a discussion between the agent Jo Unwin and the publisher Jane Lawson. Again, this discussion emphasised the need for clarity and for pitches to be concise. Everything needs to be honed down so the agent can convince the publisher that they can be sold as a commercial prospect.

In the traditional publishing world there is a chain of sales: author to agent, agent to editor, editor to marketing, marketing to bookseller, bookseller to reader (something that was also discussed in the self-publishing workshop the next day). This whole process can take between one or two years and in that time tastes and trends change. Editing is one of the longest processes as authors are consulted on every single edit made so it is best to make sure that the work is as perfect as can be before it is submitted.

One interesting piece of advice, one I have heard before and is worth repeating, is that January is a good time to submit. This is after the Christmas sales (and parties) and everyone is ready for the New Year’s round of books. Another good tip was that it wasn’t a problem to approach the same agent twice (what a good idea…) Authors should also be ‘shameless’ in self-promotion. It shows they are serious about selling their work and will appeal to the commercial minds of publishers.

This was a very insightful talk about the agent-publisher relationship and interesting to see what happens when a work is sold. The description of editing led very nicely to the next workshop I went to: Editing for Writers which you can read about tomorrow.



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