Using an agent to submit a first novel; simultaneous submissions to a journal
ONLINE COLUMN: Writing Q&A
Published: March 25, 2008
|Do I need an agent for the submission of a first novel?|
Most of the large publishing houses do not accept unagented submissions. So, if you want to submit to them, you'll need one. And having an agent can be quite beneficial. In addition to the insider knowledge that puts your book in the hands of editors who are well suited for your work, agents also know the ins and outs of publishing contracts and should be able to negotiate the best deal. (For more on securing a reputable agent, see the previous Q&A: finding an agent). Still, there are plenty of smaller presses that don't require an agent. In fact, some prefer to work with authors directly. And some authors prefer this, too.
One kind of press isn't inherently better than the other. Large publishing houses may have more financial resources and connections that can help your book reach readers. On the other hand, your book will be one of hundreds that year. If it isn't one they've decided to highlight, you could feel lost in the shuffle. Smaller presses publish fewer books per year and are often operating on a limited budget. Still, many authors find their books thrive with the more focused commitment and attention.
If you're interested in submitting your work without an agent, look at university presses, such as The University of Wisconsin Press and Indiana University Press, as well as independent presses, such as Kore Press and Graywolf Press. Be sure to read their guidelines for submitting a proposal carefully. Keep close track of their catalogue, too. Small presses tend to be very focused in what they publish and you want to make sure you choose presses interested in the kind of work you write.
Another means of publishing without an agent is the book contest. Some presses and literary arts organization have annual contests for book length manuscripts that offer a cash prize as well as a standard publishing contract. Some of these cater to first books, while others are open to previously published authors.
What do I do when I submit a story to several journals and it's accepted by one? Is it possible to have it published in more than one journal?
Many journals accept simultaneous submissions, which is when you send the same work to several journals. (Although not all do. Always check the writers' guidelines.) The vast majority of journals are looking for first publication rights, which means they want to be the first to publish the work. As a result, it's vital that you withdraw your submissions from other journals once it is accepted for publication. Make sure you keep a list of where your work is under consideration so you know which journals to contact should you need to.
Journals that use online submission programs often have an option to withdraw, making it just a simple click. For those journals that don't have such programs, you can withdraw your submission via email if the editors are open to such correspondence. Otherwise, send a note in the mail. Simply state you are withdrawing the submission because it is being published elsewhere. Note the title of the work and the approximate date of submission, too. It's not uncommon to follow up with another submission.
This practice keeps editors updated on the status of your work. A great deal of time and energy goes into considering submissions, so letting them know the work isn't available will allow them to give that attention to other submissions-including your next one.
|Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham's Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University, University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University and edits Letterpress, a free e-newsletter for fiction writers.|
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