Chasing the Right Publishers or Agents

So far in this Fiction Writing Tips series you’ve learned how to create a character outline, write a novel outline, write a first draft and edit your first draft. With all that out of the way, you should now be ready for the publishing process — but don’t rush into it just yet. By rushing to land a publisher or agent for your book, you’ll risk becoming the victim of a publishing scam. And after all that hard work you’ve put into writing your fiction novel, I’m sure you don’t want to take that risk, right? Of course you don’t, so today, for part five of this series, I want to share some tips to assist you in your search for a publisher or agent — tips that I pray will save you from being the next victim of a publishing scam.

1. Control Your Excitement. You deserve to be excited about the novel you’ve just finished, but don’t get so excited that you fail to take the extra time to research the publishers or agents that will get your attention with their promises.

2. Take advantage of improved technology. Head to Google and enter the name of the publishing company or agent you plan to query. When entering the company or agent’s name, place quotation marks around their name (this searches the exact phrase). Next, take the time to browse through the results to see if anyone has anything good or bad to say about the publisher or agent you’re researching.

After you’re finished at Google, search for and visit websites and blogs for writers that list publishing scams. Some include the National Writers Union, Preditors & Editors, Absolute Write’s Beware Board, Writer Beware, Writer Beware Blogs and Writers Weekly: Whispers and Warnings.

3. Don’t be shy.
Contact the publishers or agents and ask them for references. Some may tell you their privacy policy prevents them from giving out their clients’ information, and if that’s the case, ask them to have some of their clients contact you instead. If their clients do contact you, make sure the client isn’t one of their employees. To verify this, perform a quick search on their name and see what information pops up. If you discover that the publisher or agent did give you the name of an employee, that should be a big warning sign.

4. Look for other warning signs. Browse the publisher or agent’s website for the following:

  • Will the publisher require you to buy a certain number of books before they’ll enter into a contract with you?
  • Does the publisher or agent charge extra for editing or reading your novel, or do they offer referrals to third parties who charge for these services?
  • Does the agent charge fees other than a percentage of your royalties? If an agent asks for up-front fees such as reading fees or etc., run, it’s a sure sign of a publishing scam! A legitimate agent will only ask for a percentage of your book sales, and they should work with you to help you publish and market your book.
  • Did the publisher or agent offer publication or representation only after reading a few chapters, synopsis or query letter? A legitimate publisher or agent will ask for the complete manuscript before making a decision to enter into a contract with you.
  • If you can’t find the information I mentioned above on the publisher or agent’s website, contact him or her and ask about the things you were unable to locate on their website.

5. Seek legal advice. Always take the contract you’re offered from an publisher or agent to a lawyer for him or her to look over and explain to you. Trust me, the investment you make for legal advice will be money well spent for your peace of mind.

6. Look for contact information. Make sure the publisher or agent’s website lists their phone number, complete address and other contact information. Another way to check them out is to give them a call to make sure the phone number is valid and answered in a professional manner — have a few questions ready when you call.

7. Turn to other writers for assistance. Join groups, message boards, forums and other social networks for writers. Use your membership with these networks to find out if other members have heard of or used the services of the publisher or agent you’re considering.

8. Research the publisher’s history. Explore the publisher’s website to see how many books they’ve published. Once you reach their electronic bookstore, write down the names of some of the authors they’ve published. Then, Google that author’s name to see if you can find their website or contact information. Next, contact the author to ask about their experience with the publisher. Are they happy with the services they’ve received thus far? Does the publisher do anything to help them with marketing (most print-on-demand and vanity publishers won’t, but some will)?

Those are just a few tips you can use to avoid being scammed by a publisher or agent. No matter what, always keep that old saying in mind: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Do you have some tips on researching publishers and agents or know of a resource that lists publishing scams? Help a fellow writer and receive an entry in the Mentoring Session Contest by sharing your tips and/or resource in the comments area?

Join me next week for part six in my Fiction Writing Tips series. In part six, you’ll discover what you can do while waiting on the responses from the publishers or agents you contacted. Subscribe for free email updates, so you don’t miss a single post in my Fiction Writing Tips series and Mentoring Session Contest.


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