At every writer's conference I am invited to, I participate in a few panels, take pitches, and do critiques. As for the panels, it is usually made up of editors and agents, but occassionally just editors. Regardless, we get some commonly asked questions. I am going to tackle a few here.
Why do I need an agent?
If you are hoping to be published by the big New York houses, you need an agent to get in the door. And for me, I no longer accept unagented submissions unless I have requested your manuscript after meeting you at a conference.
As an editor, I expect submissions from agents to be polished. Sure, I am going to ask for some revisions, but a good agent will have tightened and tweaked your manuscript. You agent should be shaping that manuscript/series and managing your writing career.
Finally, the agent deals with all the business crap that comes with publishing. He or she will negotiate the contract, which means better terms for you. And if something comes up, I can work with agent on the problem, rather than muddying my creative relationship with the author. There is much more to the author/agent/editor relationship, but to me, these are the biggest points.
Will you publish a book I have already self published? Will you pick up book three in my series (first two were self published or traditionally published)?
There is no absolute yes or no answer here. But it definitely leans toward probably not. If a book is published in print form, there will be sales numbers attached to the book. If those numbers are low, it's a risk to pick up that series. If it's only pubbed in ebook, there is no central reporting place, so the publisher may ask you to supply statements showing sales, otherwise we are blindly trusting the author. Publishers are far more comfortable with new work. BUT, this is an ever evolving situation. The answer to this might be completely different in six months from now.
Do I need a platform?
In non-fiction, yes. In fiction, no. But about six months before publication date, I want the author to at least have a clean website and a facebook page. You don't need to be hyper active online - you have to find the balance between social media, writing, and living the rest of your life which probably invovles a day job, kids, pets, family. So figure out what you are comfortable with and go from there.
What trends do you see?
Don't write to a trend, write the story that is inside you. Paranormal is waning. It will never go away though. So if your story is about Valkyries and vampires, write it!
What is your day like? How many submissions do you get? What makes you reject manuscripts?
see my previous posts for that
How do you feel about indie publishing vs traditional publishing?
I think the smartest authors are ones that are following the hybrid model. There are advantages to both indie and traditional publishing. As an indie author, it's difficult to get media exposure (Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist, etc.) As a traditional author, you don't get to control the process and your royalties are significantly less. So do both, and let the two paths build on each other. And if you are traditionally published, it also gives you greater security to publish with two different publishers. Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky, no matter who holds the basket.
And one last note -
If you are going to self publish, please hire an editor to make sure your manuscript is solid and clean. Pubbing a book filled with errors will do you no favors. Consider this your business - everything you put out needs to look professional and polished. This also goes for submitting to agents and editors. My time is valuable, and if you send me a manuscript filled with typos and errors, you will not get the benefit of the doubt. Your manuscript will be automatically rejected. And I will remember that if you submit again.
What other questions do you have? I would be happy to answer them in the comments section or in a future blog post. Have a happy Thursday!