(Why) Do You Need a Literary Agent?

Recently, a lot of authors have asked me about the process of finding a literary agent, and whether an agent is “even required,” given the current state of publishing. Ultimately, the choice to work with a literary agent–or not–is an individual one that each author must make for himself or herself. Neither I, nor anyone else can tell you–or should try to tell you–what’s best for your career. With that in mind, however, I wanted to answer the most popular questions I receive about authors working with literary agents, from a publishing attorney’s point of view.* Do I NEED a literary

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Tips for Publishing Success

Many authors believe that the key to becoming a successful author is “writing a book” or “getting lucky enough to find an agent/publisher/contract offer.” Although there are undeniably elements of luck involved in publishing–perhaps more accurately explained as “being in the right place, with the right manuscript, at the proper time”–there are also some important things authors can do to increase their chances of being on the spot when the lightning strikes. First and foremost: KNOW THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY. Publishing is an art, but it’s also a business, and savvy business people learn about the way the industry works–regardless of whether they’re

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Writing a Business Plan For Your Book: The Budget

The final section in the business plan for your book is the budget (in a standard business plan, this section is usually called “Financial Factors and Statements). The budget for your book may be simple or highly complex, depending on a number of factors, including your publishing path. Marketing and travel budgets are part of this section also, as are any other book-related costs the author will bear. Note: Traditionally published authors do not bear ANY of the costs of publishing, sales, or distribution, and do not pay the publisher’s editing costs. Self-published authors are responsible for all of the costs of publishing

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What The Author Pays For–And What (S)he Doesn’t

New authors–and sometimes experienced ones–may be uncertain about which parts of the publishing process the author “normally” pays for. What the author pays for differs, depending on the publishing path. Smart authors should know the standards for the choice they make, and be aware of how the other options function also. Now that the publishing industry offers multiple paths to publication, savvy authors should learn about all of the available options–regardless of the path they plan to take. Understanding all of the publishing options makes authors better able to choose among them, and less likely to misunderstand the offers they receive. Let’s review the various industry

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How to Avoid Unscrupulous Publishers

*I’m in Raleigh, NC, this week attending Bouchercon, so today’s post is focusing on publisher scams…our discussion of author email and marketing will continue next week. With the explosion of small and micro-presses in the United States (and abroad), authors sometimes have trouble telling the legitimate presses (and offers) from scams. In light of that, let’s spend a little time discussing how to recognize–and avoid–an unscrupulous publisher.  1. Legitimate traditional publishers never require writers to pay money out-of-pocket for (or as part of ) a publishing deal. In a traditional publishing arrangement, the author pays nothing out of pocket, and any permitted deductions from

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Avoiding Writing Contest Scams

Writing contests can offer great opportunities for published and unpublished authors alike. Good contests can provide valuable feedback and even a chance at publication. However, not all contests are created equal, and authors need to be on the lookout for some important traps and pitfalls when evaluating writing contests. Fortunately, savvy writers can learn to identify–and avoid–the common contest traps. Let’s take a look at some of them today: Legitimate writing contests don’t require entrants to transfer copyright ownership to the contest or its organizers.  Here, as everywhere else in publishing (except for clearly identified work for hire situations), authors should retain full copyright

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How to Find the Perfect Agent (Or, at Least, the One Who Matches You)

Authors often hear agents saying “do your homework before you query” but many authors struggle with understanding that assignment.  Tailoring queries properly–both in content and in recipient scope–actually increases an author’s chances of success. The content aspect of querying is covered widely (and well) in other places–Janet Reid’s blog, and her QueryShark archive are fantastic sources of information. (Many other good resources exist, but those two are reliable and more than enough to get  you started.) However, today’s post focuses on the “how to know who to query” aspect of the process. Let’s look at some useful tips for figuring out which agents (or mentors, etc)

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When All the Hats are Yours – by L.J. Cohen

Today, please welcome my friend (and critique partner), L.J. Cohen, author of numerous novels and series including the YA Contemporary novel FUTURE TENSE, the SciFi series Halcyone Space: DERELICT and ITHAKA RISING, and the YA Fantasy series Changeling’s Choice: THE BETWEEN and TIME AND TITHE.  Now, three and a half years later, I have just published my 5th novel. One of my books has sold nearly 10,000 copies and spent much of last summer on the Amazon best seller lists. So am I a breakout success? That entirely depends on what you consider a success. By the ‘can you support your family on your art’ metric, no. But very few

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What Does an Author Pay For?

New authors–and sometimes experienced ones–may be uncertain about which parts of the publishing process the author “normally” pays for. What the author pays for differs, depending on the publishing path the author chooses. Know the standards for your choice. Traditional Publishing: the Author pays the Publisher nothing. Under the traditional publishing model, the publisher pays all costs of publication, and the author pays nothing out-of-pocket. The best contracts contain “gross royalty” provisions, where the author’s royalties are based on the publisher’s gross receipts on sales. In a gross royalty scenario, the author receives a percentage of whatever the publisher receives on sales of the

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Accepting Responsibility for Your Writing Career

The duty to manage a writing career belongs to the author alone, and today’s post takes a look at what that entails. Writers often see themselves as artists, or loners, or dreamers, and not as businesspeople– which is fine as long as the author doesn’t want to earn money for his or her art. When art crosses the line into sales,the author becomes a businessperson with a responsibility to treat the writing as a business also. This may sound obvious, but success in any business requires an understanding of the business in which you operate. No chef succeeds as a restauranteur

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