Agent or Editor?

Lots of you are trying to decide whether to pick an editor, publisher or an agent for your critique at the conference. This isn’t always an easy question to answer because it depends on a lot of different factors. Let’s consider the scenarios below.

Q: I intend to sell my book to a small press. Who should I choose?

A: Most small presses will accept unsolicited manuscripts. Since you likely don’t need an agent to work with these publishers, consider meeting directly with an editor or publisher from a small press. It’s always a good idea, whether you’re coming to the SCWW conference or another one, to check out the publishers website before you pick them for your critique. Make sure your work fits into the parameters of what they publish.

Q: My book is commercial fiction and I think it would appeal to a large publishing house like Random House. Who should I pick for my critique?

A: Most of large publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. By unsolicited, I mean non-agented. They prefer your agent send your manuscript to them. It’s not a bad idea to meet one of their editors because it’s a unique opportunity to introduce them to your work. If your work is polished and revised to the point that it’s sellable, this is one viable option. Keep in mind, though, most editors representing large houses prefer to work with agented writers. For most writers in this spot, it’s likely best to meet with an agent. Agents often work with the writers they represent to make a manuscript ready for the editor’s eye. If you think you’ve got a great story, but it needs some revision, you might want to consider meeting with an agent.

Q: I have no idea where my manuscript would fit into the market. It needs a lot of work—especially when it comes to craft. Who should I meet with?

A. It might be best to schedule a meeting with an editor because he/she can tell you what is and isn’t marketable about your manuscript and what flaws or bad habits that need to be addressed.

I hope this helps. A little. It’s a big pond out there and you need to make good decisions at each step of your writing career. Thinking honestly about your work—where you are, what you’re willing to commit to writing, and how far you have to go to make your work publishable—will insure you get the most for your money when it comes to choosing a faculty member for your critique.

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