The Tides of Traditional Publishing: Author Resources
Editor’s note: You may be wondering how many water-themed metaphors can be snuck into one blog post — let’s dive in and find out!🌊
With an ocean-sized pool of handy-dandy online resources at our fingertips, there’s no better time to enter the previously mysterious caverns of traditional publishing as an author. Gone are the days when writers had to navigate the nebulous currents of querying literary agents and editors via snail mail, investing in postage stamps and printer ink instead of useful knowledge about the industry. As countless experts now offer priceless tips, tricks, and tools of the trade online, oftentimes for free, yeeting our words into the weeds of the Big Five is more accessible than ever.
That being said, an ever-growing reservoir of talented, savvy authors pitching to the same list of agents and editors has resulted in an oversaturated, highly competitive environment — making the need to stand out in a crowded market more crucial than ever. We hope these invaluable resources will empower your swim to traditional publication, even while treading water during the legendary long wait times between submission and response.
BEACHCOMBING A WEB OF RESOURCES
Sorting through endless web pages of author resources can be such a drag — but you can skip that plunge now that we’ve fished through them on your behalf! Here are our top picks to guide you through traditional publishing’s murky moat.
1. QUERYTRACKER (QT)
If your querying must-haves include accurate stats, highly organized spreadsheets, and access to top secret agent tea shared by your peers, this website will determine whether you sink or swim in the trenches. Every querying author I know relies on QT — sometimes obsessively. Not only does it offer a user-friendly place to track your queries in an orderly list via status (waiting for replies, rejections, submission requests, etc.), it’s also a one-stop shop with a massive database for matching agents to your genre and accessing key agent data. This includes candid comments from other authors, which could clarify if certain agents are worth your time.
There’s a free version, but the $25 USD premium subscription is well worth it, as it includes access to the helpful agent timeline, which shows where your query is in an agent’s queue, how often they make requests, and generally when you can expect a reply, among other things.
Bonus: premium QT memberships last a whole year, which is sometimes how long it takes for an agent to reply to your query! (Just kidding — sometimes it’s longer.)
2. PUBLISHER’S MARKETPLACE (PM)
This is the site for insider info on publishing professionals and their database of book deals; however, it comes at a price. For $25 USD per month, you can wade through exclusive deal reports, lists, news, analysis, and more. Many agents and editors have detailed profiles listing their submission requirements, genre preferences, and recent sales. PM is especially helpful when an author receives an offer of representation from an agent, which would be the ideal time to get a one-month subscription to feverishly research their sales history, as well as any editors you’re interested in submitting to once you sign your agent contract. One day, this is also where your book deal will be announced for the entire industry to marvel at — the equivalent of having your name in flashing lights on a theatre marquee!
Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you! But the world of traditional publishing can feel like a turbulent sea at times. It’s important to arm yourself with knowledge of its predatory sharks (not to be confused with the Query Shark blog, another recommended authorly resource). Unfortunately, not all agents and publishers have your best interests in mind. It’s vital to research everyone you submit to and Writer Beware is an invaluable resource for finding dirt on amateur or scammy agents (a.k.a. “Schmagents”), and publishers who have demonstrated predatory behaviour by taking advantage of authors’ vulnerability. Take the time to empower yourself before querying by learning what red flags to look out for, what makes an agent legitimate and worth signing with, and what to look for in an agency contract. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a comprehensive list of other nifty related resources.
Twitter hosts a widespread community of authors and publishing pros, and is a great place to network, find critique partners and beta readers, and participate in online pitch events. The MS Wishlist website — Twitter-specific and different from Manuscript Wish List, another useful resource for finding agents to query — lists all upcoming pitch events by date and hashtag, linking to corresponding websites with more information on rules and guidelines. To participate, authors post a short book pitch with the event tag and genre tags (#romcom, #sff, #YA, etc.), as well as comp titles if you can fit them in the 280-character limit — not an easy feat! Agents and editors browse pitches, and if they like yours, consider it an invitation to query them. These pitch events may not garner any industry likes, which can be a major bummer, but it’s really fun to support your peers and get their support in return.
This site is also great for browsing agents’ #mswl posts. If you find a wishlist item that matches any aspect of your book, you can mention it in your query as a way to personalize and show them you’re doing your research!
5. FREE COURSES
Reedsy is a treasure trove of free online courses on a variety of topics from editing and marketing to publishing and writing craft. Their selection of eleven publishing courses is perfect for authors at the beginning of their querying journeys. If you’re looking for more, Writer’s Digest offers a wealth of free webinars hosted by industry experts. And if finding a supportive peer community is more your jam, we recommend joining the Creative Academy for Writers, which offers an accessible pay-what-you-can membership. Run by a multifaceted team of writers dedicated to supporting other authors wherever they’re at in their journeys, joining this online collective gives you access to free resources, craft tips, masterclass workshops, strategy sessions, a book club, and the opportunity to get valuable feedback on your work. Let’s face it, writing can be a lonely practice, leaving you feeling like an adrift orca without its pod, so community can be the buoy you need — embrace it!
JUST KEEP SWIMMING
If you’re still fishing for more resources, we got you!
- Jane Friedman’s blog is invaluable and thorough as heck!
- This is a cool way to find comparative titles, which agents expect you to include in your query letter
- Sign-up for the Good Story Company newsletter!
- Susan Dennard also offers a super helpful newsletter with writing and publishing advice
- Check out The Shit No One Tells You About Writing podcast. Run by author Bianca Marais and two agents from P.S. Literary, this podcast not only includes interviews with publishing pros, but it also has a great segment called Books with Hooks where the hosts critique and offer advice on query letters and opening pages — an often illuminating peek into what agents look for and reasons they reject author submissions.
- The Tea Grannies writing, editing, and publishing podcast is another great resource co-hosted by authors Elise Volkman and Miraya Engelage. Season 4 is in the works, set to start releasing again in May 2023, featuring interviews with authors, first-page and query-letter critique segments, and lots and lots of tea.
Finally, if this wealth of resources has you feeling like you’ve been swamped by a tsunami and you need someone to help skipper your ship, we’ve got you! Our team offers a number of services for authors, including our Communications Confab sessions, where you’re invited to bring your questions to a live video consultation with our experts. Afterwards, you’ll receive the recording as well as a summary document of recommendations and resources more specifically tailored to you. Get in touch to learn more.