Agents vs Publishers: Where to Submit

Now that you have written your story, had it edited, and it is the best version it can be, it’s time to start submitting it for publication! Just when you thought the hard work was over, it’s really just beginning.

There are many paths to publication, and not all of them are right for everyone. Knowing your options is the first step to achieving your dream of being a published author.


Agents can help navigate the publishing process by submitting to publishers on your behalf. A good agent has many professional contacts. They know what publishers are looking for and can negotiate contracts. Sometimes, they are able to secure more money or even multi-book deals! They don’t make money until you make money, and often are entitled to a percentage of your advance (the money you get up front from selling your manuscript) and also a percentage of your royalties (the percentage you make from each book sale after your sales have exceeded your royalty amount).

You can find lists of agents by doing a basic Google search, but it’s also a good idea to read agent interviews, and even research their agency websites and social media. There are also websites such as Publisher’s Marketplace, where you can see their past deals and client lists (for a monthly fee). It’s important not to just submit to anyone bearing the “agent” title. You want someone with proven experience.

Keep in mind that you need to submit to agents who are actively looking for the type of book you are querying. Some agents may only represent certain genres such as romance or thrillers, or may only be interested in books for certain audiences such as children or adults. You can check their Manuscript Wish List (MSWL) to see what they are looking for. Once you confirm they are open to submissions and are looking for the type of book you have written, check their submission guidelines to see how to submit.

The easiest way to get a “No” from an agent is to disregard their guidelines. Keep in mind they are reading submissions from hundreds of people on their own (unpaid) time. Try to put your best self forward and make it as easy as possible for them to read your story.

There are two types of agents: career and project. Career agents will want to represent all of your stories that they feel are able to be sold. It’s always best to have at least 3-4 solid, polished pieces ready because if they like the one you sent, they’ll ask to see more. Project agents are only interested in selling the project you queried them with.


Most publishers require manuscripts to be submitted by agents (Scholastic, for example). However, some smaller publishers are open to un-agented submissions, meaning you can submit directly to them without the help of agents. These smaller presses are sometimes referred to as “independent” or “boutique”.

The same advice for querying applies with publishers as it does with agents. Know what type of books they publish and read and follow all submission guidelines. It often takes much longer to hear from publishers than agents due to the large volume of submissions. It’s common for a 3-6 month wait, and often they are unable to respond if they are passing on your work.

It’s just as important (maybe even more so with publishers) to do your research before submitting to any publisher. Look at their catalogue. Are they producing high quality books? Do they have any award-winning titles? How long have they been in business? Do they charge the author for any part of the publishing process?

That last question is a big deal. Unfortunately, there are companies out there known as “hybrid publishers” who only want to make money off of writers who dream of becoming a published author. They sometimes charge thousands of dollars for “publishing packages”. Unfortunately, their work is often sub-par and once the book is finished, the author will not get much (if any) help from the publisher and will likely struggle to recoup the money they have already invested in the book.

**Note** As with every step in publishing, getting interest from an agent or editor is a very objective process. When someone says “No,” it is not necessarily about your writing. I know it is hard not to take it personally, but try to think of the “No” as “Not right now.” Perhaps the agent or editor has another story that is similar to yours. Or maybe your subject matter doesn’t appeal to that particular person. Keep moving forward! For every “Not right now,” you get on a story, turn around and send that story to three more people. It’s usually just a matter of timing!


This option is a great choice for someone who wants complete creative control over their book. I personally have two self-published picture books that I published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Companies like KDP and Ingram Spark allow print on demand, which means the book is printed individually or in small batches. There are also companies that print in bulk, which allows you to obtain copies for less money, as long as you have the room to store them and a plan to sell them all!

Even though self-publishing is faster than going the traditional publishing route, there are some downsides. Self-publishing is often seen as taking the easy way out (not true!) and unfortunately, there are some awards that do not recognize self-published books. It is also a little more difficult to get your book seen, so it’s a good idea to research marketing strategies ahead of time.

You will also need be aware that you will have to hire editors (developmental and line), someone who can format the layout and add text, and an illustrator. Whereas a traditional publisher would do all of this for you.

There is a lot of information out there pertaining to all routes to publishing, and there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for success. There are many things to consider based on your personal goals.

Whichever path you choose, I wish you luck, and I’d love to chat more about my experiences if you have any questions.

As always, thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

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