How to find lit agents, publishers for your writing

Once you’ve written your novel or short story, the question arises of where to you send it. If following the traditional publishing route, the answer depends on what type of work you’ve written.

If a novel, you need a list of literary agents. There are several reputable guidebooks (Writers Digest’s guides are fairly good) for sale at bookstores or online that list literary agents, whether or not they’re accepting submissions, the type of writing they handle, their unique submission requirements, and contact information. You’ll need to spend some time perusing the guidebook to create your own list of the literary agents that would be most interested in your work. Make sure the guidebook you use is no more than a year old.

With novels, don’t limit yourself to literary agents, however. Also submit your work to publishing houses. A few accept unsolicited submissions. Lists of those companies also appear in published guides, on the same library or bookstore shelves where you’ll find the literary agents guide. Should a publishing house show interest in your work, immediately reach out to a literary agent to represent you; you’ll find that at least a couple will be interested.

If you’ve written a short story, seek out magazines that publish works in your genre. Published guides exist as well for this, but as magazines can rise and fall in a matter of months, your best bet really is to simply type into an online search engine the genre you want to publish in, such as “science fiction magazines” or “murder mystery magazines.” You’ll have to do some sifting but should come up with a list of a dozen or more magazines in a matter of a few minutes. In fact, you’ll probably discover a number of magazines (especially emagazines) that you never knew existed.

Should you decide to self-publish, you’ll want a list of companies that offer such services. Simply type “self-publishing companies” into a search engine. You’ll come across a number of sites that compare these various companies as well as the company’s sites themselves. Spend a little time doing some comparison shopping; all offer various services (such as designing a cover, editing your text, formatting the book, etc.) at varying prices, and all provide different outlets for marketing your book as well as different royalties.

A note of caution: With online guides, always be wary … some of those lists are quite old, and even those created just a couple of years ago can be outdated. In addition, some of those lists are created with the intention of scamming you – for example, a few so-called literary agents recommend specific editors (who happen to work for them or who they get a kickback from) to work with you on your book with the suggestion that they then might take it on. It’s a highly shady practice. Still, some of the lists you’ll find online are updated regularly, giving you the opportunity to submit to new magazine editors before they’re inundated with short stories and novellas once they’re listed in a mainstream guide such as what Writers Digest publishes.