Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents

If you want a lighthearted yet no-nonsense guide to traditional publishing, look no further than Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

No, really.

Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 28th edition: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over

I love writers and publishers guides. They’re on my Christmas list every year. But this is the first one I’ve read cover to cover and come back for more. And that’s saying something.

Laid out like any other writers guide, there are essays and articles on writing advice, publishing information, and an introduction to planet literary agent before getting to the good stuff. The listings. Who’s buying, who’s selling, who’s looking for what and when. It’s all good stuff, and I can’t get enough.

Jeff Herman has a wonderful sense of humour, which helps make typical writing and publishing advice come alive and keeps the reader engaged. The listings follow an interesting format, with the agency or agent answering a series of questions. It gives you a good sense of who they are and what they do and each get equal space in the book.

Agent Questions

  • Describe the kinds of works you want to represent
  • Describe what you definitely don’t want to represent
  • How do you want writers to pitch to you?
  • Describe your education and professional history
  • How did you become an agent?
  • Knowing what you do now, would you do it again? If not, what might you do instead?
  • Do you charge fees? If yes, please explain
  • When and where were you born, and where have you lived?
  • What do you like to do when you’re not working?
  • List some of the titles you have recently placed with publishers
  • Describe your personality
  • What do you like reading/watching/listening to on your own time?
  • Do you think the business has changed a lot over the past few years? If yes, please explain
  • What do the “Big 5” mean to you?
  • How do you feel about independent/small presses?
  • What are your feelings about self-publishing?
  • Do you think Amazon is good or bad—or both—for the book business?
  • What do you like and dislike about your job?
  • What are ways prospective clients can impress you, and what are ways they can turn you off?
  • How would you describe the “writer from hell”?
  • Describe a book you would like to write
  • Do you believe in a higher and/or lower “power”?

Thorough, right?

There’s also a section dedicated to Canadian publishers, which I heart.

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 28th edition: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over is available now from Amazon, Chapters, jeffherman.com and anywhere else you buy books.


Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents synopsis

The Writer’s Best Friend and Bible!

Writers, agents, and editors all agree that Jeff Herman’s Guide is the must have, go-to reference for everyone who writes. This book will get you past the slush piles and into the hands of the people who have the power to publish.

Description

With Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents you will learn the names and contact information for hundreds of agents and editors, and will be given the “code” for how to win them over. More comprehensive than ever, this 21st edition will give you all the insider information you need to get published, including how to write knockout pitch letters and proposals, as well as an expanded Canadian section.

If you want a lighthearted yet no-nonsense guide to publishing, look no further than Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

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Benefits of Having a Literary Agent

A literary agent represents writers and authors and is equal parts opportunity finder, deal negotiator and career advisor. While it’s not required to have a literary agent to get a traditional book deal, most writers recommend having one.

Benefits of Having a Literary Agent

Benefits of having a literary agent

Since they’re up-to-date with the latest book publishing trends and have in-depth market knowledge, literary agents are positioned to handle the business end of writing—allowing you to focus on the writing end of writing.

I met an author who told me how he got a book deal without an agent. I’m glad to meet someone who had a positive publishing experience this way but I have questions. Why did he skip this step? What made him want to pursue traditional publishing on his own? Would he do it again for his next book?

Here are a few ways having a literary agent benefits a writer

Legitimate agents work on commission so they don’t get paid unless you do. Talk about common interests! You can rest assured they have your best interests at heart.

Agents have a strong knowledge of the publishing business and have access to major publishing houses. They know they right people working in the right places and can get those doors open quicker than you can.

They read a lot and know what sells. Literary agents know good writing, they know the market and they know what editors are looking for. They know what you need to do to get a book deal.

And my personal favourite

Think of a literary agent as a connector. They connect authors with the appropriate publisher, negotiate the best deals possible and mediate any issues between the writer and editor that may arise during the book publishing process.

If you want a literary agent take some time researching the different ones out there and make a list of ones you think are a good fit for you and your writing. You find a literary agent through querying your book. While there aren’t really “types” of literary agents they all have different areas of expertise and preferred genre.

Obtaining a literary agent isn’t necessary if you’re self-publishing a book. You may consider hiring a publicist or business coach, but these are different roles than what a literary agent plays.

A literary agent represents writers and authors and is equal parts opportunity finder, deal negotiator and career advisor. Highly recommended!

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Other posts you’ll find helpful

it's not required to have a literary agent to get a traditional book deal

When to Query a Book

On this long and winding road called the publishing journey there’s the question of when to query a book. The answer isn’t too mind blowing but it comes up enough that it’s worth covering.

When to query a book

The answer of when to query a book is different for fiction and non-fiction, and there are different answers within non-fiction as well. Here are the basics.

When to query a book: fiction

If you’re querying a fiction book it both needs to be 100 per cent finished and revised/edited. In other words, your book needs to be complete.

One pub tip I read from an agent read she shouldn’t be the first person to read your book. Good advice!

When to query a book: non-fiction

This is a bit trickier to answer but I’ll try. The best advice is to check out the agent or editor you’re querying and see what their requirements are—because it seems like all non-fiction agents/editors want similar yet different things.

If you’re writing memoir or narrative non-fiction then your manuscript needs to be complete before querying (same as fiction). However, if you’re writing prescriptive non-fiction then you do not need to have a finished manuscript before querying.

I’m pleased about the prescriptive non-fiction rules because it’s what I’m writing but I’ve learned you still need to have the book figured out and, like, thought through because you need an amazing book proposal should you get past the query stage.

And another hitch with prescriptive non-fiction is you need a significant platform in order to get an agent or editor. I know. But you just do.

Since learning this I can see many reasons for holding off on querying even if you’re manuscript or proposal is ready. Because getting an agent or editor isn’t the only moving target in this adventure—there is so much more to consider. So. We’re all excited and just want to query the heck out of our books. But I challenge you to ask yourself if you’re really ready. Is your manuscript ready? Is your platform ready? Are you ready? If you have considered these questions then you know when to query a book.

Extra credit: What are the best times to query a literary agent? From Writer’s Digest

On this long and winding road called the publishing journey there's the question of when to query a book. The answer is changes for fiction and non-fiction.

More about non-fiction publishing

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On this long and winding road called the publishing journey there's the question of when to query a book. The answer isn't too mind blowing but it comes up enough that it's worth covering.

I’ve Self-Published a Book…Now What?

You’ve worked hard for a while writing your book and then you worked hard and self-published your book. Wow! Well done! That’s a lot of work. So…now what do you do?

Self-published now what

In an ideal world you, the author, would have worked out your marketing plan before you wrote and self-published your book but from what I see and hear from the authors I know and work with…it doesn’t happen that way. The drive to write and publish becomes a hyper-focal point and no “you should plan your marketing!” bird chirping in the background will make any difference.

And if the entire goal is to get the book done and self-published then this is an awesome accomplishment. However, if selling the book is the goal then there are a few more steps to take. Well, maybe a lot more.

Once you’ve self-published your book the next step is to market it to your ideal readers

In essence this is simple—put your book in front of the people who will love it. Except finding those people is not always easy. You have to dissect your book and figure out what type of reader would be interested in your writing style and subject matter. And then you need to find them…what stores do they shop in? Where do they hang out? What is their favourite social media platform? What are their biggest fears? Another thing, what do they care most about? And what type of marketing will they best respond to?

There are a lot of ways you can find your ideal reader (or book buyer, however you want to see it) so it’s important not just to parrot what you see others doing online but to find something that works for you and feels natural.


If you are stuck for ideas here are a few you can consider to help market your self-published book.

  • If you’re looking to find new readers make the e-version of your book free and find a way to add them to your email list. This way you can nurture them and (hopefully) sell them your next book
  • Need sales fast? Run ads on platforms where your ideal readers are—consider Facebook, Amazon, BookBub, KDP Countdown, etc.
    If you want to dive deeper into ads here’s a helpful post from David Gaughran
  • Set up local readings or offer to speak free at local events in order to promote your book
  • Go on an online book tour (wondering how to set it up? Here’s a guide from Book Marketing Tools
You've worked hard for a while writing your book and then you worked hard and self-published your book. Wow! Well done! That's a lot of work. So...now what do you do? #writing #selfpublish

Other posts self-published authors will like

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What is an Author Platform?

If you Google “What is an author platform?” you’ll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn’t a simple question. But I’m still going to try and answer it.

What is an Author Platform

What is an author platform?

In a nutshell, a platform is the sum total of ways you, the author, can sell your book.

But…what does that mean? What is an author platform? That answer doesn’t tell me anything!

Hah! I know. And people in general assume a platform is how many social media followers you have, and maybe at one point that was it, but since you can buy followers you can still have loads of followers and not sell any books. So that can’t be the only thing that makes up your platform.

I mean, it will make some of it.

Here are a few other things that make up a well-rounded author platform.

  • Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
  • Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
  • Personality and follow through—25%
  • Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

It kind of makes sense, right? When you pitch an agent or publisher they need to know you can motivate your existing readers, reach new readers and build strong relationships with your readers.

A common follow-up question to what is an author platform is: does this apply to all authors?

Hah! Kind of? I know this isn’t quite how you pictured an author platform to look

From my research I’ve learned while almost all non-fiction authors need a platform, not all fiction authors do.

Although it’s overwhelming to think about building a thriving team of superfans when it’s hard enough to getting words on the page the more I think about it the more I understand why it’s necessary. Publishing a book isn’t the hard part (although, like, that’s not simple)—selling your book is.

Think about it this way: let’s say you’re putting together a workshop and you’re partnering with a local venue as the host. Well, is it 100% up to the venue to sell the thing out? No, of course not. Sure they can help by spreading the word to their customers but it’s up to you to bring in your friends and fans. The ability to draw people in shows the strength of your platform. So make it strong.

One other thing to think about when asking what is an author platform is to consider everything you do as a contribution to your platform. In-person connections are often stronger than online ones so don’t take those for granted. Think about the associations you’re a member of, the clubs you participate in and the hobbies you have. If you think those could be channels to sell books then make sure they’re strong connections. Contribute to them and make yourself a valuable member.

Wondering how to grow your platform?

Here are a few ideas from Writer’s Digest.

  • Find out what your target audience is reading and publish articles or blogs in those outlets
  • Publish a body of work on your topic in a blog, newsletter, podcast, video blog, etc. to grow organic followers and fans over time and help you build authority in your niche
  • Attending events (or speaking at these events if possible) where you can expand your network
  • Find meaningful ways to connect with your target audience—put on events, run challenges, have promotions, etc.
  • Partner with people in your niche (either peers or influencers) to grow your reach and pick up new fans
If you Google What is an author platform? you'll see many, many sort-of answers. Because this isn't a simple question. But I'm still going to try and answer it.

Other posts about platform building and non-fiction writing

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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