Clarification for those looking for an agent / publisher

I completed my first novel and am currently looking for an agent. The search is excruciatingly slow, as all you professionals probably know. Many of the agents/agencies state that they won’t consider books that were previously published or self-published. For a long time I assumed this meant Wattpad, but after reading Wattpad’s FAQ I got the impression that uploading here was not technically “self-published” and I would be safe to continue looking for an agent or publisher.

Anyone know for sure? I would hate to ruin my shot at getting a publisher by putting my novel here, but they are so slow and the chances of it ever happening are so statistically low that it seems crazy not to. Any and all advice is most welcome.

This is hard. Some agents/publishers have a problem with it, some don’t. When querying, you probably don’t want to mention it UNLESS you achieve some level of fame that’s worth talking about. You can always talk to your agent about options after getting an agent.

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Good to know. I figured I was safe enough here because Wattpad makes it difficult for people to just copy and paste your work. But my stuff is so niche and what with the COVID and riot lockdowns and everything else, the timeline for hearing from anyone in NYC has gotten considerably longer. We’ll see.

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The benefit of posting on Wattpad is you have chance for exposure, opening your work to critiques and forming a reader base.

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Unfortunately, serious agents will most likely not want to publish a book that’s been already publish. When you self publish (I’m including wattpad in this) you control the narrative and the marketing, and take away the chance of your agent in “branding” you the way that they see fit, and believe it or not…They are agents, they probably know what “image” will sell best for you so I highly and I mean HIGHLY recommend querying with works which have not been published anywhere. Agents won’t care if you have published anything under a pen-name that you aren’t using now as it won’t affect the work you’re publishing now, but then again I wouldn’t mention even that in the query. It seems bleak, and whilst this is the majority of my experience, it isn’t set in stone. There are some agents out there that don’t care about wattpad and would publish your work anyway, but I would like to remind you that no one wants to sell a laptop that ten people have been using for free for the past ten months because if you take the laptop away from those ten people, who is to guarantee that they will come back to pay in order to use it again? This has been the great problem with selfpublishing. A lot of selfpublished books sell for 0.99 and publishers can’t believe that someone who paid 0.99 is gonna pay 15.99 for a book now so they just stay away from it but even so, there are people who are selfpublished on Amazon and are making six figures every year, so no one said you have to only be published traditionally in order to be successful.

My advice is, regardless of querying a novel you have published here, or haven’t, you need to know the agent you are querying. Research them, get to know them, see if they have published something that is similar to what you are doing. Make the letter personal. And never and I mean NEVER bulk query. You will get a bad reputation really quickly SPECIALLY IN NYC because every agent knows every other agent.

And publishing isn’t one in a million. About 4 writers out of 20 get an agent every year and that number is increased to 8 out of 20 if the writer has a novel completed. So the odds are much better than we think. Don’t lose hope, you have to query a novel for two years before moving onto querying something else, but never put all your hope on your one book. Brandon Sanderson had written 14 novels before he got his first one published so always remmeber that.

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Four out of twenty agents sounds very high. But that sounds great for writers. Can I ask please where you got those numbers from?

Recently some of the top U.K. agents fielded this question on Twitter #askagent. Their numbers ranged from 2,500 to 5,000 queries received per year, resulting in only 3-15 clients signed.

That is why some writers like to self publish. You can publish your book by yourself!
You can self publish your book at Smashwords for free!
You are going to get 80% of the royalties.
I recommend you to use Microsoft word when writing your manuscript because that is the most common one.[Even Smashwords recommend Microsoft word].

Self-publishing means putting it anywhere for the public to see, whether it’s for profit or not. The reason for this is because most publishers want first rights. If you post it somewhere, they don’t get that ability. They want to be the first one to say, “We are the first people people to make this story public!”

The other reason is because of marketing. If your story is published somewhere else, readers aren’t going to buy the traditional publication version. This means that the publishers won’t be able to make money off you.

Now, there are publishers who can negotiate. If you publish through Wattpad (like how some writers did such as Anna Todd, Pandean, etc.) they may turn around and say, “Sure you can keep it up.” But they may only do this if it’s a first draft and that your final draft (what will be published) be completely different. Other publishers may not agree to keep it up, but may allow you to keep up a sample for marketing reasons. It depends solely on the publisher and the contract.

You can continue looking for an agent, as some are okay with it. But it’s best to not mention about the fact that it’s self-published on Wattpad or elsewhere. You can cross that bridge when you get to it (in other words, when someone wants to sign you on).

The other thing you need to know is that publishers and agents have nothing against self-publishing, but only do when it comes to the work you’re querying. So this means you can post other stories and self-publish whatever you like. But if you want to traditionally publish a particular story, it’s best to not post it anywhere.

Having a Wattpad account and self-publishing other stories can help with exposure. Though it can hurt your chances at having a professional, successful debut. But that varies upon many various factors. You just want to be sure that the story you have is what you want to traditionally publish.

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These are the numbers they tell us for our BA in creative writing in Canada so it might be different in different countries. For instance I know that (I asked a Hollywood agent in person) around 8000 scripts get registered with the WGA and only about 40 of them are bought a year so really it depends on the country and the industry but a range of 3-15 out of 5000 is still an insanely high number in comparison to what we’re told about the one in a million chance. I’d personally do more research on it depending on the area I wanted to query and also check out the agent.

Honestly, if an agent considers putting a story on Wattpad self-publishing, I wouldn’t want that agent anyway. Why? Because Wattpad is an open workshop, and expecting the writers sit on their manuscript perfecting it behind the closed doors for thirty years nowadays is just not keeping up with the times.

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I like your optimism but that‘s a 0.1% chance based on the numbers (I know not all submitted manuscripts are equal) :blush:

Is it possible those are the numbers for graduates of your course and not the average querying writer?

To me that’s still a high percentage because the manuscripts I am seeing that are being bought and published are just not good. So if someone is good I know that they can break in the industry if they keep doing it. It’s like Youtube and writing for the film industry. If you do it consistently enough, and get better as you go, you will eventually publish. That’s just what I believe from the experience of those around me.

And as for that, that’s a total possibility. I can go ask my editor in chief and see what she says, though there are many writers who audit these classes that are not getting a BA in creative writing including myself. I’m doing a BFA with a minor, but they all include writing courses for cinema, TV, theatre, and books and that’s what we’ve been told in those courses as well.

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I totally agree with you. Traditional publishing would be a dream and something I think people should aim for (if it suits their circumstances). It’s just very difficult to obtain, so your figures struck me. That’s 20% of querying authors finding representation, rather than 0.1%. I prefer your odds :sweat_smile:

I imagine finding an agent has a lot to do with market trends and timing, as well as writing a quality book.

Apologies for going off topic OP!

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It really does depend on all of those which is why I keep telling people research the agents you’re querying. Some agent might just randomly say on twitter “I’ve been looking for Rom-Com books recently” and if you have a book that’s rom-com well then there’s your chance, but if you don’t know the agent, and what they want, and what they’re currently representing, then it’s a lot harder. And it’s not like this information is hidden. There are apps you can use that even shows you what query letters are being replied to and with what rate. All this information is online. I just genuinely, albeit optimistically, believe that if you want to write bad enough, you will find representation somewhere. Also, not everyone has to be published with one of the big five, you can talk to your local agents, and see what your local publishing houses are after and start from there. No one starts as a CEO, sometimes you gotta fetch some coffee. Haha.

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I think that if you want to traditionally publish, you, should remove the Wattpad version first, though I’m unsure if that still counts as giving them first rights.

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100% agree with this logic.

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So I just spoke to them and those numbers are right BUT they only take into consideration the manuscripts that are being submitted to YA and Adult Fantasy. That’s my own industry so I always speak with that glass not considering anyone else >.<
Hope that clarified everything. The more niche you are, the easier it is to publish, but the harder it is to sell a lot.

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Thanks for clarifying. Sounds like you guys have it good in Canada :+1:

When you say bulk query are you referring to querying more than one agent at a time? Because I’m afraid I actually did do this. Simply because the average time to get a response was about six weeks! I assumed it was normal to send query letters to multiple agents at a time. Hope I didn’t shoot myself in the foot. So far I’ve received about 5 or 6 official rejections, with 2 or 3 that I just never heard back from. So for my second round of queries, I ought to just do one at a time and wait?

My main issue is that with some of these agencies in NYC, it seems like all hell has broken loose there. What with Covid and the protest lockdowns and such. I wonder if the response time is any longer.

It’s all very enlightening! I live in the middle of nowhere, very far away from any urban centers, in the western U.S. I have zero family connections, and none of my friends are published authors–so the internet is the only way of me learning about this world. I like to consider all viewpoints