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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Our goal is to help you toward your publishing dreams. AuthorAssist is your personal publishing consultant as you negotiate the quagmire of publishing options, such as traditional mainstream publishers, independent publishers, e-publishers, print-on-demand, and the promotional services offered by self-publishing firms.

If your goal is to get published by one of the large, mainstream houses, you'll need a competent literary agent. Getting an agent to represent your work is a difficult and complex process. It can be time-consuming, costly, and disappointing. We show you how to streamline the process and get agents' attention.

Even if you think you've been rejected by every agent, we can breathe new life into your material and move you toward realizing your publishing dreams.

There are more than 1000 small independent publishers, many of whom accept "unagented" manuscripts. You have the option of querying these publishers directly.

Research the self-publishing company before you choose it. Some self-publishing companies are not recommended for various reasons. Others are involved in lawsuits. You will want to be sure you work with a reputable company. AuthorAssist helps ensure you make smart choices in getting your book self-published.

FAQs About Literary Agents, Publishing, and Self-publishing

1.What is the usual agent commission?

10. Should I worry about copyright?

2. Is it standard practice for agents to charge fees?

11. When do I need a literary agent?

3. How does AuthorAssist save me money in the process of looking for an agent?

12. What services should I expect from an agent?

4. Why is the AuthorAssist directory better than other directories or free online lists?

13. What should I look for in the agent contract?

5. How do you determine what genres interest which agents? 

14. What damage can unscrupulous agents cause?

6. How do you choose the literary agencies that appear in your directories?

15. How can I protect myself from agent scams?

7.Can you vouch for the quality of the services agents provide?

16. What if my materials have been rejected by agents?

8. How often is the agent database updated?

17. What should I know about small, independent presses?

9. What should I know before I choose self-publishing services?

18. What self-publishing companies should I avoid?


1.What is the usual agent commission?

Most agents get 15% (domestic) and 20% (international) of the author's royalties.


2.  Is it standard practice for agents to charge fees?

No. The Association of Author's Representatives (AAR), Canon of Ethics prohibits agents from soliciting reading fees, packaging fees, author contributions, and obtaining profits from editing referrals. Agents should derive their revenue from the sale of clients' work, not from editing or other presale services such as copying/postage, administration, or reading/reviewing. Some agents do not adhere to these standard practices. Please note: we make every effort to remove fee-charging agents from our directories. We do not recommend our clients pay any agent fees or advances for processing, reading, critiquing, editing, or office expenses.


3. How does AuthorAssist save me money in the process of looking for an agent or publisher?

Our review services for manuscripts, nonfiction proposals, and query materials provide you with specific feedback about your writing project. You will know the strengths and how to eliminate the weaknesses BEFORE you contact agents. Recognize that 99% of manuscripts are rejected by agents. Most agents will send you a form rejection letter saying they are not taking on new clients or they don't have enthusiasm for your project. You will not know the shortcomings of your materials or the true reason for the rejections. We will point out the strong points and give you concrete suggestions for making improvements. Think of the disappointment you'll avoid, not to speak of the money you'll save.

Consider the cost of sending a 300-page manuscript to agents:

    Copying manuscript @ 10 cent per page $30.00
                                                  Manuscript box  3.00
                                                      Priority Post   7.00
                        Total Cost Per Manuscript      $40.00

AuthorAssist can save you the pain and hassle. We're your best defense against rejection.

Remember, you are starting a business. There are costs involved. Keep track of your expenses for tax purposes. When you sell your books, ask your accountant about deducting your startup costs.


4. What makes the AuthorAssist  agent directory unique or better than the agent directories or free lists online?

Our directory is better than outdated directories or online lists because it is customized and targeted. It shows you where to begin your search for agents. The database is organized by topics -- there are 16 fiction categories and 27 nonfiction categories -- and we can create custom categories. The information is updated weekly to capture research on recent agent sales. For each category, agents are listed by priority. Those who have made recent sales are listed first,  followed by those who live in the major metropolitan areas for book publishing, followed by those living outside of the major areas. Instead of being overwhelmed, you will know exactly where to begin -- with the top-selling agents interested in your type of manuscript.


5. How do you determine what genres interest which literary agencies?

We follow industry news, monitor recent sales, and maintain personal contacts with agents.


6. How do you choose the literary agents/agencies that appear in your agent directories? 

Our goal is to do the research so you don't have to. We follow changes in agents and agencies and get feedback from our clients. We want to help our clients avoid unscrupulous agents. 


7. Can you vouch for the quality of the services literary agents provide?

We do not endorse any agent nor do we take responsibility for any agent's actions. Agencies and agents come in all sizes and flavors. Ultimately, you must decide which agent will provide you the best service. We provide you with information on how to select the best agent to fit your needs. 


8. How often is the information in the agent directories updated? 

The database is updated monthly. 

9. What should I know before I choose self-publishing services?

First and foremost, know your own realistic goals and expectations so you can identify your publishing strategy. Your strategy helps determine the self-publishing services you may need.

If you decide to use a self-publishing company, research that company thoroughly--its reputation, services, fees, and contract restrictions. Remember, self-publishers make their money by selling you expensive packages with adding many services you may not need. Be sure to read the contract and understand the royalties associated with your self-publisher and distributors. It's complicated. Read the fine print.

10. Should I worry about copyright?

While international law gives authors automatic copyright protection over their material, it's a good idea to copyright your work. Check the web site at the Library of Congress for information and online forms. (www.loc.gov/copyright/forms/).


10. Why do I need an agent?

If you want to take the traditional publishing route with a large, mainstream publisher, you'll need a literary agent. Most large publishing firms will not consider unagented material. Your literary agent is your promoter and supporter. Of the 600,000 new titles written each year, only about 120,000 get published. Less than 1% of them are by new authors. Your agent wants to make sure you're among the 300-600 newly published authors. You want an agent who gets the most, while giving away the least. Publishing contracts are legalistic nightmares. Your agent will obtain the best offers for you work (including subsidiary and derivative rights) and negotiate the best contract terms on you behalf. Since the agent works on a commission basis, s/he benefits from selling your work at the highest possible price. Having an agent leaves you free to continue what you do best -- write.


11. What services should I expect from an agent?

Agencies operate differently and vary in their level of services to clients. As a minimum, expect your agent to:

  • communicate with publishers on your behalf.
  • provide you with copies of all important correspondence, including rejection letters. 
  • obtain approval prior to making any binding commitments regarding your work. 
  • monitor performance of publishers.
  • review royalty statements and payments publishers make to you.
  • respond to mail received by him/her on your behalf.


12. What should I look for in the agent contract?

In the contract, be sure to take note of the:

  • term – one year is preferable.
  • commission –  standard is 15% domestic and 20% international
  • rights – identify the rights your agent represents and the ones to be sub-contracted to another agency.
  • payment – how quickly royalties are paid to you after the agent receives them. (30 days is preferable).
  • termination clause – 30-60 day written notice to void the contract.
  • rejections – agent agrees to send you copies of all rejections from publishers.
Before signing a contract make sure you learn the history of the agency, names of clients, and titles of books recently sold. Ask for references and call clients to find out if the agent provides the level of service you are seeking. If it's a large agency with many agents, make sure you understand who will be representing your work.

If you're not sure about the contract, seek help from a literary attorney or a person experienced in negotiating literary contracts. Note: we provide our clients names of experts in this area if needed.


13. What damage can unscrupulous agents cause?

A writer approached us after being scammed of $400 dollars by a literary agent. Worse than losing the money, he  had lost control of his manuscript. The agent refused to give him the names of publishers/editors who had been contacted and their reactions. There was a sixty-day termination clause and the agent held claim for the manuscript still under consideration by publishers. The writer was stuck. He never even had a chance, since editors don't respect such agents or give serious attention to the material they represent. The future success of this writer's manuscript had been jeopardized.

We can help writers get back on track, even after such devastating experiences.


14. How can I protect myself from agent scams?

Be wary of agents who:

  • require a reading fee
  • require advances for marketing, handling, circulation, or processing fees
  • solicit or contact you to represent your manuscript
  • won’t disclose who they represent or the titles they have sold recently
  • offer to edit or recommend editing services or book doctors
  • deal with subsidy/vanity publishers.
Don't jeopardize the future success of your work by selecting the wrong agent.
Check out agent scams at web sites, such as www.sfwa.org/beware/.


15. What if my materials have been rejected by agents?

Take heart. Even if you think you've been rejected by every agent, we can help. We analyze your situation to determine why your materials have been rejected and how to revive your project. 


17. What should I know about small, independent presses, self-publishing, and other options?

There are more than 1000 small independent presses, many of whom you can query without a literary agent. If you have been rejected and have exhausted your literary agent search, research independent and specialty publishers. That's your next step in getting published traditionally.


18. What self-publishing companies should I avoid?

Certain self-publishing companies have garnered questionable reputations for their practices. For example, Publish America does not charge any fees, but the company keep all the rights to your book for seven years. That means then can choose to market and promote your book--or not. Since you are prohibited from using other services to market your book, the promotion of your book could remain stagnant for many of the years while Publish America holds the copyright. During that time, you cannot accept offers from other publishers or agents, or consider offers to option your book for a film, etc. Also, Publish America dictates the price of your book and may price it unrealistically--so it will not sell. Publish America has been involved in lawsuits and has been accused of scams.

You may have seen a link to a website called "Choose Your Publisher." At the site your submit various information about your manuscript and your self-publishing budget. Regardless, of the information you submit, three firms are listed: AuthorHouse, Xlibris, and Iuniverse. Realize, these three firms are owned by the same company, Author Solutions. So no matter what your publishing needs, you will wind up with services from Author Solutions. The "Choose Your Publisher" web site severely limits your choice of companies and services. Note: Author Solutions also owns Trafford Publishing and WordClay Inc. and has been targeted in a class action law suit.

Do you know the pitfalls of self-publishing -- and how to avoid them? AuthorAssist is your personal publishing consultant to help you sort through the complexities of today's publishing and self-publishing world and choose the best options for you. When you become a client, we can refer you to reputable, small presses, self-publishing firms,graphic artists, web site designers, SEO experts, publicists, and literary attorneys.

If you have other questions e-mail us for information


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