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When you talk about publishing books, it is rather inevitable that the talk leads to a discussion about agents/publishers. These two entities constitute a significant part of the entire publishing process. In fact, as a writer, it is very important that you try to learn as much as you can about agents/publishers. The knowledge and insights that you stand to learn about how they function and operate will prove invaluable as you go about having your manuscript published.
So what do you need to learn about agents/publishers? Here's a quick guide for you to pick up the basics.
Agents are the people who represent you and your written output to groups or parties that might be interested in your work, such as publishing companies, production outfits, and studios. Whether they operate as independent agents or as part of huge literary agencies, agents have your best interests in mind as they negotiate and create better deals for you and your work.
Your relationship with your agent is one that's founded on professionalism and trust. As experts, they know exactly what they are looking for and will not hesitate to let you know what to do either to improve your manuscript or fast track your career as a writer. Using their network, they try to get your work out and sell it to the entity they think matches the nature of your work and your own personal requirements.
You can always elect to do without agents/publishers, but the advantages of having one easily outweigh the difficulties and challenges you are set to encounter if you decide to proceed alone. For example, going it alone means submitting your manuscripts to different publishing companies without an exact reply on what they think of your work. This is in stark contrast to having an agent where, aside from totally eliminating the need to mail anything on your own, you also get instant feedback from publishers by way of your agent.
Once your manuscript is sold, then it is taken care of by the publisher. After "cleaning" the copy of grammatical lapses and stylistic errors, it will then undergo formatting and designing to make it more visually pleasing and in sync with the aesthetic standards of the company. The printing and distribution stage follows next.
Among the many things that an agent/publisher does is undertake marketing initiatives designed to drum up support or hype for your book. Normally, if you choose to self-publish your work, you would have to design, fund, and later implement your own marketing strategies. This is well and good if you are a savvy marketer aside from being a good writer. But if you don't have enough resources at your disposal to carry out the marketing needs of your book, then you have a new problem to deal with.
In summary, just as important as being able to write well is the ability to understand the dynamics of the book publishing process. This involves the need to learn as much as you can about agents/publishers.