Updated: Aug 10
To anyone wanting to start a publishing company or literary agency, you may be wondering how to find authors. We’re going to go over:
You can skip ahead to whatever section you’re specifically looking for, but we recommend reading the entire article whether you’re an author or publisher. This article is mainly aimed at publishers or literary agents. But we’re also going to be releasing another article on authors featuring the following topics:
What authors need to know before signing with a publisher
What authors can expect from their publisher
Where to find them
Most of our authors have been found via social media! Sam Atkins, Kelli Call, Courtney Pollman-Turner, and Jenna Weatherwax all found SmashBear through social media. Most of this was via Facebook writing groups or on Twitter. Twitter and Facebook are by far the most effective media for finding authors. Up until this year, a group on Twitter conducted PitMad which allowed authors to pitch directly to publishers and agents.
Networking is sometimes the best option. Networking is where you’d meet people in a business setting and talk about your businesses. John Ortega and Tracey M.Carvill were both found via networking. John is a long-time friend of mine and gave me an early copy of his debut, Storm’s Child, to read. This was just as the idea of SmashBear was starting to form and John let me publish his book! It was the debut for both of us and is still one of my favourite books I’ve published!
Tracey on the other hand was recommended SmashBear by a mutual friend. These are two different types of networking. John was found from my internal network, and Tracey was found externally. We found each other through our mutual friend and tattoo artist, Ellie Nye. An extremely talented artist in Folkestone who I really recommend you check out!
How to make yourself attractive to authors
It’s definitely the publisher’s market, and by that we mean there are by far more authors than there are available publishing contracts, so the publishers hold quite a lot of power. For those of us who hoped to grow up and work in publishing or become an author, you’re probably already familiar with this.
Because of this, some publishers and agencies take advantage of authors by putting unfair terms in their contracts and paying under the industry standard. Because of this, my first piece of advice for anyone looking to attract authors to their business is to respect them!
Don’t put terms which trap authors into your contracts. E.g., signing them for the entirety of a series if you know you’re only going to make the decision if the first book does well.
There’s a lot of information out there about publishing, contracts etc. Authors nowadays are more informed about the industry than ever before. They’ll be able to catch you out if you’re keeping something from them. Be open and upfront about where they’ll place in your schedule, the budget you’re anticipating for their project, how long it will take and how much of their own marketing they’ll have to do!
Offer to educate them
This is obviously optional, but if you’re wanting to attract the best of the best, offer them the chance to learn more about the industry and their craft. At SmashBear, we have a very close and intimate relationship with our authors. As a result, they feel fine about asking me about the industry and their projects. We have great working relationships which have developed into friendships! I’m not saying that this is necessary, but it does make working with someone for 6-9 months a lot easier.
We are also in the process of making courses for authors regarding self-editing their work and marketing their books. This benefits everyone as the authors gain knowledge and can work a bit more independently which takes some pressure off of SmashBear, and they have the tools to help market their work. As a publisher, we do the majority of the marketing, but after the project launch, our resources are usually transferred to the next upcoming project. Teaching authors to market their work means that we can do this without fear that their sales will plummet.
Signing them on
Once your author has gone through your acquisition process and you’re wanting to sign them on, it’s time to send out contracts and make contact! This is an exciting time for everyone involved but don’t let it go to your head. We’ve sent offers out but for one reason or another, the author’s not been signed on. This can happen for a few reasons:
The author doesn’t want to edit their work
This is relatively self-explanatory. Some authors don’t want to edit their work. That’s fine, it’s their work and they can do what they want with it, and publishers aren’t always right. Authors should go with their gut. However, we will not publish work that hasn’t been edited in-house. This is because we have quality standards that we want to meet. All work that’s going to be published is edited. Even my own story, ‘Heavy Heart’, which was published in ‘They Hung The Moon’, went through a rigorous editing process. This doesn’t mean that your writing is bad or that we doubt your ability to write, it just means that we want your work to be the best version it can be before we publish it. It will also need to be edited so that it matches our in-house style guide.
There are many reasons why a publisher might want to edit your work. Usually, it’s to make it more marketable and improve the flow and quality of writing. We actually put what major edits we want to make in the contract. This way, the author knows exactly what they’re going to be doing and are signing to say they agree. Doing this also protects us as the publisher from authors who don’t want to edit their work.
The book requires more work than initially thought
This is a very rare occurrence, but sometimes we’ll start reading a manuscript and absolutely love the beginning, so we’ll send an initial email to let the author know we’re interested. But as we continue to read, the story may trail off and fail to make sense towards the end of the book. This is unfortunate, but in this circumstance, we would offer the author our editing notes and let them know they’re welcome to resubmit once the edits have been done.
We’re not a good fit for each other
As part of our sign-on process, we have a video call with the author to make sure we’re going to be a good fit for each other. We discuss expectations from each other, the process, and answer any questions the author might have. It hasn’t happened yet at this stage, but this would be another time a possible contract might end. We work very closely with each other for about 12 months. We need to make sure we can continue a bond for that amount of time without wanting to tear each other’s throats out.