What are some great book editing tips

Tips for authors : How to find a publisher for your book

Ms. Poppenhusen, a friend of mine wrote a novel and sent the manuscript to countless publishers. She got them all back, sometimes with a friendly letter of rejection, sometimes without. What did she do wrong?

She contacted the publishers directly. Quite a few publishers no longer check themselves, perhaps without publicly admitting it, and only a few thoroughly check the manuscripts. You end up with a work in a huge pile of unsolicited manuscripts. If someone looks at it, it is often only an intern.

The rejection letters always said: Great story, we liked it a lot, but unfortunately does not fit into our program.

Exactly. This is called Pnip in publishing.

I beg your pardon?

Pnip - does not fit into the program.

An excuse.

Yes, that can be true. But landing at a publisher this way is generally difficult. And it is also not recommended because you can hardly stay with a literary agent afterwards.

How come?

We can only represent authors who have not yet sent their manuscript to twenty publishers who may be suitable for it, because we cannot send it there again. It is therefore better to contact an agent directly. Incidentally, in England and America publishers only accept manuscripts if they can get through an agent. The development goes along with us too.

How do you recognize a serious agent?

For example, the fact that he only works on a contingency fee basis. The authors do not have to pay anything in advance for their work. I've even heard that there are supposed to be agents who mediate with printing subsidy publishers in which they themselves have a financial share, unbelievable, that is of course also not possible. You can also recognize good agents by the fact that they have worked for many years in a responsible position in a permanent position in a publishing house. One should ask an agent about this directly. And you should see whether the agent has already represented really successful books, at least if he has been in the business for a few years. It is best to do a thorough research on the Internet first.

Contingency fee - what exactly does it mean and how much should it be?

15 percent are serious. I wouldn't pay more. When the agent negotiates a contract with a publisher, he gets 15 percent of all income that comes from it. However, the contracts we negotiate for the writers are always much better than if the writer negotiated them alone, so it is still lucrative for the writer to work with us.

Have you also received unsolicited manuscripts?

Yes. However, we first ask you to contact us and provide initial information by email. When we then agree to read what we have requested and received, we read carefully.

How many inquiries do you get?

Between five and ten a day.

So they write you an email trying to sell themselves as best they can.

No, it's not so much about selling well. You have to write very soberly who you are, a few sentences about the content, which publishers have already seen the manuscript and why you wanted to write it - if you can say something about it. For example, an author I represent has very successfully written a sheep thriller.

Glennkill, Leonie Swann's bestseller.

She probably just wrote it for fun. But that's also a reason. Then, if I want to read more, I will request the first part of the manuscript.

Which topics have good chances at the moment? For a while, twenties and their single problems were particularly popular.

(laughs) Yes, that's actually true. Sometimes publishers tell me they'd like the next chick-lit novel.

Chicken literature?

Literature about young singles looking for Mister Right. Or the publishers want crime stories with female investigators. But personally, I don't think it makes sense as a writer to orientate oneself to such fashions.

Why not?

First, they change very quickly, and second, I don't think you'll write a good book if you pay attention to something like that. You write good books when you have the feeling that you really want to write a certain book. And when it's there, and it's good, then the publishers want it too. They didn't wait for a sheep thriller either. But when he was there everyone thought he was great.

How did Mrs. Swann come to you?

It was done through a private recommendation, at the time she didn't even know what literary agencies were. But regardless of a good recommendation, I first read manuscripts as impartially as possible.

And how do you know if something is a good story?

Probably just like you would. I just see if that fascinates me, if I want to know more. I have to have the feeling that there is something original, interesting, exciting, funny, never been there, or - already there, but brilliantly remade. These are also often intuitive decisions. I read manuscripts just like any attentive and critical reader. Just with a little more experience.

How important is personality and appearance? You could get the impression that pretty young women from Berlin-Mitte can sell any book.

Some say good looking women and men are better marketed. But that is really not a serious criterion. However, an author should be ready to be available for readings and public relations work.

How many authors do you take on when you get up to ten inquiries a day?

Unfortunately, I have rarely accepted an author recently, although I am obviously looking for good authors. I only represent about 22 or 23 authors myself. But we also don't have a lot of time: We do a lot for the authors we represent; we not only broker the first book contract, but also translation rights to other countries, film rights and similar so-called "ancillary rights". Therefore I can only represent a few authors. Therefore, if one is rejected by an agent, one should not be discouraged. Maybe you have a better chance with another agent. And in general I believe that good literature will always prevail.

Is there any point in going to the book fair? Maybe you could establish relationships there or get to know the literature business.

If you want to look around there, you are welcome to go to Frankfurt. But nobody at the book fair really has time to forge relationships. We as agents certainly not. We have appointments every half hour from breakfast until late at night.

Walking around the fair with a manuscript under your arm and then successfully getting rid of it - is that a romantic idea?

In any case, nobody will read anything during the mass. It does happen that you can meet a lecturer at a booth. But often he is not necessarily grateful when he is approached, because he also has a lot of appointments - with authors he has already published, with us agents and other publishing people, for example.

Do you have another tip for young authors?

Maybe I would try to get a scholarship. That is not necessarily a guarantee of publication either, and it is often easier to get a grant than a publishing contract. But of course it's a start and you can get to know people in the industry through it.

There are also these publishers who advertise that they print every book. What is to be thought of them?

I would only do that as a last step. But there is one possibility. Then you should look for a publisher who only pays for what the publisher does. Some payment publishers are dubious, so you should find out more about them.

Do people still write a lot?

A lot of people write it. This is of course also a nice hobby. Not everyone is then published by a large retail publisher. But you may not necessarily have to have this ambition to write well and with pleasure. And some may succeed after all.


Astrid Poppenhusenis literary agent at the Berlin agency Piper & Poppenhusen.

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