I have often turned to Jeff Herman’s continuing updated guide to book publishers, editors and literary agents. When I first started writing, years ago, I turned to it in seeking an agent. His book lists hundreds of agents, most of who, as expected, live in New York City.
When I started Neworld Review in 2007, Herman’s book was really a Godsend, because I was able to used it to contact publishers, editors and publicity departments at “a numerically tiny oligarchy of multinational, trillion-dollar conglomerates,” independent presses and university presses. This provided me with a ready stream of book and publishing information that allowed me to stay up to date with the latest trends in the publishing industry.
What was also invaluable was Herman’s advice to new writers about how to avoid some of the scams that permeate the industry, as predators exploit would-be authors, authors that would do almost anything to get published.
“Bogus agents make money in countless ways,” he writes, “other than by doing what real agents do. Bogus agents tend not to ever sell works to traditional publishers and don’t operate on the basic of earning commissions. Instead, they may offer amazing promises and an itemized menu of non-agent services, like simply reading your works for a fee… If someone says she will be your agent and if you pay her money, then she isn’t a bona fide agent.”
But the best point he made about the current state of the publishing industry reliance on agents as the gatekeepers was in his introduction: “In the beginning, my primary motive for doing this book was to give writers valuable information that was cloaked from them by habit, if not volition. It seemed that the screening process was unduly influenced by factors entirely separate from merit. Those who were fortunate enough to be from certain communities, to have attended certain schools, or to have the right connections were more likely to get published. If access to the process wasn’t fairly distributed, it followed that the opportunities were rigged. Clearly, cultural constraints are harmful for society, whether imposed by a government or by inbred subcultures.”
Enough said. Make of Jeff Herman’ comments what you will, but I think he is on to something. Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents is highly recommended by me for would be authors.
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