Bookseeker Literary Agency

Introducing authors and publishers.


Some of our dos and don’ts.

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The following isn’t a list of dos and don’ts for you, but rather it’s an explanation of a few things we look out for, and our attitude to them.

Firstly, when we take on a client’s book as a project, we don’t simply flood all the UK publishers with its details. We start by looking through publishers’ details on firstwriter.com or in our 2011 copy of The Writer’s Handbook – that’s the last year it was published, but it still contains interesting information – or through a few other handy sources we know of. We make a selection of likely publishers and prepare an approach to them. Amongst the hundreds of publishers out there we find:

no agentsPublishers who say “We do not deal with agents”.

This is okay in the case of small poetry presses. We’ve always said that agents tend to get in the way when it comes to poetry submissions. However, in the case of mainstream fiction publishing, for example, obviously we won’t contact someone on your behalf who states specifically that they don’t want to hear from us. We do have our doubts, however, about why they would encourage an author not to have someone to look after his or her interests. Go into deals with such publishers with your eyes open, and if there is anything about the deal they offer that doesn’t strike you as being 100%, don’t let them put you off seeking impartial advice, or from bringing in an agent at that stage.

Vanity publishers.

We will not deal with them at all. There are so many of them with listings at firstwriter.com but most of them can be filtered out in a search. However, they are good at disguising themselves, and it’s often necessary to read the feedback to find them out.

Publishers who offer packages which include author-subsidised ones.

Many smaller publishing houses do include such packages, in order to finance wider publishing; if they also offer outright commercial contracts then that’s fine by us – we consider such publishing houses to be legitimate, and in fact our South African partner P’kaboo falls into this category. However, our prime concern is to get commercial contracts with for our clients, and that’s what we’ll push for.

Publishers who charge ‘reading fees’.reading-clipart-3

Again, many publishing houses do offer other clearly defined services, such as reading agency or editorial services – that’s fine. For a publisher to charge simply for reading a submitted manuscript is another matter. It’s not something we like to see, even though some perfectly respectable publishing houses have been known to do it.

Publishers with genuine bad feedback from authors.

firstwriter.com gives authors the opportunity to comment on their dealings with any business that has an entry. We always look at those. It’s easy to dismiss those that simply display pique at rejection – many rejection slips are curt and that’s that, it goes with the territory – but other comments are very valuable in pointing out both problems and good points. It’s amazing how many ‘publishing houses’ there are out there that exist in name only, that seem to offer the chance of a commercial contract, but then send a rejection along with a suggestion that you try their ‘sister company’, which will always be a vanity publisher!

Publishers who expect authors to be pro-active in marketing and promotion.

This isn’t unreasonable, particularly for smaller presses. However it’s a matter of degree. Disabled authors, including one with ‘unseen disabilities’, or someone living remotely, are unlikely to be able to do much direct selling themselves. A few book-signings and readings are fairly standard, but we would discourage a client from committing to widespread travelling at his or her own expense. There’s nothing unreasonable about being asked by a small publisher how many of your own books you would be prepared to buy; being expected to buy a minimum, particularly if that ‘minimum’ is fairly large, is almost tantamount to vanity publishing, and should be approached carefully.

Publishers who reply to an email enquiry with an automatic “We do not accept submissions by email” message.

Yes, we get some like that, even were we to put “THIS IS NOT A SUBMISSION” in the subject box of our initial email! We make a note of publishers who don’t even read the first line of what they’re sent.

Strangely, publishers seem to be split evenly between those who don’t accept submissions by email and those who don’t accept hard copy. Each group has its own reasons (and they sound similar!), but when it comes down to it we wish those who don’t accept submissions by email would realise that this is the 21st century.

There are, of course, exceptions to all the above, and some set-ups suit some authors but not others. Mainstream publishers can’t afford to take on every hopeful author – probably less than 2% of everything submitted is published – and the other businesses are there to accommodate the 98%. Many authors decide to self-publish, and some do so quite successfully, which brings us on to another topic.

Do we represent books that have already been self-published?

We tend not to. That’s not an absolute, but by and large we see that a self-published book brings along its own problems. Most publishers, if they’re taking on new work, will prefer that it is entirely new. The sales figures from your self-published book are a two-edged sword. If they have been meager, then that is sometimes seen as an indication that the book is unsellable; if they have been comparatively large, then that is sometimes seen as eating too far into potential sales. It can be a lose-lose situation.

woman-writing-letters-by-charles-dana-gibsonSo please don’t expect miracles from us if we take on your work as a project, and don’t assume that if we report back to you that we’ve met with no success that means we haven’t been doing our job. Nothing could be further from the truth. Above all, be very proud of the fact that you have produced a book – a work of art, if you like.

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firstwriter.com publish a couple of very interesting articles on how to spot a scam literary agent, and how to choose a good one. We don’t appear to tick any of the boxes in the first article, and only miss a few in the second, mainly because we’re not a ‘big’ agency. So far so good.


A new novel by Hector P Cortes available for publishers!

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Miura: A story of Spain by Hector Placido Cortes is now being offered to UK publishing houses. The novel traces the life of two boys – one a doctor’s son the other a Gitano – from the aftermath of the Spanish Civil war until the death of the dictator Franco. Part romance, part adventure, part political, part historical, the novel depicts injustices of Spain during the dictatorship. The Gitano‘s story is a rags-to-riches one, as he becomes a famous bullfighter; his story is not a happy one, however. The doctor’s son becomes one of Spain’s top surgeons, and learns at first hand the dangers of being too close to the dictator. A riveting read, it is ideal for a general adult readership.

Please apply to this agency for a synopsis etc.

Hector P Cortes

Hector P Cortes

Hector P Cortes, who unfortunately is no longer with us, was a musician who had worked in Spain, Austria, France, Italy and the UK. He was honoured by the London College of Music in which he studied, being given an Honorary Fellowship for “distinguished services to the art of music”. He was invested a Knight of the Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (Templars) for the same reason, and rose to the rank of Knight Commander. He is mentioned in Baron’s Who’s Who; the 500 Great minds of Europe, and was an honorary member of the University of Malaga. He was a conductor, accompanist, soloist, recording artist, lecturer, and also Founder and Bandmaster of the Regimental Band of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.

When Hector decided to retire as a musician and devote his time to writing, he settled in the quiet rural town of Westbury, in Wiltshire. His wife Johanna, a soprano who has sung all over Europe, and has been given rave reviews by the Press everywhere, also decided to retire along with him. His death was a great loss to his family, and to this agency.

The agency continues to act for Hector’s estate in the matter of Miura.


A (second) grand day out!

Warm sunshine and the Highland Games half a mile away meant that Day 2 of the Opening at Balbirnie was bustling and well-patronised. Added attractions were face-painting, an impromptu poetry-reading, and music on ukelele and guitar.

A visitor checking out books at 'Reading Corner'.

A visitor checking out books at ‘Reading Corner’.

A study in concentration and serenity - painting the faces of the leaflet posse.

A study in concentration and serenity – painting the faces of the leaflet posse.

Instrumental break.

Instrumental break.


A grand day out…

Balbirnie base2

The day dawned grey and drizzly, but soon the sun came out and visitors started to arrive, along with press photographers. It turned out that we had been allocated more space than I had anticipated – a whole bookcase revitalised by Aval-Ballan as it happened – so I sent for more books. At the moment we have Erica Emdon’s Jelly Dog Days plus Lupa and I am not a fish by Marie Marshall, as you see in the photograph below. As we have the loan of this space for as long as we like, I shall be moving some more books in as soon as I can, hopefully on behalf of P’kaboo Publishers.

Balbirnie reading corner 2

The space at Balbirnie Craft Centre could be put to all kinds of uses. Some of the artists run workshops, but the Collective would probably consider requests from people who wanted to run an event of their own (exhibit art, stage poetry readings, etc.).