So You’re a Filipino (or non-US) Author Seeking International Agents/Publishers
I recently posted a rant / thread on Twitter after learning that several people in the local Filipino writing community were actively discouraging writers from looking to be agented abroad which, as some might know, is a personal pet peeve of mine.
In the process, I also learned that many Filipinos WOULD love to look for agents but, given a mix of misinformation and personal reluctance to reach out for fear of being a bother, a lot of writers are actually under the impression that tips and guidelines for querying available on the internet applies only to American authors.
That said, this post will hopefully serve to address some of those misconceptions. I would also like to point out that these will apply to most writers looking for representation, particularly for non-US authors who might also think that the current set of rules on querying do not apply to them.
I put out an open call earlier for writers to approach me for any questions they had in mind; based on their emails, I have a general idea of what they’re looking for and what they (erroneously) believe about traditional US publishing that I hope I’d clarified. To that end, I am taking the most common questions I’ve been asked in those emails and addressing them here as well, for those interested in the answers.
Friendly reminder before we start: writing is both the hardest and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. And we owe it to ourselves to write the best book we can.
Please note that these are for international publishing houses in the US and in the UK – this will not apply to local / Filipino publishing houses. When I refer to “traditional publishing”, it will always be the former.
Question #1: Will agents reject you if you’re an author seeking representation not from the US/UK?
Nope. That doesn’t matter to agents. As I wrote in response to an author who’d asked that question, you can be from Mars and they won’t care, as long as you write with an authentic Martian voice. When agents look through their queries, all they’re going to be interested in knowing is 1.) whether or not the manuscript appeals enough for them to take on and champion, and 2.) whether or not you follow their guidelines when it comes to querying. Not following their rules = won’t bother reading the rest of your query.
Question #2: But won’t the time difference affect your working relationship with agents and publishers? Won’t you need to go to the US to work on your projects with them?
The miracle of the internet is that you can do everything through emails and the occasional Skype call. The only problems you might face is figuring out a decent time for them to call you. Sometimes you might have to be more flexible, as agents might not be able to talk at certain hours of the day; I’ve had to take a 3 am call once because they were only available then! (Totally worth it.)
Here are examples of when an agent or publisher might prefer to call rather than email you:
- 1.) When an agent wants to represent you.
They’re going to want to call so they can tell you in detail how much they like your work and why they’ll be a better fit for you than any other agent who might express interest. This means that if there are 3 agents wanting to represent you, expect 3 calls. Bask in the flattery; you deserve it!
- 2.) When a publisher wants to offer you a book deal.
This is after getting your agent, revising your manuscript, and then going out on submission to different publishing houses. Interested editors will want to call you, again to explain why they would be a good fit for your book, and pitch their plans for marketing and promoting your novel. This might require Skype or some other method that allows for conference calls so your agent can phone in with you.
- 3.) Promotions and marketing.
After your book deal, you’ll have marketing executives and publicists working closely with you for your novel, together with your editor and copyeditors. They might want to call so they can offer specific details about how they want to plan your marketing campaign, and also ask for your input / suggestions.
Question #3: Do I need to get an agent? Can’t I just submit my manuscript to an editor of a publishing house instead?
Most notable publishers require an agent before accepting any manuscripts. When publishing houses state in their webpages that they don’t accepted “unsolicited manuscripts”, this is what they mean. Some few small publishing presses accept unagented work, but their promotions and financial compensation may also not be as much.
I should also note that agents damn well earn their pay. They make sure that you’re not taken advantage of by publishers and make sure you get the most out of your book deal – they earn a 15% commission for every book you sell, which means the more money they can get you, the more money for them, too. I’d highly recommend getting an agent every time.
There are, of course, some exceptions. Some good publishing houses will accept unagented work for genres such as poetry collections or certain romance imprints (these are usually limited only to digital imprints, with an option for print copies if your work is popular enough), but the general rule is that agents generally make your life easier, and will read the fine print for you and explain any legal jargon you might not understand.
Question #4: How much do I have to pay an agent or an editor for my work?
DON’T DO THIS.
I cannot stress this enough. YOU SHOULD NOT BE PAYING AGENTS OR EDITORS FOR ANY BOOK DEAL. No respectable agency or publishing house will ever ask you to pay to have your book published at any point in the process.
Agents only get paid after your book sells to a publisher, and they will collect a 15% commission from your earnings. Publishers will send you a check for advances once a deal has been made, and once you’ve earned out that advance, will start sending you royalty checks. Agencies or Publishing houses claiming to require a fee upfront are scammers and vanity presses – stay away from them all, because they’re going to hell soon enough.
Question #5: Will my agent / editor represent me for all my books?
Once your agent offers to represent you, they’ll also represent all other future books you’ll be writing, until one of you chooses to end the relationship (details of which will be stipulated in your agent contract).
This is not the same for publishing houses. Publishing houses will usually initially offer a 2-book deal (more if you plan a trilogy or a longer series and they feel this is marketable) and then sometimes add an options clause in your contract where they can ask for first dibs on your next book / series. This means that they can read your next book and make an offer before any other publisher can look at it. If they’re not interested, they can choose to pass on the book, and you can now sub that same book to other pubs. Publishers are more focused on developing a specific book / series; agents are focused on developing your career.
Question #6: Can I submit my self-published book to agents and / or publishers?
Once you post your book anywhere on the internet, even if it’s just your blog, publishers consider that “published”. They are not likely to take on your work UNLESS it’s been proven to be a runaway bestseller (Amanda Hocking, Cora Carmack). That said, the chances of you getting an agent and a book deal via the normal route is much greater than the chances of publishers seeing your self-pubbed work and making an offer.
Question #7: Why should I look for an agent / a US book deal? Why not just get self-pubbed?
Hey, if that’s what you want, then please don’t let me stop you. Some people prefer self-publishing over finding rep and going through the traditional route, and that’s perfectly ok.
But the thing is, you can try finding rep first and, if you decide this isn’t the right path for you, self-publish your work. But you can’t usually do the reverse – you can’t self-publish, and then use that same book to find an agent and a publishing house. The one thing that makes self-publishing more appealing at times, I’ve found, is that you don’t go through a series of rejections like most do when finding an agent and going out on submission with publishers.
And that’s the thing. Rejection is a writer’s way of life. I have been rejected soooo many times I can’t even count them anymore. Self-rejection is a big thing even among published authors. But if you want to be a writer, you have to believe that your stories are worth reading and at the same time come to the plate humble, knowing that you can still do better, write better, only if you allow for criticism. We all have that impostor syndrome where we think no one wants to read our stories, but impostor syndrome is absolutely common. We have to start taking risks if we want more people reading our books.
And we should.
Question #8: Are agents and publishers really looking for Filipino literature?
Look at all these agents and editors.
A reminder that I’m closed to queries but if you have YA K-Drama(esque) lit or Filipino lit (especially with Taglish) I want to hear from you and my DM is always open. pic.twitter.com/1KVjFu9lmu
— Publishing Harpy of Misandry (Pam) (@NerdyPam) February 7, 2018
please tell every Filipino writer to send me their books.
— dongwon (@dongwon) February 8, 2018
I'm still waiting for a revision I asked for from a writer I met at PILF. I met a lot of writers with potential at the festival–I hope someday someone will send a ms that's a good fit.
— Stacy Whitman (@stacylwhitman) February 8, 2018
I would LOVE some Filipino fantasy or SFF. Please don't self-select out! https://t.co/OpAN7wcRHr
— Brit Elisabet Hvide Busse (@bhvide) February 8, 2018
— Kurestin Armada (@kurestinarmada) February 8, 2018
I also think otherwise! I'm 100% interested.
— Connor Goldsmith (@dreamoforgonon) February 8, 2018
I'm closed to unsolicited queries at the moment, but this would be an exception for me — writers should put 'solicited' in the email heading!
— Connor Goldsmith (@dreamoforgonon) February 8, 2018
Rin, you’re amazing. And I’d be honored to see more submissions like these in my inbox. It’s a particular interest to me, as there are many Phillipine who live over here (in Israel)
— Rena Bunder Rossner (@renarossner) February 8, 2018
I would love to see more Filipino stories! Hugely underrepped in kidlit. And I went to Catholic school with a strong Filipina community. Every classroom potluck had 2-3 different lumpia.
— Roseanne Wells (@RivetingRosie) February 8, 2018
Me too! Send them on if they're SFF, please! (Or non-fiction… I love popular history.)
— Jennie Goloboy (@JennieGoloboy) February 8, 2018
I would love to see more Filipino SFF queries (adult or YA!) in my inbox.
— Lisa Rodgers (@_LisaRodgers) February 9, 2018
— Gabbie Piraino (@nerdplusdog) February 9, 2018
Rin!! This thread is giving me so much joy. Chiming in to say I would LOVE to see more stories by Filipino authors come in from agents!!!
— Stephanie Stein (@stephlystein) February 9, 2018
Rin, thanks so much this thread. I am VERY interested in these stories! I would love tot see them in my query inbox.
— Caitie Flum (@caitief) February 9, 2018
I am here for Filipino YA, too!!!
— Kat Enright (@katenright) February 12, 2018
Hi Rin, thank you so much for the shoutout–but I want to clarify that I'm actually still an editorial assistant, but I am actively acquiring! Thank you for all that you do–as a FilAm myself, I really appreciate it!
— Kat Enright (@katenright) February 13, 2018
I’m late to reading this thread but would love to hear from Pinoy writers (& illustrators) for whom your thread has stirred up writing/art-making/querying hope & courage! Sub. guidelines on my website and on the @RootLiterary website.
— Molly O'Neill (@molly_oneill) February 13, 2018
And this is just the tip of the iceberg, guys.
(Please note: BEFORE you query, read their guidelines about how they want to be queried! Do NOT embarrass me and do that Filipino thing where y’all go bahala na and just query without reading their agency query rules anak ng pating naman kayo o)
To summarize; you have as many chances as every other writer of color to get an agent, American or otherwise. You only need to write a book that agents and editors would like to read. That’s it. That’s how easy – and difficult – it is!
And finally, a very pointed barb against Filipino writers who constantly discourage others from looking for agents and publishers outside of the motherland, because I’ve always been one to be blunt – stop telling other people they’re not good enough to be published abroad just because you aren’t good enough.
I’ll be doing a lot more of these tips and guidelines for Filipino writers (and anyone else looking for agent rep who feels like they’re getting good info from my posts, really) including either blogging about them here or making threads about it on Twitter where I’ll be using the hashtag #SEACritterspub, an initiative with several other Southeast Asian authors.
For my next post, I’m going to give some very brief information on querying and finding agents! (Yup, there’s a lot of these guidelines already floating about the internet, but I’ve noticed, especially among Pinoys, that they’d like guidelines specifically catered to the non-US crowd so they’re sure they’re doing things right, and that’s what I hope to do!) If you’re afraid that you might miss any of my posts, do sign up for my newsletter where I’ll be keeping track of what I’ve got for the month!
You might also want to follow a very lovely Pinoy writer named Gail Villanueva, who has great tips of her own!