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Open Calls from Publishers–an Author’s Rights

Great news for Black authors and creators right now. Many publishers, including some Big Five, are opening their doors to un-agented submissions.

While I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity, I also beg you to understand your rights when doing so.

Keep Querying

Sending a submission to a publisher is not a promise of anything, so don’t let the opportunity slow down your search for an agent. Send the material to the publisher following whatever guidelines they provide and then keep querying agents.

Remember, the one thing you control during the querying process is the work you’re doing. Keep that momentum going.

Handling an Offer

Should the publisher call you and offer a book deal don’t agree to anything! Hang up the phone, dance all over the house, open a bottle of bubbly, eat lots of chocolate, call all of your friends, and then, the next day, contact agents.

Author Sami Ellis created this amazing cheat sheet of email templates to use when handling an offer of representation. We highly recommend it!

This is the start of your career and the best thing you can do for yourself is bring in that person who will act as your advocate, your business partner, and even your friend. I can promise you, the 15% will be worth it. Any good agent will easily earn you back her 15% and more.

No publisher will give you a hard time about getting an agent, and taking the time you need to do so. If they do, I would question their ethics. To be honest, and in my experience as an editor at a Big Five, editors prefer you bring on an agent. It’s so much easier negotiating a contract with someone who understands the system.

Good luck to everyone submitting!

Category: Blog



  1. I never knew a situation could happen like this which raises a question, if a publisher is interested what if the agents out there already turned down the query for the book the publisher now wants, what would cause that agent to suddenly like your idea when, for whatever reason, they didn’t care for it before? Or do you query someone you haven’t queried before on this project?

    1. That’s a decision you have to make. Certainly, you can get back in touch with agents who have passed. You can also try new agents or those who are already reviewing material.

    2. This is great news. Do you think it is easier for an agent to get on the radar of a publisher or an author going direct? I’m thinking personal relationships agents have built with editors will be more efficient and fruitful.

    1. My novel is a tragic family saga. It’s in the line of I Know This Much is True and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. It deals with abuse and touches on racism. It has a paranormal atmosphere. I’m wondering if self publishing may be the route. With the backlog of queries most agents have, I feel like I’m whispering in a hurricane. I wrote for myself. I feel my manuscript has a wide demographic. I’ve only queried six agencies and got the usual form rejections. I know I should query on, but the market seems to have changed considerably as of late.

  2. This is ridiculously unfair of publishers! I am a strong supporter of the black lives matter movement, but if they are going to open their channels for unagented black authors, then they should do it for all!

    1. I have been reading and learning and listening and this quote will answer why this is fair. This is something being done in order to create equity in publishing. I applaude it. “The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.” –Ibram X. Kendi

      1. That is a fabulous quote. I’m going to use it in my discussions with some friends. Thanks for sharing.

      2. This level of professionalism and compassion makes me happy to be part of this process. English isn’t my home language but I really love writing. When I create a world, I make sure not to include offensive content. There’s just too much discrimination especially in science-fiction. If God blesses me, I’ll write until I’m grey-haired. Equity allows us to bond with different cultures and learning diverse writing styles. Some of us need this time to reflect on how we’re treated. I can no longer accept the difficulty of finding books written by Black authors.

  3. Jessica, isn’t the flip side of this that if a publisher rejects the manuscript that’s a publisher a future agent won’t be able to submit to? And wouldn’t that mean it would be harder to secure an agent if some of the Big Five have already rejected the ms?

    As tempting as it might be to submit directly to one of the Big Five, I think my fears relating to the above questions (plus my hope an agent would recommend improvements before submission to publishers) will stop me from direct submission.

      1. Jessica, I’d love to hear more about what would allow an agent to resubmit, because I have only ever heard said that previous rejection from a publisher means an agent won’t be interested. Any chance you could blog or you tube that one? Thanks!

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