Last update July 2010
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Looking for Agents and Publishers

Long gone are the days of the "gentleman" publisher who ran a small press, knew all of his (for it was mostly men) authors personally, and conducted business based on his word and a handshake.   The book publishing industry has undergone some sea-changes in recent decades and bankruptcies, mergers and takeovers have meant that although there are in the U.S. over 3,000 small, independent publishers, at the other end of the spectrum a few huge multinationals are responsible for perhaps 90% of the books being published in English each year.

So what's an aspiring author to do?   First of all , identify the publishers of authors whom you feel are similar to your own work.   Few things are more frustrating than receiving rejection-slips over and over, but much heartbreak (and postage) can be avoided by simply sending your work to someone who's already indicated a liking for that sort of thing.   You wouldn't send a dark thriller to the publisher of Mother Goose rhymes, would you?   Well, then, why send a cozy to a publisher that specializes in vampire tales?   The solution is simple: look at the title pages of books by authors whose work is similar to yours, and focus on them; then (if it's a recent book) look inside the book at the acknowledgments, to identify the author's editor or agent.   But finish your homework : visit their web-sites to see whether that person is still there, and whether they have any submission guidelines posted.   Do they allow simultaneous submissions?   Do they accept (or demand) online submissions?   Once you've identified their requirements make sure you follow them ; nothing will move a manuscript faster from the in-box to the wastebasket than the perception that it's amateurishly done.

Does size matter?

Yes -- at least in publishing!   The good news is that there's no single best size for a publisher.   While the larger publishing houses offer advantages such as visibility, wide distribution, and a large marketing staff, they are less apt to accept unagented or unsolicited submissions, may take longer to get back to you, and the vetting process may be more bureaucratic.   In contrast, some of the smaller independent presses are often more open to unagented inquiries, and offer personal contact and a close working relationship with authors.   There is fine work being turned out under the banners of smaller independent publishers, some of it by world-class authors.

Here is a brief list of English-based publishing houses that deal in mystery and crime fiction.   Check their websites for submission guidelines.

Crime Fiction Publishers

The Multinationals

The Hachette Book Group (HBG) comprises Center Street, Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books), Headline, Hodder, Little, Brown (including the imprints Reagan Arthur Books and Sphere Books), Orion Books, and Penguin Books.   Does not consider unsolicited queries or manuscripts.

HarperCollins list of imprints is extensive, but includes Avon Books, Harper Perrennial, and William Morrow Books. No unsolicited submissions or queries.

Macmillan is owned by the German-based Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (VGH) , and includes Farrar Strauss and Giroux, Henry Holt, Pan Macmillan, Picador, St. Martin's Press (which itself includes Griffin, Minotaur, and Thomas Dunne Books), Tom Doherty Associates, and Tor and Forge Books). The parent company Macmillan does not accept unsolicited submissions, but their imprint, Tom Doherty Associates, does.

Penguin Books also publishes under the imprint Viking Press .   Somewhat ambiguously, their policy is normally not to accept unsolicited manuscripts.  

The Random House Group (RHC) consists of Ballantine Press, Bantam, Chatto and Windus, Dell Publishing, Doubleday, Knopf, Pantheon, Random House, Seal Books, Transworld, and Vintage/Anchor imprints.   They do not accept unsolicited submissions, manuscripts or submission queries via e-mail;   Agented submissions recommended.  

Simon & Schuster includes the imprint Scribner.   They do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.   Agented submissions recommended.

Independent Presses

Among the smaller publishing houses that feature mystery and crime fiction are

Allison & Busby (British) Accepts only agented submissions.  

Dundurn Press (Canadian) No email submissions.

ECW Press (Canadian) Canadian authors only.

McArthur & Co. (Canadian) No unsolicited submissions.  

Midnight Ink (American) Agented submissions preferred, three-month turnaround; unsolicited submissions 4-6 months or longer; Submissions and queries by Microsoft Word file or PDF.

Poisoned Pen Press (American) Exclusive submissions only; no self-published or Print on Demand writers, or material published previously an another form (such as e-book); no short-stories or collections; no non-fiction; prefer U.S.-based writers; query by email only; certain themes only.

RendezVous Crime (Canadian) is an imprint of Napoleon and Company publishing. Authors must be based in Canada; submissions (sample chapters or finished manuscripts) must be accompanied by stamped, self-addressed envelope.  

Severn House (British) No unagented submissions, no authors unpublished in the UK or US fiction markets.

Soho Crime (American) Accepts unsolicited submissions from new writers; completed mss of 60,000 words or more; no formula fiction or quick reads; no electronic submissions.

Touchstone Press (American; a division of Simon & Schuster) Agented submissions only.

Touchwood Editions (Canadian) Canadian authors only. Accepts hard copy by mail, or by e-mail.

Other UK-based publishers

Is an agent essential?

Finding an agent

The vast majority of publishers require agented submissions.   This is their way of coping with the mountain of submissions they would otherwise get (and sometimes get anyway).   So how do you find an agent, and how do you know which ones are reputable and beyond that, a good fit?

Again, the first step is to look at the "Acknowledgements" section of a book by an author whose writing is similar to yours.   But check the date of publication as well; the agenting business can be rather volatile, and many agents either change agencies, open up their own agency, move into some other aspect of publishing, or quit the business altogether.

A useful second step is to ask authors.   If you find yourself at a crime-writing conference talking to an author (again, someone close to your own style), ask them who represents them, and whether they're happy with them; not all authors will respond to this (the really big ones get the question frequently), but as a group, most authors are fairly candid and remarkably generous with their advice.

Third, check the professional directories, such as   or   Another excellent general site is   Be aware that many directories charge for full access to their sites, and that some publishers of reference works charge agencies a fee to be listed in their printed directories.

Like publishers, agents and agencies often focus on specific literary genres.   Make sure they're open to what it is you do (cozies, hardboileds, thrillers, etc) before wasting their time and yours.

If you have any doubts about an agent see the (U.S.-based) Association of Author's Representatives at or (Britain's) Association of Authors' Agents,

Finally, be aware that getting an agent is not simply a matter of finding an agent that wants to work with you.   The relationship between an agent and author can be the most important factor in determining your literary career.   It must be a person who you have confidence in, and whom you can work with over the long term.   A good agent is part barracuda, part diplomat, part editor, and part auditor.   It's exactly like a marriage: rush in now, repent later.

It must be said that many authors, including award-winners with successful series under their belts, never find an agent to represent them.   This is not the end of the world, and if you manage to interest a publisher in your work, and develop a good working relationship, having an agent might not offer any real advantages.   It's all a matter of what you want from your writing, and how far you're prepared to take it.

An excellent source of additional information on such matters as query letters can be found at

Submitting your manuscript

Getting a publisher to read your work

Once you (or your agent) has found a publisher willing to read your work, several steps remain.

First, polish your manuscript : vet it for spelling, punctuation and editorial errors.   If you don't care to make it as good as possible, why should a potential publisher be interested?

Secondly, prepare a brief (one-page!) query letter , indicating why a publisher should take you seriously.   Are you a first-responder with experience in the field?   Or perhaps a lawyer or court-clerk with inside knowledge of how the system works?   If your novel has a medical emphasis, are you a lab technician or (even better) a pathologist?   Perhaps you are an academic, but with experience teaching creative writing.   Whatever your strengths are, they need to be mentioned.   Keep it brief; they don't care about your lifelong interest in teapots.

Thirdly, write up a one-to-two page synopsis of your story, including the solution (who did it, why and how?).   This will help convince potential publishers that they should spend some of their valuable time reading further.

Fourthly, be prepared to wait.   In the vast majority of cases it will take weeks or months before you hear back; in some cases it has been known to stretch close to a year!   Use the time wisely: begin another book.   Not only will it be time well spent, but if your submission is rejected it will take much of the sting out if you're already well into the next one and can see that it's a stronger book, with greater chances of being published.

Finally, don't give up : very few authors have their first work accepted the first time around, and the publishing industry abounds with tales of bestselling authors who were inundated with rejections.   John Grisham was reputedly turned down by fifty publishers before his first novel was accepted; the word is he's done not too badly since then!   Always remember that at the other end of the line your manuscript might be being read by a twenty-year-old intern whose literary taste runs in an entirely different direction.  

Your best allies are hope, perseverance, and an open mind.   A little luck doesn't hurt either.

Query letters

more coming soon

E-books and Self Publishing
coming soon

Publishing Scams

Cons and Scams

Aspiring authors are far from an endangered species, and unfortunately there are a lot of sleazy low-lifes out there who are prepared to take advantage of them.   From publishers who "guarantee" to get your book into print and charge outrageous fees or pocket the royalties, to editors who offer to help you prepare it for market (again, for an outrageous fee), to agents who demand money up front for showing your book around, to self-styled "marketing gurus" who say they can turn your book into a best-seller, writers need to be informed and vigilant about scams and rip-offs.   Here are some useful links that offer advice on contracts and finding an agent, as well as guidelines for identifying questionable practices and specific individuals and organizations to be avoided.

preditors and editors

cdn authors assoc

authors guild

guide lit agents

swfa writer beware

WRITER BEWARE: Warnings About the Schemes, Scams, and Pitfalls That Threaten Writers (from SFWA)

Pub(lishing) Rants

Miss Snark, the literary Agent