It’s a common question asked by writers looking to get their first book published: Do you find an editor or agent first? The answer depends on each writer’s situation.

I frequently receive questions from writers about getting their books published. One very common question involves whether writers should find an editor or agent first. It would be great if the answer was always the same, but it really does depend on the situation.

(20 Literary Agents Actively Seeking Writers and Their Writing.)

Writers who want to get published by one of the big publishers (or their many, many imprints) need to secure a literary agent first in nearly every case. Every so often, an imprint will loosen their submission guidelines a bit to allow open submissions from writers, but that’s a rarity.

Writers who wish to get published by regional or university presses will frequently submit directly to the publisher without the assistance of a literary agent. The margins usually aren’t there to make submissions to smaller presses worth an agent’s time, since they typically receive 15% commission on the sale.

What About Collections of Poetry and Short Fiction?

Poets and writers of short fiction often ask about getting their collections of stories and poems published. Often, they want to jump straight to landing a literary agent and a book deal, but these forms of writing tend to follow a different path that focuses on publishing individual poems and stories in print and online publications first.

(How Do I Get My Poetry Published?)

After getting several stories and poems published in publications, writers will collect their work and submit directly to publishers and/or writing contests for unpublished book-length collections. If a writer wins an award or gets anthologized, an agent may reach out to the writer directly.


Discover how the seven core competencies of storytelling—concept, character, voice, plot, theme, scene construction, and style—combine to create compelling narrative.

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