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How Publisher’s Marketplace Is Useful For Writers

The last time I got ready to query, I was advised to get 1-month subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace. It’s one of the best decisions I could’ve made.

I knew about Publisher’s Marketplace before then, and I’d written it off as too expensive ($25/month!) and not something I needed. I was wrong. It’s a case of not realizing how much you don’t know because you don’t know it.

So, what is Publisher’s Marketplace and why do you, a writer, need to dip into it?

What It Is

Publisher’s Marketplace is basically the who’s who directory and news hub of record for the publishing industry. They boast a readership of “40,000 industry insiders”, which includes editors and agents. It’s where book deals get announced. It’s where new job listings are posted. It aggregates book-related news items from other sources. Member agents have pages where they advertise themselves. Basically, it’s a big deal.

There’s also Publisher’s Lunch, a daily email service with deals and news. You can sign up for free for a curated sampling of deals, or paid subscribers get an email with every new deal of the day.

Why Writers Need It

Specifically, writers looking to publish traditionally need it. Publisher’s Marketplace is for the traditional publishing industry, and doesn’t really cover or cater to the indie market. If you want an agent, or you want to submit to a small press or editor directly, then Publisher’s Marketplace can help you.

Use the Dealmakers and Deals sections to look up prospective agents, editors, and houses. You can learn a lot from the deal history!

An agent might be really chatty online, but if they haven’t reported any sales in your genre in the last three years maybe they’re not a good fit for you.

You can also get a sense of how good the deals are. Not only will you learn who was involved (agent of record, editor, and house), every deal is also written up with a code phrase like “nice deal” or “major deal”  which indicates approximately how much money the publisher agreed to pay.

Here’s the deal key as of 2020, screencapped from the Report a Deal page:

deal key 2020

And you can see, the deal ranges are huge. There’s a loooot of room between $1 and $49,000! So they’re not super useful, but they do give one a general idea of how well an agent is selling and what a house is paying. If you see a dealmaker with a lot 6-figure deals, pay attention.

When I did research on agents I noted how many deals they had in the last year, how many were in my genre, how many 6-figure deals they had overall, and how many of those were in my genre. That quickly gave me a good sense of who was a solid agent to be repped by. I combined this data with all the other important stuff (MSWLs, other genres I want to write in, agency reputations, etc.) to put together my list. (I used AirTable for this, a single spreadsheet just wasn’t enough.)

How to Get In

Here’s the painful part. This amazing industry resource is behind a paywall, and everyone pays the same rate to access everything (no a la carte options). The rate is $25 a month. I know. I winced, too.

Strategy 1: Subscribe only as long as you need to.

For a lot of writers that’ll be one month, during which you do as much research as possible. You can cancel the recurring subscription as soon as you’re registered and still get access through that first month. This is what I did, because I felt it was time for me to find out what everyone was talking about.

Strategy 2: Ask someone with a subscription to look things up for you.

If you know someone with an active subscription and you just need to check one or a small handful of things, you can ask if they’ll do you this favor. If it’s more than a handful of searches I wouldn’t make this ask, because navigating the site is not easy. (I don’t think the design has been updated in at least a decade.) Offering to swap favors (critiques, resources, etc.) is always a good idea.

Strategy 3: Combine resources with other writers and share a subscription, for however long.

If you’ve got solid writing buddies who also want in, you can all chip in to pay for a subscription and share the access among yourselves.

I would consider this an essential tool for writers seeking traditional publication, and I’m so glad I took the plunge to subscribe when I really needed it.

Do you know of any other ways Publisher’s Marketplace is useful for writers? Please do share in the comments!

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