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Why You Need a Literary Agent

Two frequently asked questions are: “What’s the point of literary agents?” and “Why should I work with an agent?”

After a writer has completed a book project, the next goal is to get it published. The writer has two options - he/she may opt to self-publish or collaborate with a literary agent. When a writer chooses to self-publish, he/she is responsible for sending letters to the publishing houses. The writer needs to get the attention of editors who will publish his/her work. Self-publishing is less costly but it can be stressful and time-consuming.

To answer the question, “What’s the point of literary agents?” There are many advantages in working with an agent. First of all, they are well-experienced and well-connected in the publishing industry. Literary agents have been doing their job for years, which makes them experts in their field and gives them direct contact to editors.

The work coverage of literary agents is extensive. Their work begins when an interested writer sends a proposal in the form of a query letter. The literary agent often states what he/she wants to receive from the writer. The agent may ask for the first 50 pages, the first three chapters, or the introduction of the book. The writer should strictly follow the requirements of the agent and send only the requirements and nothing more. From there, the agent will decide if the book is salable and if publishers would be interested in the writer. Upon concluding an agreement, the literary agent and the writer will work and make decisions together.

Some literary agents may require the writer to sign a contract regarding their collaboration while others just verbally agree to work together. However, it’s advisable to have everything in black and white so details about the commission, contract period, and other legal issues are clear.

The real work begins after the contract between the writer and agent has been formalized. Keep in mind that legitimate literary agents do not charge professional fees or representation fees; agents only get paid once an editor publishes the writer’s book. The standard commission literary agents get is 15% for local sales and 20% for international sales.

The agent will proofread and polish the book until he/she thinks it’s fit for presentation to editors from various publishing houses. Literary agents have an edge over self-published writers because the manuscript they send to editors is prioritized. Editors assume that agents would only send them quality and one-of-a-kind material.

On average, the literary agent will make follow-up calls and will meet with several editors from different publishing houses until he/she gets the best offer. The agent negotiates with the editor and makes sure the writer will be paid well.

They also make sure the contract between the publishing house and writer is detailed and clear. They are responsible for ensuring the writer fully understands the contract. Plus, agents make sure the writer gets paid on time.

Other responsibilities of a literary agent include the following: advising the writer regarding his/her long-term writing plans, keeping track of the publishing process, making necessary representations until the book is published and to continuously support the writer.

These are just a few answers to the questions, “What’s the point of literary agents?” and “Why should I work with an agent?” Overall, it’s better to work with an agent because they can jump start your writing career by getting your book noticed and published.