If you want to opt for the traditional route of book publication, you will need a literary agent. On the other hand, if you are self-publishing, you don’t need a literary agent. Also, if you have confined yourself to pursuing only the smaller publishers, you don’t need a literary agent, as the smaller publishing houses accept submissions directly from the writers.
You might think of your literary agent as a lawyer who is good to have – even – if you are thinking about approaching small publishers for the moment. You will have to write a professional query letter and send it out to the literary agent who you believe could be representing your manuscript the best.
Who is a literary agent?
A literary agent represents you and is a professional and potentially increases your chances of getting a better deal.
You will want to think of the literary agent as a matchmaker for your book, as their job is to get you to the right publisher and help you throughout your professional writing career.
Nonetheless, as a novice writer, you should know that getting a literary agent could be the hardest part of your entire writing career. Getting a literary agent is the uphill part – it requires patience and determination as it might take months, even years, to land a deal.
You can also expect loads of rejections. Many writers tend to give up pursuing a writing career because of the many rejections.
However, once you get the literary agent, it gets so much easier, and you can kick-start your writing career as a traditionally-published author.
To get a suitable literary agent, you will want to start by doing your research and find literary agents who represent books of the same genre and send out emails – or – query letters to pitch your book.
Now that we have covered the basics about why you need a literary agent and how to approach them, let us talk about a few things that most people don’t know about literary agents.
You Don’t Have to Pay Them Upfront
The thing about literary agents is that you don’t have to pay them upfront. With that said, you will want to beware of literary agents who ask you to pay them upfront. If they do – you know – it is a shady business, and you shouldn’t be spending your hard-earned money on scams.
An upfront payment isn’t the standard for working with literary agents. According to the standard agreement, a literary agent would take 15% of your revenue generated from the book deals that the literary agent negotiates for you at one of the big publication houses.
The payment doesn’t include your advance and the royalties that you get as a writer. With traditional publishing, the writer gets an advance before their book comes out, and then if they make more than their advance in their royalties – they start getting royalty checks afterward.
Nonetheless, according to the typical standards, the literary agent will take 15% of all of those revenues. If you look at it, you see that the literary agent doesn’t make money until you – the writer – starts to generate revenue.
For the literary agent, it is a commission-based structure. It is important to mention here that the standard commission for the literary agent varies from one region to another.
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An Experienced Agent isn’t necessarily the Better Option
Another thing that newbie writers tend to misunderstand is considering a more senior agent as a better resource. In other words, for a professional agent who has been representing writers for a long time and is therefore well-known in the publishing industry – they aren’t necessarily a better option for you.
Of course, it feels amazing to be represented by one of the OGs – but – often, literary agents who represent grand names have been in the industry for quite a while, which means that they might not be interested in taking on new clients.
And it would be pretty rare if they were to take on new clients. As a newbie writer, it might be easy to understand and reach the general conclusion that those senior agents might not be as hungry and eager as newer agents to get clients on board.
Also, it is a misconception to think that only because an agent is newer and younger – they are not well-connected or they don’t have sufficient exposure to have enough industry relationships. The thing about the new literary agents is that they are often working at well-established agencies, and that they have solid relationships with publishers.
Also, the literary agents might be recent, but they might have come from another part of the industry; they could have been editors at grand publishing houses – for instance. This way, the literary agents will know their previous colleague editors at their old publishing house.
This way, the new literary agents already have built a network and have those contacts in place. You get the point – you shouldn’t assume that a younger or newer agent isn’t the way to go. You can pitch the newer agents and move forward in the writing career.
Sometimes – the best option is actually to pitch those newer agents because they are actively building their client base. So, they are actively looking for talented writers to represent, which is great for you.
Literary Agents will Have Your Back
Finally, most people don’t realize that agents are so much more than salespeople. A literary agent goes beyond just selling your book. Of course, the primary focus of a literary agent is to help you land a great book deal – and – sell your book by negotiating on your behalf.
But – a good agent is creatively minded too. They will be your helping hands throughout your writing career – once you land a deal with them. They will give you honest reviews and brilliant ideas to incorporate into your book.
If you look at it – a literary agent is there for you – you will have a long-term relationship with them as they will constantly help you get better. A literary agent is someone who would like to be involved with you in the writing process. They will have your back and be one of your biggest supporters.