Four Things a Literary Agent Does - Raindance

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So you’ve written a great book. You’ve put the time, effort and tears into creating your masterpiece, but there’s one problem… you have no way to get people to read it. Sure, your mum and best friend are more than willing to give you praise for your work, but you deserve to see if your book can be enjoyed by the masses. But how do you get it into the hands of a publisher and therefore into the hands of readers? The answer is simple, you need a literary agent.

It must be said that most literary agents receive about a 15 percent of sales commission. “But why would I want to pay for an agent?” you might ask. You may find yourself wondering if dishing out extra money is worth it, but in the long-run it is.

Think of your agent as an investment. You may not get an immediate return, but your long-term gains will be much greater than they would be without one. Your book will, most likely, be purchased for a much greater amount when you have an expert advocating for it.

Here four things an agent does and why you should have one:

1. The job of an agent is to get your book purchased.

An agent acts as a middleman and will send out your manuscript to a potential publisher who would like to bid on it for its publication. Agents have a vast network of contacts and relationships with editors at publishing houses. They have the knowledge and experience to know what editors look for in a manuscript and know the best publications to send them to. An agent knows which publishing houses are on the lookout for the next big fantasy novel, a new horror writer, or which aren’t currently accepting submissions. In addition to the wide number of contacts they provide, agents bring a level of quality in the eyes of editors. Editors know that books submitted by an agent have been through a reviewing process, so those will usually go to the top of the pile. An agent wouldn’t represent a bad writer, so if you get one they believe you have a fighting chance and so will editors.

2. They try to get you the best deal.

An agent’s job is to negotiate all of the contracts with publishers. This part of their job is pretty straightforward because they make more money when you do. As someone who works on commission, it’s in their best interest to negotiate contracts that benefit you. Sure, you could try and do it yourself, but agents also take care of any disputes, royalties, and film rights. You may not know much about these issues, so it’s best to let a professional deal with them. Agents will also advocate for you in terms of negotiating an extension for a deadline and scheduling your book tour dates. Having someone to manage the business side of your book will free up your time and allow you to write a great sequel!

3. They offer valuable suggestions and advice.

A good agent will often give you input regarding your novel. They do this to help it become more marketable. The goal of an agent is to get your book sold to a publisher, so they will want to make sure it is the best it can be before its submission. Yes, they want to help you. No, you shouldn’t treat them like an editor and make them read your book line-by-line. Their job isn’t to offer you grammar revisions or help you learn how to write well. Their job is to offer suggestions and it’s your job as the writer to decide if you want to include them. An agent is all about the business behind your book, so they want to help you make changes that will sell more copies. 

4. You have someone who is ‘always on your side.’

It’s good to restate again that an agent won’t make money unless you do, so they will advocate on behalf of you. They want you to turn a profit so they make one as well. To do this, an agent will provide you will encouragement and try to keep you on the right path when it comes to writing. An agent will remind you about deadlines and be frank when it comes to revisions. They want your career to flourish, so they will be your ally throughout the process. But it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t there to be your personal assistant or banker. An agent will want you to be successful and for you to find your audience.

Overall, a writer’s best ally is their literary agent. It’s important to invest in one so that your book will be successful. An agent brings so much to the table and is such an integral component of a writer’s toolkit. Don’t try to navigate the publishing process on your own; get an agent and get your book sold. 

Learn more about ‘What Literary Agents Do (And Don’t Do) For Writers.



Erin is a Journalism student at the University of Missouri. When she isn't drinking copious amounts of coffee, she is watching horror movies and listening to podcasts. She hopes to break into the film marketing world post-graduation.

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