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Blog 04.26.2023

LITERARY AGENTS 101

Do You Need a Literary Agent?

If you are new to the writing industry, you may have thought that simply completing your book was the end of your task. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Once you’ve written your book, unless you have decided to self-publish, you now must find a publisher willing to produce it. But how? This is where a good literary agent could assist you. But do you really need one? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the type of book you are writing, your goals for publication, and your experience in the publishing industry.

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What Type of Book Have You Written?

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If you are writing a novel, a non-fiction book that is likely to be of interest to a large audience, or a book for children, then you will likely need a literary agent to help you get your book published. Literary agents have connections to publishers and can help you negotiate contracts and get your book into the hands of readers. Keep in mind, if you are still in the planning process and have not yet written your book, that non-fiction outsells fiction 10:1. Your chances are greatly increased if you write that type of book. However, if you have written or are considering writing a work of fiction or a children’s book, you can do yourself a favor by creating a following online for your work prior to reaching out to an agent for representation. 

Self-Representation

Can you go it alone? The simple answer is “Yes.” However, many major publishing companies will not speak to unrepresented authors, so not having an agent could mean you will have to limit your submissions to just those willing to take a chance on someone without an agent. Also, consider that the average time for an agent to find you a publisher is around 18 months, then it takes up to a year to have the book bound and published. If you are looking to get your book out there quickly, then going the traditional route may not be for you. 

If you are writing a self-help book, a memoir, or a book that is not likely to be of interest to a large audience, then you may be able to get your book published without an agent. There are a number of self-publishing companies that can help you get your book into print, and you can also sell your book directly to readers through online retailers like Amazon. Good reputable companies include BookBaby, Lulu, and Kindle Direct

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If you are not sure whether you need a literary agent, it is always a good idea to do some research and talk to other writers about their experiences. You can also attend writing conferences and workshops to learn more about the publishing industry.

Pros and Cons of Literary Representation

Here are some of the benefits of having a literary agent:

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  • Literary agents can help you get your book into the hands of publishers.
  • Literary agents can negotiate contracts on your behalf.
  • Literary agents can advise you on marketing and promotion.
  • Literary agents can provide feedback on your work.
  • Literary agents can help you build a career as a writer.

Here are some of the drawbacks of having a literary agent:

  • Literary agents typically charge a commission on your earnings.
  • Literary agents may not be able to get your book published.
  • Literary agents may not be able to get you the best deal possible.
  • Literary agents may not be able to provide you with the level of attention you need.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to get a literary agent is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer, and the best decision for you will depend on your individual circumstances.

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