Many of the large scale publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Which, when you’re starting out and trying to find someone, anyone, to read your work, reduces the number of options significantly. For those dreaming of getting that six figure publishing deal with one of the big five houses, you will need a literary agent. There is no if and or but about it. For these power houses to even consider looking at your work, they need to know it first caught the eye of an industry professional: enter, the lit agent.
When seeking the representation of a professional literary agent, the process is pretty much exactly the same as approaching a publisher. Query letters, synopsis, page samples. Trying to get an agent to request the entire manuscript is just as difficult as getting a publishing house to do the same. Some may suggest doing the leg work yourself, get that elusive publishing contract in hand, then go looking for an agent to simply close the deal for you.
So you may wonder, why bother? Why do twice the work for the same outcome?
Here is why:
- getting someone to read your unagented work almost impossible. The majority of houses are closed to work not rep’ed by a agent, and in most cases it may take more than a year to get anyone to consider even looking at it. And even in those cases, it is unlikely to be an acquisitions agent, but an intern. Even if your work is amazing, chances are there is always an author backed by an agent standing just in front of you
- It is true that smaller presses will happily look at unagented works. But, if you are looking to pitch to the larger, more influential houses, your efforts are best spent finding an agent to back you. It may take a while to find an agent to support you, but then you do, they will do all the leg work that you found so daunting. Also, the publisher response times are cut, mostly, in half. Additionally, rather than your precious manuscript being in the hands of an intern or assistant, with the agents backing your work will end up in the hands of those who can make your dreams come true
- Agents know your rights. They are on your side, and their job is to get you the best possible deal for your work. Most agents have focused preferences with genres, know those seeking that type of work, and know the legalities around it. They are specialists in their genres, and know the ins and outs.
- They are your first round of professional editing. Granted, even if you think your manuscript is flawless, chances are there are still areas for improvement. Your publisher will request plenty of changes, so be prepared. But, with the help of a literary agent, you can narrow those changes down. Initial editing, scene changes and the like can be made between you and your agent before a publisher sees it. This makes your work its best possible state and biggest impact.
- They fight for you. They know what your book is worth on the constantly changing market, and can fight for royalty and advance increases as appropriate. In some cases, an agent can increase your advance by 50% the initial offer. Let them work for you!
- The final and most important thing…they will hold your hand. The publishing world, for a newcomer, is a scary place. You need someone knowledgeable, someone supportive, and someone who knows what was to come. Your agent is that person who can bridge all the gaps between the new, fledging writer, and the future successful best seller you can be!
Obviously, there are plenty of other aspects to be considered. Finding the right agent, finding the right genre, are all important steps to consider. You need to have a connection with your agent, not just a name. You need to relate to them, and be able to trust that they will work for you and find you the best possible real in the publishing world.
It is a lot of work, but the outcome could be much more lucrative if you query agents before publishers. Especially if your goals are one of the big five, you cannot hope to get your toe in the door without them. And even when you do, you need someone who knows the business to navigate its slippery slopes on your behalf.
Let a literary agent be your sidekick in your writing adventure!
Peterson, V. (2015). What does a book agent do to get your book published? Retrieved from http://publishing.about.com/od/BookAuthorBasics/a/Literary-Agents-Do-You-Need-A-Literary-Agent-For-Your-Book.htm
Strauss, V. (n.d.). Why a Writer Needs a Literary Agent. Retrieved from http://www.sfwa.org/why-a-writer-needs-an-agent/