What Are Literary Agents?

Professional sports players have agents, models and movie stars have agents. Even people looking to sell their home enlist the aid of an agent so it makes sense that authors will have someone to help them market their stories as well. For authors, a literary agent is often the best way to get their book published on a larger scale. To better understand how a literary agent can help with publishing, let’s take a deeper look into what a literary agent actually is.

The Definition of A Literary Agent?

In short, a literary agent is a person who will read a manuscript or book and then sign on the author if they feel that the book is marketable. While this may seem like a straightforward job, literary agents are paid a portion of the book sales and tend to be very selective of which clients they choose to represent. They work on pitching their client’s books to publishers and helping to negotiate attractive contracts with publishers for the benefit of the client, the book’s author.

What Do Literary Agents Do?

Once a literary agent takes on a client, the writer, they become their representative. Writers are selected in a variety of ways ranging from networking at literary events to direct submissions from aspiring authors themselves. After securing a contract to represent an author, they will then work with them to prepare their manuscript and create query letters that can be sent to publishing houses to pitch their material. Each agent will generally stick to a small range of genres which allows them to better serve the authors they represent.

Why Are Literary Agents Important For Publishing?

Writing a book takes a specific amount of skill, marketing that book to publishers takes a completely different set of skills. A literary agent has the skills and the industry knowledge that allows them to get manuscripts in the hands of people who have the power to launch writers’ careers. They also have a long history in the field and have been able to develop critical relationships that will help them match publishers and authors that can benefit mutually from a business relationship. A good agent can even generate enough interest in a manuscript that it goes to auction. During auctions, multiple editors can bid and therefore drive up the price, or advance that an author will receive for their manuscript.

A literary agent is critical in helping authors not only getting picked up by a publishing house but also ensuring they get fair contracts. Book contracts are extremely complex and cover a range of points such as royalties, payment types, amounts, percentages, and even their rights to their work. An agent will be able to guide and negotiate the best terms on behalf of the author.

Do You Have To Hire a Literary Agent?

It is possible to get published without the help of a literary agent, but the likelihood is extremely low. Authors can always self-publish on Amazon but in most cases, this is very expensive or only available on a smaller scale. A literary agent is a great way to get access to otherwise inaccessible editors and also help provide invaluable guidance in what can be an utterly confusing process. So, while you may want to avoid the hassle of finding an agent to represent you, it is worth the effort and ultimately may be the best and most expedient path to getting published. For those interested in becoming a literary agent, it is a great way to generate and income while helping upcoming authors realize their publishing dreams.