A literary agent is a professional book agent that represents writers in the book publishing world and gets their stories made into books. They help authors get publishing deals, negotiate the best price and contracts, and sell books faster in the traditional publishing method. Literary agents stay with the writers throughout the book publishing process, right from reading the manuscripts and providing guidance in book writing to signing agreements and collaborating for future projects.
In this blog, we will explain what a literary agent does for authors like you, and if you are self-publishing a book, do you require one?
What Do Literary Agents Do?
A literary agent reads your manuscript, agrees to represent you, and markets your story to the right publishers, if they like it.
Since literary agents earn only when a book sells, they agree to represent an author only when they believe the manuscript has great potential for sale.
Literary agents often specialize in a particular genre. They are constantly reading. They read not only the submitted manuscripts but also the bestsellers of other authors and publication houses to understand the current reading trends and ensure they find the books that will appeal to today’s readers.
Since most traditional book publishing companies do not accept direct submissions from aspiring writers, a literary agent can be the most effective middleman between traditional book publications and writers.
You can work with an independent literary agent or hire the services of a literary agency.
Literary Agents can Also Help You Publish an eBook. Click on this Link to Read the Benefits and Challenges of Publishing eBooks.
What are the Roles of Literary Agents in the Book Publishing Industry?
A good literary agent can help you in the business and writing sides of the publishing process. Here are some of the roles and responsibilities of a literary agent:
- They work as a writer’s business partner. They will be your biggest champion and advocate. Literary agents will help you find the right book publisher and tirelessly ensure you get the best deal.
- They read, review, and edit manuscripts. A literary agent will be your first editor, whether you write a poetry book, a collection of short stories, or a novel. They will not hesitate to offer creative inputs and insights to make sure the book is in the best possible shape before presenting it to the publisher.
- They help authors get work. Having worked with several book publishing companies, literary agents understand how to negotiate publishing contracts and how different publications work.
- They act as a trusted advisor. Whether you are self-publishing a book or doing it the traditional way, having a literary agent by your side is an excellent deal for your book-writing journey. Many book agents start their careers as book editors.
This gives them a great understanding of book publishing, from writing through production to distribution and marketing. So, you may actually learn a lot more from an agent than from an actual editor.
- They negotiate contracts, create auctions, and manage production. Literary agents earn 10% – 20% of the author’s advance and book royalties from book sales. Since your earnings will impact the agent’s payments, they will work in their own interest to make sure you get the best deal for publishing your book.
They might also create auctions to crack the best deal.
Once the deal is confirmed, the agent will oversee the book production, from submission to sales.
- They skim the best books out for publishers. Without literary agents, book publishing houses will have thousands of books to review every day, which doesn’t sound pleasant. That is why publishers trust literary agents’ expertise and opinions about books and only accept books from agents.
- They team up with book publishers to find new talents. Literary agents read as many manuscripts as possible and present the best to the publishers, who transform the stories into great books and sell them in niche markets, online and in bookstores.
Quick Read: How to Find Book Ideas from AI Tools
What are the Benefits of Working with Literary Agents?
Agents Can Help You Find the Best Book Publishing Deals
No author or writer can crack the best deal on their own unless they are self-publishing. While that’s the truth, your best shot at getting the best offer directly from a New York Bestselling Publisher or the like is through an agent. Since traditional publication houses are familiar with agents and their client lists, your chances of making it to the top of the submission pile and signing a profitable book contract increase ten times more.
You Can Focus On Writing a Bestseller While the Agent Swirls their Magic Wand
If you are a traditional-publishing writer, you know that the business side of writing and getting a book published is quite tricky. This agony is several times more for first-time writers. Literary agents can handle the taxing stuff, like finding a publisher, negotiating deals and foreign rights, managing production, keeping track of your income, and dealing with the logistics and publicists, while you can focus on writing your book.
An Agent Steers Your Career into the Right Direction
Agents have worked with several publication houses and authors and perhaps know the industry much better than you, or anyone else does. And since they work on a commission basis, they will proactively invest in your career and steer it towards success. From giving you constructive criticism to encouraging you to follow your dream, they will assist you during every step of your career development.
Do Self-Published Authors Need Literary Agents?
If you are self-publishing a book, you don’t essentially require a literary agent, as your self-publishing company will ensure that your book is published globally across all popular channels. However, you can work with an agent anytime and lean on their wisdom to improve your writing skills and knowledge about self-publishing terms and conditions.
How Do Literary Agents Earn?
Literary agents work solely on commission on the author’s earnings, including advance and royalties, and even book-to-movie adaptation deals. If the book doesn’t sell, the agent simply doesn’t earn.
While there are no legal obligations for agents to take a certain percentage from the authors’ income, most follow the unspoken rule of ‘not crossing over 20%’.
As agents don’t charge any upfront payment, we don’t see any reason why an author mustn’t trust the caliber of an agent in book publishing.
Did you read the 10 Effective Book Marketing Strategies for Self-Published Authors in 2023? No? Check them out here.
Do All Authors Need Agents?
When you hire the services of a literary agent, you agree to give away a good chunk of your earnings to them in exchange for their book publishing market knowledge, experience in negotiating, persuading book publishing companies, and general guidance in book writing.
They are the essential gateway to a successful career in selling story books, novels, children’s books, comics, memoirs, and other works of fiction. But authors planning to self-publish a book or working on genres that don’t require book agents, like cookbooks, nonfiction, academic and educational, photobooks, poetry, etc., may skip hiring a literary agent.
From a financial perspective, you will earn more and get a larger share of the profits if you publish your book without an agent.
And if total revenue, freedom of publishing, and having complete control over creativity and copyright are your ultimate goals, you should consider self-publishing a book over traditional publishing. You can check the steps to book publishing with Writat here.
However, if you are keen to publish your book the traditional way, the industry knowledge and book publishing expertise that literary agents contribute is more than what you pay.
While the best literary agent can be a holy grail in your career, the bad ones can spoil your reputation or, worse, your book. Make sure you hire an agent by verifying their background and industry expertise.
And if you aren’t sure between traditional publishing and self-publishing a book, we have you covered. Find the difference between the two on this blog.