A literary agent acts as an author’s representative. The agent’s job is to find a publishing house to buy your book idea or manuscript and negotiate the contract and subsidiary rights on your behalf.
Here’s why you don’t want to simply bypass the literary agent and approach publishers directly with your manuscript or book idea…
First, the big publishers ONLY accept pitches from a literary agent. You can’t just send your query letter, manuscript or book proposal to a major publisher for consideration. You need an agent to do it for you.
Plus, only the big publishers offer larger advances. You won’t receive a large advance from a smaller publisher (and sometimes you won’t receive any advance from a smaller publisher!)
Literary agents sell between 80% and 90% of books to publishers. You have a much better chance of acquiring a book deal when you have an agent representing you to publishers.
Acquiring a literary agent as your representative provides many benefits:
- An agent understands which editors would be interested in your work and can focus on sending your material to them.
- Editors prefer agent submissions.
- Agents ensure your manuscript or book proposal is read. Most large publishing houses only accept submissions from agents, and that is the only way your manuscript or book proposal has an opportunity to be read.
- An agent can ensure a better deal and create a bidding war. Agents will get your manuscript or book proposal seen by the maximum number of publishers. Without an agent you will not know what other publishers may offer.
- Agents understand publishing contracts and are experienced negotiators. Publishing contracts are written for the benefit of the publishing house, not the writer. Without an agent, you have no leverage to negotiate better terms.
- An agent acts as a buffer. The publishing industry is a business. An agent acts as buffer between you and the business issues so you can maintain a creative relationship with your editor and focus on writing.
- An agent will ensure you receive better subsidiary rights. Subsidiary rights are secondary rights that can be sold with a book. They include translation rights, audio rights, film rights, book club rights, serial rights, foreign rights, and additional rights.
- An agent has contacts to help your career. An agent’s network can help you land endorsements and forewords from other authors and experts, publicity tie-ins, and speaking opportunities.
- An agent is your advocate. Editors may have 30 titles to edit each year and are forced to prioritize them. Titles with agents take priority at publishing houses and receive more attention from editors than books without agent representation.
If you want to acquire a traditional book deal with a major publisher and you have a well-crafted and polished manuscript or book proposal, then it’s time to work with a top literary agent.