It is a literary agent’s job to represent a writer and ensure that their work finds its way to the right publisher. But why is this so important? Writers can find publishers on their own, but it is much more difficult to get their book picked up without agent representation. This is because agents have a reputation for building an author’s career and developing their writing, and they are often well-known in a community where connections matter. Having a literary agent will help an author pitch their book to a traditional publishing house, like Penguin Random House or HarperCollins imprints. If, however, an author should choose to pitch a book alone, it is often to indie presses or to be self-published. Even in this case, there are benefits to finding agent representation early on in the publishing process. Here’s why:
- Editors won’t look at your manuscript if it isn’t represented by an agent. According to Valerie Peterson, a book publishing professional, agent representation indicates that an author has quality written work. Thus, an agent “approves” of your book, which tells the publisher that it is at least worth looking at and possibly publishing.
- Agents understand complicated contractual agreements. As Ms. Peterson mentions, agents know how to negotiate subsidiary rights (foreign, film, language, etc.) and more. They also ensure an author knows how money is tied to all of these rights and they negotiate royalty payments. This helps the author get the best deal out of a contract, especially when they don’t understand how the publisher is trying to bind them.
- According to Writers Victoria, agents are on top of the book market and sales industry. This knowledge is beneficial to authors, who may not know the trends. An agent knows when it is the best time to pitch to a specific publisher, if the book content is right for the current market, and if a book will get a large amount of sales upon publication. In addition, this indicates that agents have connections in the market, which looks better to publishers and makes them more receptive to an author’s manuscript.
If you’re an author, these are just a few specific benefits to having an agent. It is an agent’s job to represent your material, get you the best deal, and make sure you’re entering the market at a good time. But, they do more than that. Agents often help authors throughout the entire publishing process, from developing a book to creating a pitch to share with publishers. That being said, it’s like having a personal support system from the very beginning. An agent chooses an author because they like them (and what they have to offer). This support will not only make the process easier for the author, but it will also ensure that the author’s book finds the right publishing house, which is ultimately the end goal.