How to Know If You Need a Literary Agent + Where To Find One

Happy Friday, writers! Today, I’m going to spend a little time talking about one of the most frequently asked questions in the online forums and writers’ groups that I follow on Facebook and LinkedInDo I need a literary agent? And if so, how can I find one? 

I’ve met a lot of first-time authors who finish their manuscripts, but aren’t really sure where to go next. If you think an agent might be the next step to make your publishing dreams a reality, you’ll want to read this first!

Firstly, what does a literary agent do?

Agents are there to act as the middleman between you—the author—and publishing houses. When a publisher says they “don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts,” an agent is the way to get your manuscript to “solicited” status. Additionally, an agent might be there to help negotiate contracts for you, promote your work, and even find you regular writing gigs. There’s a lot that an agent can do, but there’s also a lot they don’t do:

For one, it isn’t an agent’s job to find you. You have to query them in hopes of finding representation. Additionally, an agent won’t edit your book or anything like that—but they may be able to refer you to established professionals that they have worked with in the past, if they think you should be edited before sending your manuscript in to a publishing house.

How much does it cost to have an agent?

Generally, you don’t—and shouldn’t—pay for a literary agent up front. They will negotiate a contract with you (and possibly the publisher) to get a certain percentage of your book’s earnings in exchange for their services. That’s why they only represent books that they think will do well!

Do I need an agent?

Agents can be beneficial if you fit into one of two categories:

One: You want to be traditionally published by a major publishing house. Most of these publishers still do things the traditional way (hence their name). They want authors to send their manuscripts to agents, who will weed out the bad ones, and forward the ones with potential to them. So if you’re hoping to go that route, agents are going to be one of the only ways in.

Additionally, since your agent is (hopefully) experienced in the publishing world, they’ll be an expert in contract negotiation—which hopefully prove financially fruitful for you!

And two: You want to do regular writing work—but not necessarily with full creative control. I know a few (specifically nonfiction) writers whose agents send them regular writing jobs that they continue to work on and team up with for years. If this sounds like fun to you, then you might want an agent!

Either way, don’t hire a literary agent if you’re not in interested in the business of writing. If you just want to write, express yourself, and keep creative control, then you don’t need an agent to help you accomplish that—try self-publishing instead. If you want to sell, though, an agent is definitely something to look into!

Now I know I want an agent. But how can I find one to represent me?

If you’re looking to land an agent, my best advice is to network, network, network!

One of the best places to network is at writing conferences. Agents love attending these, because usually the writers that attend them are very serious about their work. Bring a few business cards, resumes, or even copies of your manuscript, and try to connect with everyone you can. Some conferences even have special sessions specifically for you to pitch to agents!

Alternatively, you can try networking online, although it can be harder to build a connection with people this way. Join some writing groups on Facebook or LinkedIn and get to socializing!

Either way, your best bet to get an agent is to know somebody who knows somebody—which sucks if you’re an introvert (like me!), but you’ve got to do it if you want to be successful!

If networking isn’t an option for you, you’ll have to start sending out dreaded query lettersClick here to find out how to write a perfect one!

After reading this, do you think you need an agent? What’s your next move? Share with me in the comments!

About Michelle Adams

Looking for an editor for your manuscript? I’d love to work one-on-one with you to help you create the book of your dreams. Learn more about my services or contact me for a quote today!

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