Because I’m a fan of words, I will note that the original meaning of the word agent was “someone or something that produces an effect.” Agents are people of action and results. Think of real estate agents, travel agents, and talent agents. Their whole goal is to help you achieve your desired result—selling or buying property, booking an enjoyable trip, or getting an acting gig. Depending on your publishing goals, you may or may not need an agent for your book.
You don’t need an agent if:
- You’re just writing for fun
- You plan to self-publish
- You’re querying a small publisher
Unless you fall into one of the three categories above, it is likely that you and your book would benefit from being represented by an agent. Let’s dive into the benefits of working with an agent to get your book published.
1. Agents know the publishing market.
Your job as the writer is to know your manuscript, characters, and story. An agent takes care of keeping their finger on the pulse of the publishing market. They know what is trending, and what may be trending in the near future. If your manuscript has a possible audience, a good agent will know it. Agents also have connection within publishing houses and know which specific editors might want exactly what you have to offer.
2. Agents can suggest revisions or changes that would benefit your manuscript.
While not all agents have a background in editing, they do have a great sense of story and character. You’ll want to present your best work to an agent and then accept that they will be able to see where your manuscript needs to be tweaked to interest a publisher. A manuscript doesn’t need to be completely flawless to get represented by an agent, but it will give it the best chance.
3. Agents will deal with negotiating your contract.
Selling your manuscript to a publisher will involve signing contracts and making agreements. Unless you have personal experience with negotiating contracts, having an agent is the best way for you to get the ideal price and rights for your book. A publisher designs contracts with their interests in mind, and an agent will advocate for you to receive what is fair.
4. Legitimate agents will only get paid when your book sells.
Not every agent that you encounter will be legit, but this is a good way to know if they are. Agents get paid when a publisher acquires your manuscript, no sooner. Some shady agents will charge you a fee to read your manuscript, or ask you to pay them for representing you. If you’re worried that you can’t afford an agent, know that you never have to pay them directly. They take a percentage of the money when you sell your manuscript.
5. Big name publishing houses will only accept agented manuscripts.
Unless you work with a small publishing house, you will need an agent to represent your manuscript. If you want a chance at submitting to a big publishing house (Penguin Random House, Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Simon & Schuster, etc.), know that they only accept agented manuscripts.
Still have questions about agents, submitting, and HOW THE HECK DO I GET MY MANUSCRIPT READY FOR AN AGENT??? Fill out the brief form on my website, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is all possible. Take a breath, and let’s chat!