To literary agent or not to literary agent. As an author, you may be wondering if you need a literary agent to help you navigate the publishing industry. But first, what is a literary agent? A literary agent acts as a representative for authors and provides guidance on finding a publisher, negotiating contracts, and developing a career strategy. This still leaves you with a lot of questions such as how to find a literary agent and getting a literary agent to work with you. Most importantly, what does a literary agent do, and do you even need one?
Advantages of a Literary Agent
The primary advantage of working with a literary agent is their access to publishers. They have established contacts within the publishing industry which can help authors present their work to publishers who might not have otherwise considered their work. If your work catches the attention of a publisher, they also bring their expertise in negotiations and can help authors secure favorable terms in the contracting stage of publishing.
Some agents will also offer editorial guidance to their clients, which can help authors improve their manuscripts and make them more appealing before sending them off to publishers for consideration. This can be especially helpful for first-time authors who may need additional support and guidance.
Disadvantages of a Literary Agent
However, there are also some potential drawbacks to working with a literary agent. One of the biggest concerns is the cost, as literary agents typically charge a commission on any advances or royalties earned by their clients. This can be a significant expense for authors, particularly those who are just starting out. Not to mention that royalties rewarded vary widely. An author could walk away with anywhere from 7.5% to 25% royalties while working with traditional publishers. It is important to note that an author may receive a higher royalty rate from independent and hybrid publishers. Point being that an author may not much from book sales as they initially hoped, and it can be discouraging to further split that percentage with a third-party, even if that third party is the best literary agent.
Another concern is once an author signs with an agent, they may have limited control over the submission and negotiation process. Some authors may prefer to handle these tasks themselves or have a differing preference on which type of publishing partner to pursue than their agent.
So, Do I Need a Literary Agent?
Ultimately, the decision to use a literary agent should be based on an author’s individual needs and goals. If an author is seeking traditional publishing deals and wants professional representation and guidance throughout the process, working with a literary agent may be a good option. However, if an author prefers to handle the submission and negotiation process themselves or is pursuing alternative publishing routes and less-traditional publishing houses, they are most likely unnecessary and are an added expense to an already expensive process.
While there are pros and cons to working with a literary agent, the decision to use one ultimately depends on the author’s individual situation and preferences. It is important for authors to weigh their options and make the best decision for their career goals. However, it is equally important for first-time and disadvantaged authors to be wary of falling into money traps because they feel these types of services are required to get published. This is not the case.
Your experience will differ depending on the publishing house you query, but at Wandering Minds Publishing we treat no author any differently with or without a literary agent. In a process that is already extremely expensive for most, we highly value and encourage lessening the financial barrier to publication that many authors face; a financial barrier that acquiring a literary agent only adds stress to.