6 Reasons You Need A Literary Agent Now More Than Ever

contract signingYes, even you self pubbed authors need an agent now more than ever.

There’s no disputing that you can publish your own book, get a deal by yourself meeting an editor at a conference or submitting to certain publishers that are open to the slush. I see more and more in our query inbox that an author has an offer from a small print publisher or digital first start up but want an agent to help with the process because they realize they are in over their head. They ask questions like: Is the publisher good? Should I have submitted to them on my own in the first place? I’ve written on why you shouldn’t submit to agents and small presses at the same time already, but this is about why you need an agent first.

6 Reasons You Need An Agent Now More Than Ever:

1. Access to ‘Big 5′

Yes, you can submit to small publishers by yourself, but you will never have access to all the big 5 publishers without an agent. Every writer I’ve ever met has wanted to be published in print. There are writers that are ‘okay’ with digital first publishing, but they all want to build to a career in print.

2. Complex Contracts

More than ever (and publishers have always wanted this!) publishers are intent on grabbing up all the rights to your work. For example, when you sign a contract for ‘world rights’ you are signing up the rights to your work in all languages and all countries, but how do you know the publisher is going to actively license those rights all over the world? You don’t. That’s why agents hold back foreign rights to sell them directly themselves. A publisher on the ground in other countries will always be more effective than a publisher exporting copies.

3. Sub Rights

Sub rights (or subsidiary rights) are things like audio, dramatic, film and TV among other things. Even if you do manage to wrangle these away from a publisher on your own–what do you do with them? Agents don’t only have editorial contacts, we know audio publishers, and film and TV agents that also sell our clients work.

4. Start up publishers

I’m glad that there are new publishers springing up, but you also have to be cautious about their business practices. Publishing is a long tail and I’ve seen start ups grab up a bunch of author rights and take off, not keeping up with regular royalty statements and payments. (Luckily, this hasn’t happened to my authors!) There are great resources to let you know about publishers with shady practices like Writer Beware.

5. Digital revolution

There is no arguing the industry is changing quicker than it has before and that means writers rights are at stake. Agents are on the case fighting for things like improved ebook royalties. Agents are also making sure that publishers are holding up their side of the deal with things like social media marketing.

6. Networks

There is more to having a writing career than just writing. Do you want access to speakers bureaus, PR professionals, graphic designers, TV hosts, and the works? Having an agent is an easy way to build and expand your media industry network.


You only get one chance to make a first impression with editors. Make a professional one by having an agent handle the business side of things.

Further Reading:

Poets & Writers on What Literary Agents Do


Why You Want An Agent Who Reads

BelleBATBAgent Janet Reid wrote a great blog post about agent burnout among other things. One part that stuck with me was her comment about agents reading things that aren’t client work.

I can understand when writers see their agents talking on Twitter or Facebook about books that aren’t theirs and they think: “If they had spare time, why weren’t they reading my manuscript?” But one of the most important things an agent can do is read and READ A LOT.

Why you want an agent who reads:

1. They know what’s selling.

If we don’t read published books, how up-to-date is our taste? How do we know what is working in the market? I call it ‘cleansing the palate’ and it’s a much needed respite.

2. They know what’s successful.

Not only do we need to know what’s selling, we need to know what’s selling well. We follow the ‘best of’ lists, bestseller lists, and indie picks. We read bestsellers to know what makes it to the top.

3. They know what certain editors are excited about.

Editors send us stacks of books all the time. We read these to know what editors are working on and what gets them excited about projects. We also get to support our agent friends and read their clients books.

4. They take breaks from work.

Work life balance is not a joke. In order for us to stay enthusiastic about client projects and keep our sanity, we need to take a time-out every once and awhile–and we’re book lovers at heart.




Q: Can I Write Fiction For A Living?

googleimages2A: It’s possible. But it’s a lot of hard work and you have to have the right people in your corner.

Here’s how you can make writing a career:

1. The Right Team

You need the right people around you to make it work. You need an agent that you trust and connect with. And your agent needs a team that can support you: contracts expert, sub rights manager, film and TV agent, publicity contacts, editorial contacts and much more. You are not alone when you have an agent that is well connected, has their finger on the pulse of your career and is aware of what’s going on in the industry.

2. Sub Rights

This is the #1 way that authors can make writing a full-time job. Sub rights include selling film and TV rights, audio rights, dramatic rights, translation and foreign rights, and many more. When you have multiple books earning money from multiple sources in multiple countries you are on the road to financial sustainability. One good advance isn’t enough; making money year after year is based on revenue earned in sub rights and royalties. The more hands you have pots in the bigger your success will be.

3. Understanding the business

When writers start out in the business they shy away from asking questions that they really should. Continue reading

The Writer’s 8 Tools of Pitching

Picture 6Getting ready to go on submission to agents?

Don’t know what to have prepared?

Wish you had a checklist?

Here’s your tool kit:

1. Log Line: You have to be able to describe your book in one sentence.

2. Query: Use a three paragraph structure 1) why you’re querying this agent, log line, genre and word count 2) short ‘back cover copy-style’ paragraph 3) author bio (hint: it’s okay to call yourself a debut)–and make sure you have a finished manuscript!

3. 1 Page Synopsis: Make sure you have a short synopsis handy for when the requests start to roll in.

4. 3 Page Synopsis: Make sure you have a long synopsis handy. Some agents like short & some long. Make sure you have both handy so you don’t have to delay sending your manuscript when an agent requests it.

5. Critique Partner: I hope you have one before this point, but it’s always good to have someone you can talk to about the process other than your agent. Continue reading