we’re continuing with our after the writing is done theme. We just got finished with the two types of publishing and today we’re going to be talking about literary agents. We’ll be discussing what they do and the pros and cons of soliciting them for help.
The Function of a Literary Agent
Literary agents are called various things – not those derisive or derogatory terms you’re thinking about right now, though I’m sure those names have been justified in some cases – they are also known as book agents or author representatives.
So, what do they do for you?
Literary agents are there to help you land a publishing deal in with a traditional publishing house. They’re going to have a better idea of who is accepting submissions, the publisher’s line up of new releases, and who is looking for new talent – they’re going to be able to submit your work to places that they know can use a new story like yours.
Literary agents are the mediators between you and the publishing house if they’re doing their jobs correctly. They can help extend deadlines, make sure you get the best deal when you sign with a particular publisher (if you don’t want to do this yourself), etc.
You’re going to want to have a good relationship with whoever you pick to help represent you. You’re going to want to have them be your cheerleader and champion. They’re going to have to be excited about your work. You want your agent to represent you and be working to make sure you get best deal that you can get – for the both of you.
The Pros and Cons
- Easier submission process. So you can go it alone or you can hire someone to help you through this process. Your literary agent will help you go over your query letters and they’ll help you refine your manuscript even more to make it easier for the publishing house to say yes to your book. Your agent can also send out simultaneous submissions, which is something most publishing house don’t like you doing when you’re going it alone.
- Competitive edge. Literary agents with good standing in the publishing community or with certain publishers have some weight to their submissions. They’re trusted for their previous submissions to that publisher and the publishers do take note of that.
- Contacts and connections. They know who to contact, who to submit to, the standards that publishers look for, the best practices when dealing with a publisher, etc.. They know what to do and who to talk to in order to get your manuscript published.
- Having someone on your side. They have a vested interest in getting you published and landing a good deal. They will hopefully really enjoy your book as well. They’re going to make sure that you don’t give up or get screwed over.
- They could be dodgy. Unfortunately, there are people out there that like to get paid a whole bunch and then do nothing for you.
How do you avoid the dodgy agent?
- Do your research (du-du-du-dun)! I know the research never stops, but look into the agent and get reviews on them.
- Check out some of these websites (they have lists of some of the good ones and other helpful tips):
- Even on the lists above always check out the agent some more. Just because the’re on the list it doesn’t always mean they’re going to be good for you.
- Trust your gut. If it’s telling you that something shady is going on then there probably is.
- Always always always read the fine print of any contract before you sign anything.
- They’re going to cost you. So, your agent is going to take about 10%-20% of your earnings as commission – if they are charging you extra fees then they’re shady.This means 10%-20% of your advance and of any royalties you receive after publication. It also includes things such as ebook, film and audio book rights. (The rate increases with developments such as foreign rights sales and translations – agents tend to receive around 20% commission on these earnings.) And they will keep getting this commission rate until your book, etc. are done being sold and produced.
- The waiting game. So, you know that wait I was talking about in my Traditional Publishing post. Well, it gets longer. On top of the process of submitting to a publishing house, you also now have to submit to agents and get accepted by one of them as well. Your time to get published is extended another few months to a year, on top of the publishing time.
- Some styles and genres are harder to represent. There are some genres, such as literary fiction (it’s a little snooty), non-fiction, children’s literature, poetry and short stories, that literary agents don’t take on as much. They are out to make money and they’re going to want to have a commercial success on their hands before they are going to accept it into their repertoire. So, in these cases it is often easier to approach traditional publishers yourself.
That’s all I have for you today! As my big quick take away for this post, if you’re going to solicit an agent to help you, is to do your research! It will save you time, heartache and money in the long run.
On Thursday we will be talking about editors. So, tune in for that.