What is the role of a literary agent in the publishing process?
In short, they sell your book to a publisher.
But do you need a literary agent?
YES! And – well – no.
If you’re like me, wanting your work published by a “Big 5” publisher like Penguin Random House or HarperCollins, then, yes, you will need a literary agent. Not only is it in their submission guidelines, but it is required for most if not all traditional publishing houses.
But that same “Big 5” is probably consolidating.
Indie publishing houses and many more small presses are making their way into the mainstream markets. And that’s a good thing. There are more routes than ever in getting your book published without an agent. Having an agent can be useful, though. And it goes without saying that working with an agent carries more opportunities than without working with one. For example, working with an agent helps in negotiating better-paying book advances and royalties, having a much greater chance of selling your book to The Big 5, and building a positive relationship that results in future book releases are just three of the many benefits. Agents take on the heavy burden of the business ends of writing, leaving you to focus more time and effort on polishing your book.
They’re kind of like a life coach but for your writing career. And kinda like your best friend, helping you to stay on track.
Then again, no two agents are alike. Not every agent will be a good fit. If the agent doesn’t “get” your work or has a poor track record, you could waste months if not years before starting over with a better-fitting agent.
There are more routes than ever in getting your book published without an agent.
How much does an agent get paid?
Right now, the industry standard is 15% commission on all book advances and royalties, and a 20% commission on overseas sales, according to Sean Glatch at Writers.com. Agents will negotiate higher rates for selling your book, but that may not always offset their costs.
Many authors will say they’re not in it for the money but any bit helps pay for groceries, gas in our cars, and life’s other small necessities.
Check out this Venn diagram from Writers.com below:
What do you think about this diagram, my fellow writers?