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Writers ask us at Writer’s Relief to help them find publishers for their book projects and novels all the time. What many of them don’t know is that they will need a literary agent to sell a book to a publisher. The business of finding a publisher for your work is a multi-step process. After your manuscript has been completed, edited, and formatted according to industry standards, the next step is to launch it properly into the world. Literary agents are the interim contact you need to connect with a publisher.
The majority of larger publishing houses no longer accept unagented submissions. It may seem a waste of time to query a large number of agents before querying publishers. However, this is a very necessary (albeit time-consuming) part of the submission process for book manuscripts.
(Keep in mind that agents do not want to deal with short works such as poetry and short stories. Agents work on commission, and there is no way to support themselves from sales of poetry and short fiction. For more information read: How much money can I make writing poems, short stories, and books.)
If you want to get a good manuscript read, you’ll need a literary agent. Agents know what editors want. They spend much of their time cultivating relationships with acquisition editors. These are the folks who present books to their publishers for consideration. Networking with editors is an important part of an agent’s job. Editors are happy to receive good manuscripts from agents. It saves them time.
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Good agents will help negotiate a decent contract for you. This is their area of expertise. Publishers are interested in making money and taking care of their needs. Your literary agent will function as your advocate and make certain you receive a fair deal. If you don’t know about subsidiary rights and escalators, make sure a literary agent is on your side. Your agent will know which clauses are boilerplate and which may hurt your career. (Some people believe an attorney can replace an agent. Unless your attorney specializes in book contracts, find a good agent.)
Because agents work on commission, they are interested in getting you the best deal. Agents will monitor your royalty statements and help ensure that you receive prompt and proper payment. Most agents are paid 15% commission. A reputable agent should also provide you with copies of all rejection letters.
Do not begin querying agents until your book is complete. Unless you’re famous, agents won’t even read your query unless the book is ready to go. Nonfiction proposals are sometimes the exception to this rule. However, you’ll need to prove you can write the book, not just pitch it.
There are many people who advertise themselves as agents. Generally, they are NOT. Legitimate agents do not drum up business. There are literally tens of thousands of writers approaching a limited number of agents. They’ve got more work than they can handle. If a literary agent requests money from you, run for the hills. Some expenses such as postage and copying costs are to be expected. However, over the years, unscrupulous people posing as literary agents have scammed would-be authors out of lots of money. Sometimes these scams are disguised as “editorial help.” Stay away. A literary agent should not insist that you have your manuscript doctored before agreeing to represent you.
Your agent should act in partnership with you throughout the publishing process. A good agent offering good advice is a wonderful asset. There is no better way to build your writing career.
Remember: Your query packet for literary agents must be perfect and represent you as a professional. Writer’s Relief (http://www.WritersRelief.com) can help guide you when making submissions to agents. It’s a difficult and time-consuming process, but there is no way around it. In all likelihood, you DO need a literary agent for your book project or novel. Writer’s Relief can help.