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Do You Need A Literary Agent For Your Book Or Novel Manuscript?

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.

12 Responses to Do You Need A Literary Agent For Your Book Or Novel Manuscript?

  1. Ron, that original formatting is correct, although we would also suggest putting your email address (assuming you have one) under the phone number. As far as your chapters are concerned, we would just format as “Chapter 2” centered, bold, 2-3 spaces after the end of the previous chapter, and the title of the chapter (if applicable) under it, also bold and centered, initial capped. Separate this from the subsequent text by another space or two. Unless you’re referring to the header, which we suggest formatting as Last Name/Title of book/page number.

  2. Way back when I got a format on how to do each page before you even put your story on. See below.

    Name
    Address
    City State zip
    Phone number

    Title

    BY

    Name

    My question and comment is this, has this changed if so I need to go back to all my work and take this out and redo pages.
    the pages that follows the chapter page can be seen below.

    Title Name/CH/PG

    this is how I’ve been doing my work and it has been deeply ingrained in me but if this is the wrong way I need to undo the damage so I can get my work out there.

  3. I’m writing a novel first time. After completed this novel what should I do to get published. Please tell me whole process about copyright, publication and its contract to publisher. Regards Narendra Singh

  4. Leslie, It can be difficult to find a great literary agent. More people are writing books now than ever before, so the competition is tight. Good luck!

  5. I’ve already published two books (one fantasy, one non-fiction satire) which are currently up on Amazon.com, not to mention several short-stories. Now I have a fantasy novel completed, but I can’t find an agent to flog it. I’ve sent queries to half the agents listed at Preditors and Editors, and haven’t gotten a bite. What gives? How/where do I get a decent agent?

  6. Debbie, it is better to send a query letter and sample pages of the current book rather than a previously published book. You can mention the previous books in your query letter. Most writers have to query up to 100 agents before securing representation or deciding to revise or abandon the project. There are many agents who handle Christian material. If you need assistance targeting appropriate agents, Writer’s Relief can help! Submit your writing to our Review Board for consideration.

  7. I have self-published two books. One is entitled Becoming Marriage Material and the other one the M Word. I am ready to do many more books. Before I do them I would like to find a publisher using a literary agent. I have a following through a local and national TV audience. It consists primarily of chrisitan single adults. Is it acceptable to submit as my proposal to the literary agent one of the books I have already self-published. Also could you recommend an agent for books geared toward the christian single adult community.

  8. I’ve been searching for what seems like years to find the right agent and publisher. I’ve written seven books and am now working on my eighth. I want to be a writer. I am a writer but I need help getting published. I have two young adult chapter books and five children’s books. Three children’s books are written in rhyme and have a lesson to be learned. I’m working on a sixth children’s books titled “Don’t Step in the Lazy.” I need help to find an agent and publisher. I have the stories. I just don’t have everything else. Would you be able to help?

  9. MY NAME IS P. MANNING. I’VE WRITTEN AND SELF PUBLISHED TWO IN A SERIES OF CHILDREN’S BOOK “THE ADVENTURES OF THE CULPELLER CLAN” IM NOW WRITING THE THIRD BOOK. MY FIRST BOOK-BOOKI- IS ON AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE AND OTHER WEB SITES FOR BOOKS. I NEED HELP TO GO FURTHER, I KNOW THIS SERIES OF BOOKS WILL APPEAL TO CHILDREN AGES 6-11 MAYBE OLDER. BUT I NEED HELP. MY SECOND CULPEPPER BOOK WILL BE ON AMAZON AND BARNES AND NOBLE IN TWO WEEKS. MY THIRD BOOK OF THE SERIES IS IN PROGRESS. GIVE ME THE DIRECTION TO GO IN. THANK YOU P. MAMMING

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