Why Do I Need an Agent?
A literary agent is a professional negotiator between authors and publishers. A good agent can help you land a publisher for your book and a lucrative book deal as well. With increasing competition in the literary world, publishers have very stringent acceptance criteria, and rarely accept manuscripts from non-agented authors.
An agent typically has a wide network of contacts with the editors at leading publishing houses, and can get your book in front of the most content-appropriate acquisition editors for your work. A publishing house is also more likely to consider an agented submission, as they know it would have passed through the agent’s strict scrutiny already.
Basically, if you are going with the traditional publishing route, an agent is absolutely necessary to get your book published. You can also be sure that the agent will negotiate the best possible contracts for you from the tight-fisted publishers, as the agent gets a commission from the deal (usually 15%). Some self-published e-book authors also prefer to have an agent to handle all the non-writing parts of the process (hire proofreaders, cover designers, etc.) and also to secure them deals with traditional publishers at a later date.
When Should I Get an Agent?
Getting a good agent is one of the hardest things a writer has to do, and also one of the most important. Agents have very tight demands and schedules, and you should approach them for representation only when you are all set from your end. Which means that your book should be completely finished, passed through a couple of revisions and editing stages, and be in great shape. Agents might initially ask for the first 3 chapters, or first 50 pages to decide, but they expect that the book is completely ready, and may ask for the whole draft at any point.
You should also have established a small but steadily growing audience interested in your writing- through your blogs, website, social media and other channels. This is also the time to connect with other writers and writing groups/clubs. This will help you get valuable critique for your book, and also possibly the names of good agents who specialize in your type of book (fiction, non-fiction, genre-specific, etc.). Approaching an agent before you are well-prepared can lower your chances of acceptance.
How Should I go about getting An Agent?
Once your book is completely ready, prepare a great synopsis (1-3 pages usually) that shows why your book is going to be interesting to readers, and also shows the agent that your writing is good. Prepare well-written, professional looking query letters that highlight your strengths and achievements in writing.
Next, check out the literary agencies and individual agents through many available resources like writer’s guides, writers’ networks, regional lists of publishers and agents, etc. Do use reliable sources such as these, rather than online agency advertisements. Research the agents through their websites to narrow down those agents specializing in your specific book category.
Having done the research and groundwork, you are now ready to send out your query letters, synopsis and manuscript (or part of) to the selected agents. Do submit to multiple agents and agencies (unlike with publishers, there is no rule on multiple submissions for agents) to improve your chances of acceptance. Typically, authors send to at least 10-12 agents. Choose a good balance of well-known literary agencies, as well as smaller or relatively new agencies and agents. If you don’t hear back within a couple of weeks, send out queries to another batch of agents on your list. It might take some time, but if your manuscript is solid and well-written, you will definitely find yourself a good agent.
Image credit: johnbuckman on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CS_Rajan.jpg [/author_image] [author_info]CS Rajan is a freelance writer who loves to write on various topics, and is currently working on her first novel. [/author_info] [/author]