Authors who advocate using a literary agent claim that it’s very hard to get a publisher without one. And according to the masses, only a handful of authors succeed in doing so. Their rationale – literary agents hold the key to the best manuscripts so it is only fitting that publishers deal with them.  For publishers it means less time doing the screening themselves which translates into more dollar signs in the future.


Do You Need a Literary Agent?

There are pros and cons to everything, and using an agent is no exception. Do your research and ask the opinion of fellow authors who’ve employed agents.  It’s important to weigh the good and the bad before deciding whether or not an agent would be a good fit for you. ChatEbooks lists down a few of the pros and cons to consider in your decision making process.

The Pros

  • Agents Know Exactly who to Send Your Book To. They have excellent industry contacts and have good working relationships with editors and publishers who trust their judgment.
  • You’ll get better contract terms. Agents are financially savvy and skilled at bargaining for the most lucrative deals. Higher royalty rates, multi-book deals, a bigger promotional budget, hardcover and paperback edition commitments, an earlier publication date, etc.
  • More Publishers will Review Your Book. Some publishers won’t consider screening a manuscript unless it comes from a top literary agent. These publishers don’t accept unsolicited submissions from authors so you need an agent to submit your work on your behalf.
  • Agents Do the Troubleshooting. They handle any and all challenges that come up during the publication and post-publication stage. Agents deal with difficult editors, bad reviews or publicity, poor book sales, title changes, etc.
  • Agents Have Your Back. They ensure that the writer’s publication rights are not tampered with by anyone else in his/her absence.

The Cons

  • Commission. Literary agents take a 15% commission out of your hard-earned royalties. This of course means less money in your pocket from book sales.
  • You Lose Total Control. The literary agent speaks on your behalf in dealing with editors and publishers. Decision-making becomes more challenging and frustrating because you don’t get to make the final call.
  • Waiting. Using a “middle-man” always extends the completion of a project.  If you use a literary agent, you may have to wait twice as long before your book is published. First there is the time it’ll take for vetting the right agent. Next you’ll have to wait for your agent to select you a publisher. And finally there is the processing time for your publisher to publish your book.
  • Dishonest Agents. Not every agent will have your best interest in mind.  There are plenty of dodgy ones who will charge you for everything but do nothing. If you don’t do your due diligence in selecting the right one, you can easily be taken advantage of.

Having a literary agent has its own share of pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide whether if it’s worth the risk of having one or having none. While most publishing houses won’t entertain manuscripts unless it’s recommended by trusted literary agents, there are still smaller, independent publishers who will happily look at work from agent-less authors. If your goal is to sell to the publishing bigwigs, your time is much better spent finding an agent. It’s a decision you’ll have to make.


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