Those who’ve never published a book or who might’ve used other options like hybrid publishing and self-publishing might find themselves scratching their heads about what it is exactly a literary agent does for their traditional publishing career. Considering that Midnight Publishing’s sole focus is to work one on one with authors to prepare them and their manuscripts for publication or querying, we know quite a bit about literary agents and are here to share some important tidbits.
**Interested in an in-depth guide from industry experts on every facet of publishing? Contact us for Midnight Publishing’s insider guide on everything to do with the publishing industry and the publication process in 2018-2019, with over 65 pages of info on self-publishing, hybrid, and traditional publishing, printing, formatting, distribution, recommended agents and publishing houses, marketing advice, and much more!**
What Does A Literary Agent Do?
A literary agent is a representative for your book, a legal partner in its protection, and a connection to publishing houses and their editors that you’d never have a chance of getting in touch with otherwise. Once a literary agent agrees to represent your manuscript, they will begin to send it to editors who publish in the genre and/or are looking for that type of book for the publishing house’s next year or two of scheduled publications. Literary agents are paid on commission, which means that they have a deep interest in selling the best book they can, negotiating for the highest advance possible, and other lucrative contractual agreements in terms of royalties, foreign rights, movie/tv rights, etc.
Pros of Working with a Literary Agent
- An agent knows what has sold, what is currently selling, and how to make your manuscript more marketable. It’s not uncommon to receive revision requests from an agent who has agreed to represent your manuscript before they shop it to editors and publishing houses.
- An agent has the legal knowledge and can ensure that you receive a fair advance and other contractual facets before selling your book to a publishing house (and effectively giving over your copyright for your lifetime plus 70 years).
- An agent can be a source of advice, expertise, comradery, and friendship while navigating the rejection-rife waters of traditional publishing. It can be especially meaningful to work closely on a creative endeavor with someone who clearly believed in you and your vision enough to represent it.
*Before you sign with an agent, check into the contract’s details about what happens if they do not sell your manuscript within a certain timeframe. It is entirely fair and prudent for you to demand that after an agreed-upon amount of time without selling the book, that the agent will no longer represent your manuscript so that you can move on to someone else. Look at it like working with a real estate agent to sell your home—you wouldn’t stay with them for an indefinite amount of time if they still hadn’t sold your house or at least shown considerable promise from buyers!
Drawbacks of Working with a Literary Agent
- Some authors might struggle with the percentage an agent takes from their advance and/or other payments negotiated with a publishing house. This percentage generally hovers around 15 percent, but can sometimes be more or less. (But they should remember—an agent negotiates for a fair and often higher advance with a publisher, so even though they take a cut the author still makes more money in the end.)
- Agents can sometimes be hard to pin down—they can be very busy, and you must remember you’re not the only author they’re managing. Communication is a huge part of a successful author-agent relationship, as you want to know they’re making proactive steps toward selling your book and need to speak with them about it. Be respectful of their schedules and don’t expect to hear from them every week, but if regular communication with your agent is a recurring and serious issue, then perhaps it’s time to consider seeking representation elsewhere.
Midnight Publishing has been in business for nearly a decade helping authors, entrepreneurs, and experts from all genres to create, edit, and polish their manuscripts for querying to agents or publishing themselves. Contact us today to discuss your book project and how we can work together to take it to the highest level!