“Do I need an agent?”
ASK ME ANYTHING
I always answer this question in the exact same way: I myself am a literary agent, an award-nominated agent with multiple bestselling and record-breaking authors (not to be a total arse), I just mean to say that I know what I’m doing. And yet, I have a literary agent. Therefore, I’m a pretty good advertisement for the purposes and advantages of having representation when it comes to writing books.
Now, my point of view is clearly bias. That goes without saying. And when it comes to self-publishing that is a slightly different conversation and not where my immediate passion or interest sits. But if you want to work with a publishing house to bring your work to readers then my advice is simple: get an agent. Ultimately most publishers don’t consider unsolicited submissions and even if you are approached directly by an editor I can almost guarantee you’ll end up giving away rights and agreeing to things you needn’t.
So what is it exactly that an agent does? What questions should you be asking when you’re in conversations with one? And what should you expect from your agent when your working relationship is up and running? And lastly: what doesn’t fall under the remit of an agent? I’m going to answer all of these questions in today’s newsletter and hopefully after reading you’ll have a better steer on what to expect from this important professional relationship.
In basic terms, what is it exactly that a literary agent does?
A literary agent is responsible for managing, representing and commercially exploiting the rights in relation to the sale and licence of your book and its ancillaries. This means any intellectual property that’s connected to you book i.e., television; podcast; stage; film; merchandising; audio; gaming and so on. This is a point a lot of writers get confused about. For example: ‘I already have a successful podcast’ or ‘I’m already working on a script for a TV show and therefore I don’t want my agent to take commission on these’. It’s important to note that your literary agent only represents (unless otherwise discussed and agreed), a TV show or a podcast that is based on or derivative of the book itself. Then, put plainly, an agent helps manage your relationship with your publisher and are there to support a smooth process to publication.
What are the key things a literary agent is responsible for?
I take quite a hands-on approach when it comes to my agenting style and to my mind an agent is essentially responsible for these things:
1. Developing the book with you in the ideation and writing phrase. An agent’s responsibility is to make you a better writer, to push you into your zones of discomfort and peck at your writing in all the right places to help you realise yourself as the best writer you can be. This ensures the project will have the best possible chance of getting commissioned by a publishing house.
2. Commercially Positioning the Book. An agent is responsible for having an understanding of the market as well as the genre your book sits in. They should help carve out clear commercial positioning for the book and adequately be able to pitch it within the market – from the retailers who might stock it to the type of package that would make it appeal to the readership and from comps (as in writers similar to you), to the best time of the year to submit and potentially publish.
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