You’ve written a best-selling book.
The first thing you’ll probably do is shop it around to publishers that specialize in your genre. Seems logical. But as you get ready to pitch your book you quicky discover that most publishing houses “accept agented queries only.” And this is for a reason. Literary agents are not gatekeepers, they’re designed to open doors and connect with the best publishers for your project. They help save publishers from being overwhelmed with projects that don’t match their list and give them the space and time to really focus on the ones that do—like yours! But this is just one of the many reasons how working with a literary agent can help, and one of the many ways they have your back. Here are few more:
Agents Save You Time. As I’d mentioned earlier, it’s a lifesaver, and timesaver, when you know the right publishers to pitch to. And spending endless hours trying to figure out how, only pulls you away from your craft. A literary agent has built relationships with publishers and understands what they are looking for. It’s their job to cut out all the rhetoric and connect you to the right editor who is looking for your story. This saves you time and energy getting your manuscript into the right hands.
Agents Tell You the Truth. Publishers don’t have the time to personally respond to every query that comes their way, so it’s hard to get direct feedback on why your manuscript didn’t pique their interest. And friends and family, and even some of your critique group buddies, can be less than honest about your work, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. But a literary agent has a vested interest in telling you the truth. They can’t sell a book they don’t believe in. So, take their feedback in stride and with an open mind. They want you to succeed. And they will tell you honestly how to do just that.
Agents Will Open the Door. You can go to conferences and pitch, and that is a highly recommended way to get in front of an editor. Otherwise, you’ll have to win a contest or befriend them. That is a bit of a risky plan. Instead, go with certainty and work with a literary agent. They will open publisher’s doors, pitch your book, and hold your hand through the process. They have done this successfully with many other talented writers. Now it’s your turn.
Agents Have Your Back. Literally. As their client, they will stand up for you and fight for you and your project to the bitter end. Remember, they’ve taken you on as a client because they believe in you and your work. Therefore, they have an aligned and vested interest in your success. And when it comes to rejections, they can soften the blows and help restore your confidence. No, they’re not therapists, but sometimes they can be wizards. And it never hurts to have a little magic on your side.
To find the best literary agent for you, visit the Association of Author’s Representatives http://aaronline.org/for their public roster of experienced and ethics-abiding literary agents.