What Does A Literary Agent Do? Plus How To Find A Literary Agent

It takes some time, effort, and a lot of hard work to craft a book that is ready for the world to read. But once you've finished writing your novel, this is where a literary agent comes in. But what does a literary agent do? And how do you find one?

If you're serious about your writing career and want to take your work to the next level, finding an agent is an essential step in the journey.

So keep reading to find out what a literary agent does, how they can help you, how much they cost, and tips on how to find a literary agent for yourself!

What does a literary agent do

What is a literary agent and what does a literary agent do?

A literary agent is a professional who can help you navigate the publishing world, advocate for your work, and negotiate the best possible deals on your behalf.

If you're wondering what is a literary agent exactly, they help writers get their books published and help them avoid book publishers who aren’t a good fit. Literary agents can work with both new and established writers.

You can think of literary agents as business intermediaries. They help writers navigate the business side of publishing.

Here are several other things that literary agents do for writers:

Help writers earn money

An agent works with book publishers to get a good deal for their clients.

They can also help writers earn money for other types of work, such as speaking engagements and licensing deals. And they will also help keep track of payments from any partnerships and book deals.

Review book manuscripts

While a literary agent isn’t a book editor, they can help you review your work and make sure that it is up to par. They might make suggestions or recommend you get a manuscript assessment.

A good agent reviews your manuscript and gives you tips and insights before a publisher sees your work. They can also put you in contact with different types of professional book editors if you need editing help.

Review book proposals

Another thing that agents do is review and help authors put together book proposals, query letters, and publisher cover letters.

In addition, they keep track of the different types of submission guidelines and formats for publishers.

They also make sure that any documents meet all of the requirements before they are sent to publishers.

Pitch publishers for you

Pitching publishers is the core of what literary agents do. You can rely on your agent to do all of the boring business work for you, from sending out query letters, to networking, to negotiating a good contract.

They can also get your manuscript in front of publishers who might otherwise not see your work.

Give guidance on book contracts

Also at the top of the list of what literary agents do is provide guidance on book contracts. An agent can give you input on the type of deal you receive and help you navigate the business side, such as if you should ask for more money upfront.

And since they work on commission, they have more of an incentive to make sure you make as much money as possible.

Support you with traditional or self-publishing

Whether you decide to go with self-publishing or traditional publishing, an agent can give you the support you need. They can guide you to the right self-publishing companies or through the traditional publishing process.

While you don’t need an agent if you self-publish, some authors might decide they want the extra support. You would just need to figure out payment terms with your agent if you are self-publishing.

What do literary agents infographic

How much does a literary agent cost?

Now that we've answered, "what does a literary agent d?", you may be wWondering, "how much does a literary agent cost?" Well while agents can cost a lot, the good news is that they don’t charge upfront fees. Instead, they take a percentage of the money that the publisher pays you.

Generally, the fee is around 15% but can go higher, especially if you are trying to sell a book in a foreign market and you need a second agent. So the fees are something to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to hire an agent.

When should you use a literary agent?

While not every writer needs a literary agent, there are times when it might make sense to try to find one.

To land high-paying deals

If you want to get a great deal at a major publishing house like Penguin Books, Simon & Schuster, or Harper Collins, an agent can help.

While there’s no guarantee that they will accept your manuscript, an agent may have the connections to help you land a good deal.

To get guidance on your work and career

If you feel like you’re in a rut and aren’t sure where to pitch your manuscript, an agent might be able to point you in the right direction.

They can help by giving you guidance on what type of work might work for you.

To give you more time to focus your writing

Writing is hard. And marketing a book can be just as difficult.

If you'd rather leave the business side of publishing to someone else and just focus on your writing, then you might want to consider getting a literary agent.

How to find a literary agent

If you’ve written your book and are considering your next steps, here’s how to find a literary agent.

Find a literary agent infographic

Look at literary agent databases and social media

One way to find a literary agent is to check listings. There are several databases with lists of agents who are looking for new writers to represent.

You can also look at Publishers Marketplace to get a list of agents in different genres, as well as review recent book reviews.

And don’t forget to check social media for potential agents. It’s not uncommon for an agent to notice a writer due to their social media presence.

Attend in-person events

Another way to find an agent is to attend in-person events. Find out if there are conferences or fairs in your area specific to the type of work you want to write.

It can also be a great place to meet other writers, network with editors, and get feedback and ideas for your writing.

Draft an inquiry letter

Once you’ve identified an agent you’d like to represent you, you need to draft an inquiry letter. It should show how good of a writer you are, your book’s genre and word count, as well as what the story is about.

You should also include a short bio about yourself and include a closing thank you.

Send your work to different agents on your shortlist

Getting an agent can take a little bit of work, especially if you are a new writer. Send your work out to different agents to see if any of them are interested.

You should also make sure to meet with them either in person or on video chat to see if you like them and if they are a good fit.

Key tips for deciding on a literary agent

Now that you know the answer to "what does a literary agent do?" you can also decide what type of agent to hire.

Your agent will represent you to potential publishers, so it’s vital that you get a good agent who has your best interest at heart and is a good fit for your work.

Here are the things to consider when choosing a literary agent:

Consider an agent's publishing history

Before signing with an agent, it's important to do your research and check their publishing history. Look at the authors they represent and the books they've helped get published.

This will give you some idea of the type of work they do and whether your writing would fit well with that.

Look at the agent's submission guidelines

Make sure you review the agent's submission guidelines before sending them your manuscript. Some agents may only accept submissions through email or certain types of files.

Following their guidelines will show that you've done your research and respect their process.

Look for an agent who specializes in your niche

If you've written a specific genre or niche, try to find an agent who specializes in that area. An agent should have the connections and knowledge to get your work published in the right places.

In many cases, agents will only work with writers who fit their niche.

Consider how much direction the agent gives you

It's important to find an agent who is a good fit for you and your writing style. Some agents are very hands-on and may provide a lot of direction and feedback, while others may be more hands-off.

Think about the type of relationship you want with your agent and look for someone who matches your needs.

Make sure to review the contract before signing it

Before signing a contract with an agent, carefully review the terms. Make sure you understand the commission the agent will take and how long the contract will last.

Don't be afraid to ask some questions or seek legal advice if you're unsure about any part of the contract.

Related articles on book publishing

Did you enjoy this article? To learn more about the publishing process, check out these related articles.

Take your book to the next level with a literary agent!

Now that your questions about "what is a literary agent?", "what does a literary agent do?" and "how much does a literary agent cost?" are answered, you can take the next step in your writing career.

As mentioned, an agent can help you navigate the complex world of publishing. They'll also advocate for your work and negotiate the best possible deals on your behalf.

By researching how to find an agent, tailoring your approach, and building a strong relationship with the right agent, you can increase your chances of getting published. You may also reach a wider audience.

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