I’ve seen a lot of discussion in my online writing groups regarding literary agents lately. People have been asking what exactly they do, how to find them, and whether they’re even necessary to have, and it really struck me when I realized how many authors were sort of in the dark on this topic.
I’ll admit, I didn’t always understand their full significance myself, but after perusing the Internet and interacting in groups with those who had all the good information on agents, I feel much better about my understanding of their imperative role in an author’s publishing journey.
So exactly does an agent do? Well, their biggest role is to work as a liaison between an author and a publishing house. Most medium to large scale publishing houses will refuse manuscripts that are sent by the actual author – they typically want only works that are sent by agents. If you submit a query to an agent and they agree to take you on as a client, their job is to find a publishing house that fits your manuscript. Different publishers look for different types of submissions, and agents have the insider knowledge that will help them put your work in the right hands.
Now, if we’ve gotten this far and you’re wondering what a query letter is, don’t fret. It is essentially a letter that explains your story in order to capture the attention of the agent. It is a necessary component to acquiring an agent and is an important skill to hone if you wish to take the traditional publishing route. A well composed query letter also makes you stand out professionally and can give a great first impression with a kick of additional credibility. If an agent can see that you are serious and able to construct a well thought out letter, they will have more faith in you and your manuscript, provided the story stands out to them as well.
More information on drafting a killer query letter can be found at http://nybookeditors.com/2015/12/how-to-write-a-darn-good-query-letter/.
Of course, it is important to find an agent you’d like to submit to, or even a few of them, before you can get much further in the process. While there are many routes to take and plenty of agent directories online, you’ll want to make sure that the agents you’re looking into are legit, and a quick search of the Association of Author Representatives can help as well as taking a look at client lists.
Two directories I recommend include:
By now, you can probably gather that finding an agent to represent you is necessary if you plan to take the traditional publishing route. If you self-publish, it isn’t as necessary, and if you are planning to submit to smaller, regional publishing houses, they aren’t as much of a requirement either. But a trusted agent can definitely guide you in the right direction if you plan to submit to larger publishers.
Here are a few more links with great information on literary agents:
I hope you found this helpful, and if you have anything add, whether it’s advice, recommendations, or additional information, please leave a comment! I only scratched the surface here and would love more feedback from those who have gone through the process. 🙂