I sometimes hear people say that writing the book is actually the easy part. The much harder part is reaching your target audience. Getting your book into the hands of readers may be the most challenging task you ever attempt. Knowing what an agent does can help you make an important decision.
What decision is that?
The one I’m talking about comes down between self-publishing your completed manuscript and going what is known as the traditional route. This is a pretty big decision because it boils down to choosing the road your book takes to reach your ideal readers.
Self-publishing is, in the simplest term, when the author takes on the role of publisher. They edit the book, format it, choose the cover, release and market it all themselves. Many authors these days, because of the rapid proliferation of viable self-publishing avenues (and the crumbling stigma against it) choose to go that entrepreneurial path. I have. It is rewarding but it’s hard.
Traditional publishing, meaning going through a publisher who does all of those tasks for you, requires a degree of acceptance. An agent needs to first accept your manuscript and choose to represent it. It’s a big role, one that can make (or break) a writer’s career.
For that reason, it’s important to understand, what an agent does.
What An Agent Does | Your Manuscript
Great agents build careers. I’ve heard numerous writers attest to that.
What an agent does, first and foremost, is they make absolutely sure your manuscript is top notch. Most writers sign with an agent on the strength of their submitted work, which means they already had a pretty good grasp of the craft.
An agent works with you to take that a step forward. They offer notes on the manuscript. They get you ready for future re-writs. Knowing the market for your specific genre, they dig in deep with you, helping you really cultivate a voice that fits your broader goals.
When that first book is done, perhaps published, an agent guides the writing of whatever might potentially come next. I’ve known numerous authors who have, while their first manuscript was making the rounds at publishing houses, worked with their agent to develop the follow up, or sequel.
What An Agent Does | Getting Your Book Published
This is the role most people think of when they think of what an agent does. They go out and hit the proverbial bricks, getting your manuscript published.
Listen closely. This is what a literary agent does that you can’t do on your own.
Rewind. An author can get their book traditionally published without an agent. A lot of small press and medium sized publishers accept unagented submissions. If an author is industrious and searches those avenues out, writing query letters and is patient, it is possible.
What an agent does is work the phones for you. Publishing is their business and, as a result, they have well-established relationships with sought after presses and talented editors. They know how to bypass the usual gatekeepers in order to get your book off the slush pile and into the hands of decision makers.
Can you get where you want to go in your publishing career without an agent? Yes. Will an agent make that journey easier? They sure will.
Your Career Working With An Agent
Throughout my career in writing and publishing, I have known many writers who attribute much of their success to an agent. Why is that? Agents cultivate writers. They get to know who they are and what makes them tick. Most importantly, they get familiar with their work and steer them toward projects and publishers that make sense for where they are. If trouble arises, they help them navigate what can be difficult water.
Writing is a career. Like anything else, some writers thrive and others, well, don’t. Having an agent in your corner is a fantastic way to ally your talents with a like minded individual.
There are advantages to choosing to work with an agent. I’ve named many of them right here. Writers are sometimes scared off by the idea of paying a commission, or potential = nay-saying, but if you look at what an agent does and the potential benefits to your career, it’s hard to argue against the value.
I hope this blog addressed some of your questions about what an agent does. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
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