Top 10 Questions Literary Agents Get Asked

1. Everyone says I should get an agent. Right?

The answer is, maybe. An agent can be what most writers need at the right time of their career. An agent could open doors and gets decision-makers to consider a project or proposal quicker. But not everyone needs an agent. In the non-fiction world, platform (e.g., what have you done counts considerably) when trying to attract an agent. Many unpublished writers would be better served to consider self-publishing or approaching small presses – for which an agent is not needed.

2. What do you charge for your services?

Literary agents do not charge for their services – they are paid only by commission and only when a publishing deal is consummated. Any other proposed arrangements within the publishing industry should be treated carefully (e.g., pay me money now and I’ll help you.)

3. Do you edit my manuscript?

As a rule, literary agents do not provide editing services. Having said that, many agents may have been editors in a previous life. So there is some editing of pitches or proposals, but to a lesser degree the manuscript. Just do not expect that all agencies do this.

4. Can you find a big publisher for my work?

That is impossible to answer. Some projects just do not belong, or more accurately, would not work at a large publishing company. Big publishers have their advantages of course, but with all due respect to them, they also have their fair share of failures. There are many terrific mid-sized and smallish publishers that handle books in many categories beautifully and boast good success rates. Bottom line: agents find champions – editors and publishers – within big, medium and small publishing houses for a book projects

5. Do you help market my book?

That depends on how you define “market”. If you mean publicity, promotion, and advertising – then, no. Agents’ help with marketing client books is not tangible. They talk-up the book within the business, certainly promote it on their website, and if they control others rights, bring it to the attention of that many more people, but agents are not in the marketing business.

6. Can you help me meet editors that work at publishing firms?

No. Not that editors have anything against you – they just spend more time editing than meeting, especially with writers they do not know, and especially writers who are trying to sell them some new work. That is the strong advantage of the agent’s role – they deal with many editors all the time and act as an advocate for your work.

7. I would like other agents to work on my book too – is that a problem?

Yes, that is a massive problem. Agents operate on an exclusive basis with clients. Agents are only paid on commission and therefore want to know they have the sole negotiating rights for a project.

8. Should I send all my work to you? I have a 100,000 word manuscript and more!

In the non-fiction world, I would rather see an e-mailed short pitch suggesting you have more and offering to send it if my interest has been piqued. In the fiction world, the agents usually want to see it all if the synopsis and writing sample get them excited.

9. Am I going to get rich?

Probably not – and if that is why you are looking for an agent I would suggest putting your efforts into something else – buying lottery tickets? Agents try to sell the rights for a project to a publisher in the hope it becomes a win/win relationship to both build the audience for an author and add to the publisher’s list of popular books. If a book takes off and becomes a bestseller and revenue builds, then everyone wins. Does that mean riches? Maybe, but unlikely.

10. Am I going to be famous?

There are thousands of books published in the English language each month by trade publishers, and additional thousands of self-published books in all shapes and sizes. Most are written by authors looking for attention of some kind – for some that is fame and notoriety – but it does not happen for most. No one knows why a few books succeed wildly while the vast majority sink without a trace of attention.

But I can guarantee one thing – if you don’t write it, there is no chance your name will ever become known as the Author of…..

If you’re wondering if your manuscript has what it takes, check out my Submissions page for information on submitting to Seventh Avenue Lit.