This is a question that is thought about by many writers, whether they really need literary agent when they are about to close the last chapter on their latest or even first book. First, it is best to understand what the literary agents job function is to know if one is needed, this is a person that is hired by the writer that will attempt to sell the manuscript to a publishing house. This can save the writer having to deal with publishing houses on their own and keep their work from being edited until there is a mere shred left of the original manuscript.
There are some forms of publishing where book agents are not necessary, this is with print on demand books and with books that are in electronic formats, known as e-books. The reason for this is one of the duties of the agent is to manage the financial and publishing aspects for the writer. When the book being written will be sold in a print on demand or electronic format, there is no need for a publisher to be involved, this means there is no need for an agent by the writer. Instead what the writer will need is to research the many successful ways to market their intended book. If a time does come where the author is approached by a publisher, then they may want to hire an agent to represent them.
The agent has knowledge of how to approach the right publishing houses, where the book will do well, and they can save the writer months of waiting for an acceptance or rejection for their manuscript. This is because the agent will know which publishing houses are not accepting material at the time or which ones will only accept fiction, when the manuscript is non-fiction.
That means the answer to the question agents—do you need one is not a black and white issue, an agent can be a tremendous help in getting a book to the right publishing house, and in the same respect the writer can also perform the same functions, but not with the ability of a professional that serves writers every day. The book agents are someone that editors and publishers are used to dealing with and when they bring a manuscript to their attention, it is much better received than if the average writer that has published a few articles or short stories.
There are some things that the book agents can do for the writer, first they can work with the writer to ensure that the book being written is one of quality that will be attractive to publishers. They will not change the book, but rather point out to the author where their strengths and weakness lies. The agent is also a tremendous help when the writer needs a book proposal, the strong book proposal will help to receive a good contract.
Once a proposal package is put together the literary agent’s job is then to send it out to the publishing houses that are accepting that genre of manuscript. The proposal will include a memo that will attract their attention, which means the memo and proposal is a key element in getting the publisher interested in seeing the manuscript. This is where the book agents show how well they know their profession, because there are hundreds of book proposals in every genre that come across a publisher’s desk, so the proposal has to stand out.
The literary agents other function, is to field offers from publisher’s in order to ensure the writer will get the best contract offer, and if there are no offers they will continue to search until one is found that will publish the manuscript. This is not unusual, especially for first time authors, or for certain genres that will only be marketable to a smaller amount of readers. It is this experience where the book agent is able to perform better than even the most passionate author, because they know the publishing houses.
There are many writers that opt not to have an agent represent them, and in this case the leg work of finding a publishing house for a traditional print book might suffer, unless the writer has done the research and has enough publications behind them to know which deal to enter into a contract with if offered one.
There are of course new ways of publishing books that do not require a literary agents help and this is the print on demand book, and also the electronic book. These are both done without the assistance of a publisher, but will need to be marketed to the public by the writer, unless someone is hired to do the marketing. One possibility when an agent would be used for the online e-book or print on demand book, that is when the sales rise above what the writer initially thought they would, and a publisher becomes interested. This is when book agents are able to go to the publisher, with not only the finished manuscript, but also the sales figures. The book then cannot only be picked up by a publishing house; there can be a contract deal to sell the manuscript at book stores and on the Internet at an online bookstore. This of course for the writer is the best of both worlds and their book will reach that many more readers.
The ultimate decision for any author when it involves hiring book agents is how they intend to publish their book, whether they will need one or not. The second thing that the author needs to decide is if they are capable of going to the many different publishing houses to query if they would be interested in the book, this is something that many agents will already know. Just having the knowledge of what genres a publisher is looking for can save months, and the writer can avoid seeing rejection letters from a publisher that is not accepting that genre.
The agent just like the writer performs a service and while their service may not seem important to some writers, there are other writers that know the benefit of letting the agent perform their duties, while the writer can do what they do best. Not every author is good at making the decision if a contract from a publisher is the right deal to be involved with, no matter how badly they would like to see their book in print. This is where the professional literary agents are able to advise the author and find the best contract and publisher for the manuscript.