For Jeff King: Literary Agents

>> Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jeff King asked: Does getting a literary agent help with the odds of getting published? And would you recommend getting/using one?

Again, as I've mentioned before, I have not been published (and don't have an agent at the moment), but I feel comfortable in saying, yes. Why?

First, having an agent opens up markets that are not available to the unagented writer. Publishers that accept unagented submissions are flooded with (no offense) a great deal of garbage. Because of this, several publishers don't even look at a submission unless it comes from an agent. Why?

Because most agents are nearly as selective as publishers (and are also looking for salable clients and work), an agented manuscript is effectively "screened." When a publisher receives a manuscript from an agent, he should be confident that the caliber of the submission will be a few steps above the bulk of the slush pile. Additionally, especially if he's worked with the agent before, he should have some expectation that the work he's been forwarded is appropriate for his publishing imprint and market. So, not only is the publisher more likely to look at the manuscript, he is also more likely to expect something and might, perhaps, give it a more thorough or open reception.

The agent also brings her contacts and expertise into play by only sending accepted manuscripts to markets he think are a good fit, reducing wear and tear and increasing the chances of making a sale. In my experience, an agent is a little more likely to work with a prospective writer with promise to fine-tune their work or at give a little feedback if they reject it (though certainly not always).

But, aside from increasing the chances of making a sale, they also bring expertise in making sure you get the best sale possible, best terms, best options for you. Truth is, being even an exceptional writer doesn't make you an expert in the publishing business and, having someone knowledgeable in your corner can make a difference.

But it costs you in terms of some of your profit and it's yet another hurdle on your way. There are ways of "becoming your own literary agent," but, if you're confident you have a publishable work, an agent can definitely increase your chances of getting published.

As for where to find them, I can't improve on Richard Perkins' article here . He's giving precisely the sort of advice and links I would give you.

One word of caution (and you'll find them in links to reputable agent sites). Do not use any agent that charges you up front. Time after time, prospective writers find out, to their sorrow, that it's all a scam. A good agent will get the payoff when you do, by making sure you get a sale.


  • Jeff King

    Thx again, as always you insight and advice is flawless.
    I was confident I was going to try and land an agent before I asked this question. But is always helpful to ask those people you trust, before you do activities of your own accord.

    I figure if my work is not valid enough to get a {real} agent then it is not worth pursuing any farther.
    Thx again…

  • Richard

    Thanks for the link Stephanie! Sadly though, I can't take all of the credit. Most of my information came from one or more of the sources I mentioned in my article.
    PS - any luck with your agent search yet?

  • Stephanie B

    Actually, Richard, my novel is still in the hands of a prospective publisher, but, if it's returned unbought (the most likely scenario) I will indeed be trolling for agents.

    I'm trying to beat some shape into my other novel so I have two decent works to entice agents with.

  • Shakespeare

    I really need two agents--one for my plays, one for my novels.

    Once my second novel is up to par, I'm sending it out!

  • The Mother

    Predators and Editors keeps a list of agents, with warnings on the predators:

    And in the agent trolling category--there is a dark blog by an agent who called herself Miss Snark, which I have found exceptionally helpful in terms of agent protocol and advice. Her favorite aphorism: write well, query widely. You can find her here:

  • Stephanie B

    Hey, thanks for the further information, The Mother. I'll check out Miss Snark (who I have to like just because of her name)

    Richard Perkins listed Predators and Editors on his article (which I would have included, too, if he hadn't). Always good advice to do your homework.

Post a Comment

Blog Makeover by LadyJava Creations