You might’ve heard the term ‘literary agent’ pop up during discussions about books, writing, or publishing. Simply put, a literary agent’s job is to get you a good publishing deal. When your manuscript is ready for submission, you approach a few publishers. Many of them reject your work simply by saying that they only accept submissions through a literary agent.
When no publisher is ready to accept your manuscript, you might solicit a literary agent to represent your work. Literary agents present manuscripts with great potential to the publishers. The primary role of a literary agent is to sell books and negotiate contracts. However, your literary agent can also be your biggest motivator, editor, and supporter.
History of literary agents
There was a time in Victorian England when literature and publishing was at its peak. Inevitably, someone had to meet the demands of the unprecedented growth of emerging authors and new publishers. This was when the new role of an agent between the writers and the publishers began to develop. In the years that followed, they proved valuable for the writers as well as the publishers.
Much like today, writers in the late 19th century didn’t want to engage in the business part of writing. They only wanted to focus completely on writing without anything else bothering them. So, the presence of literary agents made life a lot more easier for writers, especially the newer ones.
Initially, the publishers used to despise the literary agents. Over a period of time, everything changed in the publishing world. Today, many publishers have made it mandatory for an author to be represented by a literary agent.
Functions of literary agents
Besides being a good friend and a guide for budding writers, the literary agents perform several functions. Here are some of them:
1. Seeking out new literary works
Many of the literary agents handle multiple projects at a time. The moment they’re done with one, they pick up another one. In order to keep their business going, these agents are always seeking new works. They may use social media channels like Twitter or respond to emails and letters from new writers.
2. Getting the manuscripts ready for submissions
Once your literary agent selects your manuscript, he or she might request certain edits or changes. This is to increase the chances of the manuscript getting accepted by the publisher. The best literary agents always know what’s happening in the contemporary book market.
They know what’s selling and what’s not. For this reason, they always want to represent the manuscripts that carry the highest potential. So, if your literary agent wants certain changes, it is to increase your manuscript’s chances of success.
3. Representing writers and negotiating with publishers
In recent times, most of the book publishers accept solicitation only from literary agents. So, it’s obvious that they represent the writers and negotiate the best deal with the publishers for them. Today, many authors rely on their agents for their book publishing and legal expertise.
You need to be a successful author in order to get a book contract with one of the reputed publishers. If you’re not, all the big publishing companies and even some indie publishers won’t accept your manuscript directly. You’ll have to reach them through a literary agent.