Role of an Agent

manuscriptMost authors want a traditional publishing deal. There’s a validation that comes with that: the gratification and branding of being accepted. But, collectively, traditional publishers accept only a handful of unsolicited manuscripts yearly. Some refuse to look at unsolicited manuscripts entirely. A few have specific windows when you can submit. So how do you get published?

Something that can help is having an agent.

What does an agent do?
An agent submits your manuscript to a publisher – usually directly to an editor, as opposed to a slush pile reader. Having an agent in itself carries its own form of branding, that the author’s work merited an agent’s attention.

How do you get an agent?
Trying to get an agent is the same as trying to get a publisher: read their guidelines, submit your work (usually just a sample), wait, wait, wait. If they’re interested, they’ll ask to see the rest of it. Then wait some more. Some more. Some more. If they’re not interested, they’ll decline you and you move on. Their response times vary.

—    Most agents will want a fresh manuscript, and not one you’ve already submitted to every publisher there is.
—    Most agents will also prefer that you’re not submitting simultaneously to other agents.
Important:   Don’t think you can fib an agent about either of these things. Most agents have, at some point, worked in publishing. They know everybody there is to know, so if you’re lying about something, there’s a great chance they’ll find out.

Do agents charge?
Not directly. If an agent is charging you to take you on, there’s something shifty going on. An agent earns money – a percentage – from making a deal for you. Obviously, the better the deal they get you, the more money they’ll earn.

Does having an agent guarantee you’ll get published?
Nope. It’s still a submission process.

What else will an agent do for you?
They’ll read your manuscript and offer your feedback. Remember, your manuscript is a representation of their taste, and their agency. They want to be submitting the best possible manuscript. If they have feedback – and, again, remember, they have experience in this industry – the feedback is worth considering.

Will I be obligated to the agent in any way?
You will sign some sort of agreement – usually one that involves exclusivity. But you’re not signing away your soul. You will be able to get out of it if it’s not working out for you.

Are there different sorts of agents?
Yes. They’ll have different specialties (in regards to genre and mediums), so it’s worth finding one who’ll fit your needs.

So what’s the benefit of having an agent?
They’ll be able to submit to places you can’t. If you get a contract, they’ll negotiate it for you, whereas you might be clueless. Big agencies with international offices might try to sell your book internationally, independent of your local contract, i.e. they might sell your book to a publisher here, to another publisher in the UK, and another publisher in Germany, etc.

Do I really need an agent?
No. You can still get your own publishing contract through unsolicited submission, and retain a legal professional or the Australian Society of Authors to evaluate the contract you’ve been offered.

Where can I find an agent?
You can try the Australian Writers’ Marketplace, and there’s a list on the Australian Literary Agents’ Associations website ( under Members).

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