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Books Agent or Publisher? That is the question – Part One

Posted by in Self Publishing on October 23, 2010

Books AgentWell, one of these obviously (and hopefully) leads to the other, but when is it right to go directly to the publisher with your manuscript?  And how do you know you’re good enough for that and your manuscript is ready if you don’t have a literary agent.

What do Literary Agents do?

It’s true that literary agents know the book business; it’s their job to know what’s in the bookstore, what’s selling well, and what will not be welcomed by publishers.  Agents will usually specialise in particular areas, some in non fiction books and some in fiction books; others will be experts in drama perhaps and/or screen plays.  However, virtually all decent literary agents will have worked at least once as a publisher or an editor and have a working knowledge of what goes on in a publishing house.

This is what makes an agent a good choice for an amateur writer; and by amateur I mean unpublished (since this is how the book trade seem to categories amateur and professional).  If you have no idea about how a book makes it to a bookstore then it’s a good idea to go straight to an agent.

The beauty of having a literary agent who is prepared to represent you is that they do all the horse work and take your book to the right people.  After all, they don’t get paid unless you get paid; and everyone needs to get paid don’t they?

The Problems with Literary Agents

However, if you’re going to approach a literary agent, be sure not to expect miracles.  Today literary agents are bombarded with books; everyone seems to think that they are the next J. K. Rowling or whoever is top of the heap at any particular time.  It’s an agent’s job to rank you on this scale and find a home for your book.

But because there are so many manuscripts falling on the doorsteps of literary agents these days it becomes increasingly difficult to get around to reading everything.  Agents are often more busy than publishing houses and editors in many respects.  This is the reason that publishers maintain such close links with the various agents out there, simply because they use the agents as a first screening process for the manuscripts they are going to receive.

What does this mean for the author?

Well what this means for the author and their prized novel or life story is that if you can find an agent that isn’t too busy, or at least makes an effort at promising to read a little of every book that comes their way, then go with that agent.  This way you will realise whether your book is good enough to be submitted to a publisher and it can also give you a boost to your self confidence.

However, you must realise that the waiting period for this could be a long, long time, so my advice to anyone who has written a book for publication would be to send it to as many literary agents as they can in order to get a greater amount of responses.  Don’t count on the responses though because often agents don’t have the time or resources to reply unless they are prepared to represent you based upon what they have read of your work.

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