What does a literary agent do? What is their role in the publishing process?
I can only answer that from the writer’s POV since I’m not an agent. My list of what agents do would probably be similar to yours. They look for talent. They or their assistant culls through masses of query letters, looking for “saleable” book ideas. They look for manuscripts that are polished and ready or could be polished. They work to get a publisher to buy the book; they are the conduit that connects the writer to the publisher. They work with the writer on edits, covers, and anything that needs a go-between person. They negotiate advances and technical details in contracts. They work to get overseas deals. They help protect the author’s rights, whether it’s your rights to have your book published in Russia or your e-book rights. You could come up with even more things an agent does, but you get the idea.
The agent’s role is changing.
They’re still doing all that. After all, it’s how they make their money. None of them want to become dinosaurs without a means to feed their families. So, with more and more writers turning to self-publishing their own print and e-books, agents are adapting.
Oh, they’re still looking for those breakout, best-selling authors and books, but they’re also moving into the e-book era and helping authors do the work. They’re putting more into helping authors build their brand. Your success means they are successful.
I’m not saying that agents didn’t work to make their authors successful before now. I’m saying they are moving into areas that before were not their responsibility. Just as writers are taking over more of the publishing work and going it alone, some agents are seeing that change is inevitable and are adapting in ways that benefit the writer – and will keep agents in the equation.
What do you expect or hope for from an agent? Are you still hoping for an agent – or are you moving forward on your own? How can agents change to keep themselves relevant and necessary?
6 months ago