Do you have a manuscript that’s ready to market?
Which just means:
► You’ve written and rewritten and rewritten, countless times
► Perhaps you’ve read and had it critiqued by a writer’s group
► Better yet, you’ve worked with a developmental editor, gone through that long process, then you’ve rewritten, had the editor go back over those revisions, revised again. Polished again.
And now, you’re ready to send it out into the world.
Chances are, by now you’ve already decided whether you’re going the traditionally published route, or you’re intending to go the Indy or self-publishing path.
If the latter two, you of course don’t need an agent.
But if you’re shooting for the stars—being published by a traditional house—you’ll still need that literary agent.
And as those in the trenches know, the old truism—it’s easier to get a publishing contract than secure a top agent—holds oceans of water.
Why is that? Because agents only take on what they truly love and think they can sell. As is everyone in this business, they’re inundated with queries, buried under manuscripts, and up to their eyebrows trying to secure contracts for those writers they do take on.
And for very few publication spots in today’s tighter-than-ticks market.
As publishers shrink their lists, agents are forced to as well.
Literary agents have their own niches, which may or may not be apparent from their website blurbs and market listings. They have their own proclivities as well—the nuances of what they love to represent.
While the various writers’ market publications give you a glimpse into what these agents are seeking, PublishersMarketplace gives you a list of what that agent has actually sold. Which provides a deeper picture of whether your work might be right for that person.
Seeking an agent helps you hone in on whether your work is truly ready for prime time as well.
If you’re getting this sort of feedback:
֎ “I loved your voice here, but this isn’t quite right for my list . . .”
֎ “The plot holds potential, but the characters didn’t really draw me in . . .”
֎ “I liked the premise, but . . .”
Then you’re getting close. The agent actually took the time to read the query, perhaps a sample, saw something he liked, but in the end said no.
Maybe it truly isn’t what he represents. Or, maybe you need to dig deeper into the manuscript, revise again, go out again.
If you’re getting this sort of feedback:
֎ “Dear Writer . . .”
֎ Or any variation of a form rejection, or no response at all . . .
Then either you’re targeting the wrong agents, or your work truly isn’t ready to market.
Let’s be honest—when publishing’s gatekeepers had all the power, the quality level of books was much higher.
A sad truth, but true nonetheless.
Literary agents weren’t and aren’t the beasts new writers believe them to be. They still serve a vital function as the gatekeepers they are. And that is to only consider the cream of the crop.
Ask yourself this: If it isn’t up to an agent’s high level for representation, do you really want to self-publish it? Do you want to put it out for all to see an elementary effort?
Funny thing about those days of yore as well: When a writer couldn’t find an agent, he kept writing, penning another book, and another. He grew ever more accomplished as he wrote and wrote and wrote. Got critiqued, revised, worked with a great developmental editor, wrote some more. So by the time he was published, he didn’t have to worry about embarrassment from freshman efforts.
Today, that doesn’t much happen. Writers simply publish their own first efforts, don’t learn from the process, and continue with bad habits, keeping their writing levels low indeed.
I see this literally every day. And in truth, they’re robbing themselves of success.
But that doesn’t have to be you, does it. You want your work to be the very best it can be. You strive for a high level of writing, to pen books that people remember (and not for the laughable moments that weren’t supposed to be funny).
You want to be known as a great writer.
Or you wouldn’t be reading this!
So, do you still need a literary agent? Depends upon your goal. But traditional publishing is still the gold standard, and the one we reach for here. My writers are grasping for that brass ring, because writing, well, truly matters.
And isn’t that what you want as well?