From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Friday, May 27, 2011

Are Literary Agents Necessary?

It seems like there are as many opinions on literary agents as there are agents. I've heard so many different things: self-publish and take care of it yourself. Self-publish and get an agent once you need help with contracts. Even in traditional publishing, its best to just submit directly to editors yourself even if they say no unagented submissions. Then of course the classic, use an agent to get in the traditional publishing door.

I know this could be opening a pandoras box, but what is your opinion/advice? Those with more experience, what has worked best for you? Obviously each writer has to make their own decisions that works best for their individual careers, but I think we could all use some help.

My opinion and plan is this. Yes, people have had bad experiences with agents, and there are risks signing contracts with anyone. So of course I'll be careful, but as of now, I want to try for the traditional route. Yes, writers are keeping less and less and getting more and more jipped, but its still the best way to get your work out there and reach the most people, which is my goal for right now. I'll go with that at first, see how that works, and then maybe self-publish once I'm out there a bit.

What are your ideas?

Sarah Allen


  1. There are pros and cons to everything in life. Do your research and homework on all fronts: agents/their agencies, the publishing world at the moment, trends, etc... Write well and continue to hone your craft. Evolve as a writer and person. And then make an educated decision for what is best for you.

  2. I think working with an agent will be fantastic! I do my research, so I know it will be the right one.

  3. My first 9 books were published without an agent. I have to say, I am thrilled to have one working with me now.

    It just helps to have someone in your corner.

    A corner is a lonely place.


  4. In a word, no. They are not in any way necessary and they can very likely be hugely detrimental. But don't take my word for it. Read the advice of an author who has published 90 novels and hundreds of short stories and who has worked as an editor and run a small publishing house.

    Read his articles about agents in the "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" series to get the truth about agents. He strongly believes that no author should use an agent.

  5. I had an agent for a few years but, to be honest, she wasn't really doing anything I couldn't do myself. Also, I think I'm a bit of a control freak so I like to chase things up myself. :)

    I'd say do your research on agents very thoroughly. It's good to have someone fighting your corner, but that person has to understand your work fully and love it as much as you do.

    Good luck!

  6. There is really very little risk to signing with an agent - a standard contract allows either of you to end the contract with 30 days notice. The agent is really only to get you through those doors that are otherwise closed to you. Of the publishers my agent approached with my book, only 2 rejected it as not being right for them without reading it - the rest all asked to read it. They are still reading. :-) Having said that, if you are willing and able to do what it takes to self-promote, neither agent or traditional publisher is required. I figure if I get an offer from a publisher, but they aren't going to get behind the book in a big way, I'm no better off than if I do it myself - and keep more of the money from the fruits of my labor. We'll see how it all plays out!

  7. I am a long way off from publishing but I follow everything I can on this subject.

    Recently I read an article or blog post (from Writers Digest) about the pros and cons of self publishing. One view - which makes the most sense to me - is that if you can publish with a traditional publisher, even if it is a low paying deal, you can establish a following that will follow you (hopefully) if/when you self publish.

    I also stumbled upon these two sites that appear very helpful: - the focus is on agents and publishers and provides a lot of information. - also known as writers beware. This is basically a better business bureau about agents.

  8. Should clarify the agent isn't JUST to get through the door, but it's a pretty significant barrier to get through. From there an agent is looking out for your interests, but if you are self-publishing, that's not such a big issue!

  9. I stopped querying almost two years ago. In the meantime, I had two agents query ME.

    After a lot of soul searching I decided I was better off by myself. If agents are asking to represent me, it's because they see me as a brand they can use as a bargaining chip.

    Should I ever sell to a big publisher, I'll use an IP lawyer to negotiate terms and save the 15%.

    Everyone is different though. Do what feels right for you.

  10. Good luck Sarah! The decision you've made is the right one for you now. I am no where near that point yet, but I have always heard from different authors that an agent is necessary to get you through the locked doors...I wish you good luck and much success! Peace.

  11. Thanks for wishing me goo luck. I am also looking for an agent now after I finish editing my novel. Good luck, and I hope you get published.

  12. I've queried for all three of the novels I've written, but have only had one offer (which I declined, because the agent couldn't give me specifics on how he was going to sell my book). I'm still open to having an agent, but in the meantime, I'm choosing to go my own way and self-publish. I'm writing because I love it. In the end, that's what matters.


I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

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