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Are There Different Types of Literary Agents?
The answer to this question really is no, all literary agents perform the same role. However, you can categorise literary agents into the genres that they deal with. So, for example, you will have nonfiction literary agents and screenplay literary agents. They all pretty much do the same job but specialise in specific genres of expertise. Therefore, when searching for an agent to help you on your book publishing journey, it is extremely important to find an agent that can best represent your chosen genre.
A more important question to ask though is ‘do you need a literary agent?’ Well, this very much depends upon your personal budget and how you want to publish your book. You do not need an agent, but they are extremely useful to have, especially if you are a first time writer wanting to go down the traditional book publishing route. To actually get a foot in a publishing house door you will need a literary agent to represent you. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Most mainstream publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. They will help prepare your manuscript and book proposal before they are submitted to the publisher. This is extremely important if you want your work to be seen and read, a poorly presented manuscript will simply be discarded.
Literary agents will also help with editing and proofreading your work. They also know how best to showcase your work and what publishers to approach. This is something that a novice author will know very little about so use their expertise. Literary agents can also help you when it comes to accepting offers. They can ‘haggle’ on your behalf and make sure that you get the best deal. The financial side of things is something that many writers struggle with so having an agent who can help you with this will lift the weight off your shoulders and allow you to concentrate on your writing.
Literary agents fit into the role of mainstream publishing and acquiring that lucrative book deal, but what about self-publishing? If you decide that mainstream publishing is not for you and therefore decide to go down the route of self-publishing, then you do not need an agent as you are in control of your own work - you are the publisher. On the other hand, although you retain artistic control it also means that you have to do all of the hard work. So this means writing, editing, proof reading and designing your book cover. You have to do everything if you choose the ‘do it yourself’ route. However, many self-publishers have in-house staff that will help you with many of these tasks for a fee, though this is entirely optional and dependent upon your personal budget. You can produce a print book and an eBook entirely for free and without a literary agent but, as already stated, you need to do all of the leg work.