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Who Needs Literary Agents And Who Doesn’t?
Literary agents act as the gatekeepers to the coveted traditional book publishing industry. They can literary make or break a writer’s dream of publishing his/her works with traditional publishing houses. However, many less-experienced authors don’t know when to get a literary agent or whether they need one at all. These authors think that so long as they have written works, which they are proud of and that they think might sell well, then that’s the time to find literary agents. At this point, they don’t think about the kinds of works that will be accepted by agents.
The type of work you have written is one of the most important factors to consider when you want to get it published. You should know that it is usually futile to start searching for an agent if you have written short stories, articles, poems, or essays. Some agents who are notoriously difficult to find accept these works but reputable agents shy away from such works. Also, if you have written short pieces, you should know that it is not cost effective for the agent to help you publish it. Short works make less money for the agent.
You might occasionally get wind that a reputable agent helped to publish poetry, short stories, and other short works. However, agents ignore their ‘no short work’ rule only when they are dealing with exceptional and often famous authors. An agent who agrees to publish short works usually does it as a favor for an author who previously brought him books that sold well.
Other people who don’t need agents are authors going for: self-publishing, specialty/niche publishing, regional publications, and for smaller presses. The reason why you don’t need agents for these forms of publishing is that you can submit the work directly to publishers without an agent to represent you.
If you are a nonfiction author, you might not need an agent. Traditional publishers usually publish more nonfiction than fiction works. You might be allowed to submit your manuscript to publishers without an agent to represent you if it is nonfiction. You should confirm if a publisher will accept your work by researching the publisher’s guidelines. Keep in mind that using an agent is recommended because you will get a better deal than when you go unrepresented.
Commercial publishers also accept genre novels from authors who don’t have agents. You have a better chance if your book belongs to certain categories such as romance. There are some publishers that allow science fiction novels from un-agented authors. The only downside of taking your works to these publishers is that they have huge slush piles and you can be kept waiting for six months or even longer than a year before getting a response. An agent will help you to reduce this waiting period significantly.
Nowadays, if you have written any kind of book-length work and want to publish it with a big publishing house, you should find a reputable agent to help you. The publication process will be less stressful for you and you will get a better contract than when you represent yourself.