Is this Agent Reputable? Do I Really Need an Agent?

21 Aug

This is the last post in the literary agent series, and here you can read about query letters and finding an agent if you missed them.

So first off, how do you know if an agent is reputable? There are a lot of scammers out there. Luckily for us, there are some simple things that a reputable agent will NOT do and some things that they WILL do that will tell you they’re the real deal.

A reputable agent will not:

  • Charge a reading fee: If an agent asks you for money before they’ll read your book, run! They will take your money and say no to your project, because they’re not really an agent.
  • Refer you to an editorial service that charges a fee: Some scammers will say that they love your work, but it needs a little help. If you send it to this editor and pay for them to work on your book, then the agent will represent you. Don’t fall for this! Good agents will not ask for your money at all. Basically, if the agent mentions a fee, get out of there.

A reputable agent will:

  • Earn their money by taking 10 to 20% of your book sales: Real agents will take a small percentage of everything that your book makes. This will be 10 to 15% for home sales and usually 20% for foreign sales.
  • Sometimes be a member of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives): This is an association that agents can join that says they’ve agreed to respect your rights. Be aware that not all good agents are a part of this, so don’t say no to them just because there’s no AAR stamp on their profile.

Now, do you really need an agent? You decide. Here’s everything an agent will do:

  • Get your book in front of publishers: Many of the best publishers won’t even look at your book unless an agent puts it in front of them. So if you want a medium to big name publisher, you need an agent.
  • Auction your book: A book auction is where your agent goes to a bunch of publishers and tries to get the best deal with the biggest advance for you. You can’t do that for yourself. Plus, your agent will already have contacts in the publishing business that you don’t have.
  • Negotiate for your sub rights: Agents will battle with the publisher to get you the best contract, retaining as many of your sub rights as possible. Sub rights can make you a lot of money! These are film, audio, sometimes even foreign sales.
  • Keep track of the publishing process: Your agent will follow up on payments and bug publishers until the money comes in. They will keep track of key dates, make marketing plans with you and your editor, and basically mediate between you and the publisher in your interest. This is huge!

If that hasn’t convinced you, I seriously don’t know what will. Agents are awesome. Next week, on to a new topic!

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6 Responses to “Is this Agent Reputable? Do I Really Need an Agent?”

  1. Jevon August 26, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    This is great to know, especially the part about running when an agent demands a payment. Thanks.

  2. mcwatty9 August 27, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    Is there any other way to be considered by a major publisher without an agent? 10-20 percent is a huge fee from a profession that already makes very little.

    • Jessica Flory August 27, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      It’s true, 10 to 20 percent is huge, but I think it’s worth it. It’s up to you, though! The only other way to be considered by major publishers that I can think of is if you have a contact within one of them. Really other than that it’s difficult to get your manuscript in front of them, unfortunately 😦

      • mcwatty9 August 28, 2013 at 2:54 am #

        Great to know. Thanks a lot for all of your help, Jessica!!

  3. Jessica Flory August 28, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    You’re welcome! Good luck with publishing, mcwatty!

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