Has the Literary Agent role died?

Recently I went to a business networking event. When I mentioned to someone my profession, their response was, ‘it must be difficult to pursue this line of work, now that self publishing has arisen.’

I commented stating that it wasn’t, as I still get many, many queries from authors who have even self published.

Contrary to what many believe, an author not needing agents or traditional publishers anymore is a myth. Yes there are self published authors that are doing very well in the general market, but there are some that aren’t.

You see most people believe that once you write a manuscript, and upload it on self publishing sites like Amazon, or Lulu, that’s it! Job done as the saying goes. But it takes a lot more than that. The books have to sell, authors have to market, build their readership and creditability. Writing has to be seen as a business, unless you are doing it as a hobby.

Authors have to build the product which is the book, and the brand which is themselves or Company. This takes a lot of time and effort in which some people don’t have or want to take the time to do. Not only is there the constant marketing, there is making sure the manuscript is polished, this is where editors and beta readers are needed, and they cost money, and having the cover design cost money, uploading a book is just the next step, after the foundations are put into place.

There are also the mundane tasks that many professional writers don’t like doing, if they don’t have an agent the author needs to find a publisher that is the right fit for their project, and chase royalty payments and statements. Authors are creative people, and like to stay in role, writing a manuscript takes enough brain power as it is.

This is why a lot of authors do turn back to agents. They need that help, support, and someone that understands the business, plus has the connections with traditional publishers. Also many big publishing houses won’t take on an author without an agent, and I am sure it’s the majority of writers dream to get published within a major publishing house.

The role of a literary agent is still very much alive; we’re still in a position where authors do need us. Authors if you want to be taken very seriously by an agent or traditional publishing house, learn the craft. Anyone can write a manuscript doesn’t mean you’re a professional author. Agents aren’t looking for writers that write a one off book, or who doesn’t want to work to make the book sell. Agents are looking for authors who want to make writing their career, willing to put in the time and effort to market themselves, network, and build their readership.

A word of advice, please don’t approach an agent to represent you on a book that is already self-published, because it is not selling well, I get many of these queries and that is a big ‘NO,’ for many publishers and agents. Look into the reasons why it may not be selling well, look back at your marketing plan, and what could you be doing differently.

I believe the literary agency role will be around for a long time, publishers need agents, and so do authors. Yes it can be very difficult to find one since the work agents do is commissioned based, and is based on royalties sales but if you work hard, build a great readership, show an agent you are serious then together author and agent will have an excellent partnership.

With love.

Vanessa.

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