By Lisa Amstutz
“Do I need an agent?” I’m often asked this question by aspiring authors who are ready to start querying. It’s a good question. And the answer is…well, it depends.
It is certainly possible to sell your work directly to publishers – plenty of writers find success this way, and some prefer the DIY method. Most smaller houses are open to unagented submissions. You can also connect with editors from larger houses at conferences, Twitter pitch events, etc. So an agent is not strictly necessary.
Furthermore, if you’re self-publishing, writing articles, or doing work-for-hire projects, there is really no role for an agent in the process. And if your book is mainly of local interest or on a very niche topic, it will be difficult to interest an agent. You’ll want to look for a small press that will be a good fit and submit your work directly. The same holds true if you only plan to write one book.
However, if your goal is to build a writing career in the trade market, an agent can be very helpful. An agent can open doors for you and get your manuscript a closer look. They may help you edit your work. They will handle submissions and contracts so you can focus on other things. Overall, an agent is a business partner who provides advice, support, and vision for your writing career. And that may be exactly what you are looking for.
The truth is, though, that even getting an agent is no guarantee of success. Ultimately, writing success boils down to some combination of skill, tenacity, timing, and luck. So if you’re still in the query trenches, don’t let that hold you back. Keep learning and writing and putting your work out into the world. And agent or no agent, I have no doubt you will succeed!
Lisa Amstutz is the author of ~150 children’s books and an associate literary agent with Storm Literary Agency.
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