If you find your own publishing deal you might wonder if an agent is worth having. 15% of your income is a lot to hand over to someone: is it worth it?
The answer is, it depends.
You might not need a literary agent if:
- You’re happy negotiating your own contracts.
- You have a good understanding of contract law.
- You know a lot about how publishing works and understand what’s usual, and the full implications of agreeing to the unusual.
- You’re prepared to spend time chasing payments and ensuring that they correspond to sales made and to contract terms.
- You have good connections with, and a good reputation in, the genre in which you write.
However, just because you might not need a literary agent, is it still a good idea if you have one? In my opinion: yes. Without question.
- Unless you know a lot about publishing and are an excellent negotiator, a good literary agent will almost always be able to negotiate a far better contract for you than you can do alone.
- The improved contract terms which agents negotiate will usually earn their writers far more than the commission they charge.
- Literary agents act as buffers between their authors and their publishers. So if anything starts to go wrong, or if decisions are made for the book which you aren’t comfortable with, your agent will resolve those problems leaving the author-editor relationship intact. Which makes the publication process much easier for you.
- Literary agents are far better placed than writs to sell foreign and translation rights, which can add a huge amount to your income.