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Monday, January 29, 2018

Q & A: "Do I need a literary agent to sell my book?"

Q: Do I need a literary agent to sell my book?

A:  In my experience, publishers take submissions from agents more seriously because they know the writer/project has already been vetted. Agents don't want to ruin their rep with publishers by sending them bad stuff. (That’s pretty sophisticated industry insider lingo: “bad stuff.” Now you know.)

Publishers and literary agents are looking for exactly the same thing: a project with a unique slant—that meets a readers’ felt need—from a talented author who’s reaching audiences and building her/his platform.

Possible exceptions—that might preclude you needing an agent in order to sell your book—include but are not limited to:

1.    A publisher has contacted you because they’re interested in you or your work. (They may have read your article at Christianity Today that went viral or seen you as a featured guest on Good Morning America.)

2.    A person of influence—possibly a best-selling author or CEO of an international organization—introduces you, enthusiastically, to the publisher, offering her/his unflagging support to promote your work.

3.    You are affiliated with a reputable organization or institution that commits to purchase 50,000 books as gifts for their donors.

4.    A smaller publisher is willing to represent you as a new author if an editor there connects with you and what you’re about. It never hurts to have the support of a reputable organization or institution.

Note: although these kinds of opps might lead to getting a book contract, it is always beneficial to have an agent as your advocate with a publisher.

Here are a few ways that agents serve publishers and benefit authors

·      On the front end: Agents ensure that your contract is fair and they can advocate to increase the value of your contract: advance monies, royalties, deadlines, free books, etc. (They’re not magicians, but they will go to bat for you.)

·      During the writing of the book: Agents are your advocate if you run into any personal or professional bumps during the process of writing the book.

·      On the back end: Agents communicate with the publisher if there are ever any additional questions or issues pertaining to your book.

If you're a Christian writer who is interested in finding an agent, explore agency’s websites to find the one that will be the best fit for you. Questions to ask as you peruse their sites:

·      Does the agency seem to represent only bestselling authors, or do they represent some newbies like me?

·      Does the selection of books the agency represents indicate that they’d champion a book like mine? (subject matter, theological perspective, etc.)

·      What types of books is this agency looking for right now? (Dig around the site, and the agency will often post the kinds of projects they do and don’t want to receive—because that information benefits them and you.)

Note: If an agent doesn’t accept poetry or sci-fi, do the agent and yourself a favor by not sending them your poetry or sci-fi. (Do not, under any circumstance, promise that yours is amazing and different and sure to be a bestseller.)

The best listing of literary agents I know is available for download at:

To write a killer cover letter to your dream agent, I highly recommend this little e-book: Writing Pitch, Query, and Cover Letters That Shine. It’s a gem not because I wrote it, but because It’s filled with tips from agents and publishers about what they do and do not want to see in pitch letters!

More questions? Leave them as comments below...

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