Having an agent greatly increases the likelihood that you will be published. For one thing, on the procedural level, established agents can usually obtain relatively rapid (and serious) consideration for their clients. One basic reason for this is that editors view agents as a valuable screening mechanism— that is, when a project crosses the editor’s desk under an agent’s letterhead, the editor knows it’s undergone vetting from someone in the industry who is familiar with the applicable standards of quality and market considerations
I usually recommend that unpublished writers first make every attempt to get an agent before they start going directly to the publishers. It’s significantly easier to get an agent than it is to get a publisher—not the other way around. Most agents I know are always on the lookout for fresh talent. Finding and nurturing tomorrow’s stars are two of our functions.
However, one of my reasons for writing and researching my book Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents: What they Want and How to Win Them Over was to reveal to you that as a potential author, not having an agent does not necessarily disqualify you from the game automatically. Before I show you ways to win the Battle of the UNs, I’d like you to have a fuller understanding of the system.
It is important for you to know how the publishing industry works. If you were to approach any other career you would do your due diligence and pursue a necessary learning curve. That is what this blog is all about. When I began pursuing my role as a literary agent I learned first hand how gatekeepers are set up purposely to keep people out of the system. I didn’t like the appearance of literary elitism. I did see the necessity for the protocols, but I also found ways for authors to find their way to the correct people if they could learn how to do it professionally and with intention.
In my next article we will start to learn about the business of publishing so you can see where you and your work stack up. There is always room for improvement. But if you have no idea what you are facing you can’t plan to succeed. I hope to demystify this for you.