The Value of a Good Literary Agent, Part II


If you have not read the previous post, “Do You Need a Literary Agent?”,  may I respectfully suggest that you scroll down now and do that before reading this one.

That post identified many of the positive things an agent can do for you at the front end to help enhance your book’s architecture while also helping to make a stronger case for your book to the publishing world.

From an economic perspective, working with an agent can help to create a market for your work.  Unless your product is viewed by multiple editors working for different publishing houses, how will you ever know how much the product is really worth? eBay would not be viable if only one buyer gets to see and bid on a valuable work.  This is why I will never write a book without having a literary agent to help me find the most suitable publisher for it.  

The aforementioned aside—and I may be in the minority on this— but I believe that what an agent can do for you and your book may be as important on the non-financial side of the ledger as it is on the financial side (within reason, of course) . For example, my agent for my last book  helped to create a vision for it which helped to make the book commercially viable (and salable).  Remember, an advance is an advance against future royalties. Which means that even if you get a relatively small advance for your book up front, if it later sells really well, you can be assured to earn additional royalties down the line. 

A literary agent who helps you to develop your manuscript (e.g. the table of contents, the organization of the book, the writing, etc.) is worth his or her weight in gold. One reason for that is that in my experience, many business book editors don’t do a lot of editing. That’s one of the two biggest complaints authors have had with their publishers (the second is that “my publisher does not do enough to market my book”). Most editors—even the really good ones—will be grateful for the help of an agent in the construction of a manuscript, as long as everyone is working from the same blueprint. That is why it is so important that there be a three-way-call at the outset to make sure everyone is on the same page.

So what is the moral of the story? If you are writing a book, find yourself a top notch business editor. You will thank yourself for it in the end.


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