Do I really need an agent?

Not necessarily, but an agent can add enough value to your project to easily justify the commission fees and can provide a tremendous boon to your career.

A good agent can:

*Advise you about your work and help ensure that your proposal and manuscript are as focused and polished as possible, paying careful attention to what is special about your book.

*Draw on industry contacts and inside knowledge. Agents keep up to date on editors’ tastes and needs, know which new imprints are starting and which ones are struggling, stay abreast of changing corporate trends and policies, and keep track of who’s just been hired and who’s just been fired.

*Act as a filtering mechanism. Many large publishers’ imprints are now closed to unagented work. An agent can get your manuscript directly onto the desk of the right editor and cut the editorial response time to a minimum.

*Fight for the best deal on your behalf. An agent can negotiate contracts to your advantage by pushing for a higher advance and more favourable royalties, discounts, termination clauses and subsidiary rights splits – as well as limiting the rights a publisher acquires, leaving you free to sell the reserved rights to other companies and in other markets around the world.

*Save you the embarrassment of having to discuss money with your editor so that your relationship with your editor is first and foremost about your book. Indeed an agent can smooth things over at any stage of the publishing process by acting as a buffer between you and your editor and mediating in any dispute.

*Build your long-term career. With good media contacts, an agent can help you to find journalistic work, raise your profile or credibility in a field or simply provide you with an extra source of income. Agents are often also approached by publishers seeking a writer for a particular subject.

In short, an agent can serve as your advocate in an increasingly complex and competitive publishing world.