Why Do You Need A Literary Agent?

Dear Writer,

Ask yourself: Where do you see yourself? Where do you see your book(s)? Most importantly, where do you see your future?

If you’re hoping to one day see your work in Barnes and Noble, you probably need a literary agent.

If you’re dreaming to one day be a bestselling author, you should probably consider a literary agent.

And if your work is polished, edited to a perfect, clean manuscript, read by critique groups and other writers (NOT just friends and family), revised to the best of your ability, and you’re satisfied enough with it so that other professionals will take a look at it and probably judge you, chances are, you’re ready for a literary agent.

Nowadays, it seems like self-publishing is taking over publishing. While this is true in some respects (based on markets, sales, traditional publishing and self-publishing comparatively, and the motives behind each), traditional publishing is still viewed as “the proper way to publish.”

Of course, what’s proper these days?


It’s quite possible to do very well with self-publishing. In fact, in some respects, self-publishing could increase your sales more than traditional publishing. But, that’s all contingent upon self-marketing, ambition, self-promotion and other self-strategies that will take more than the “traditional way” of doing things.

That is why you MUST know your intentions with your manuscript before deciding if it’s best to send to a self-publishing company, indie press, indie publisher, or literary agent. Only YOU KNOW what’s best for your book. And only YOU KNOW where you think your book will thrive most when it comes to audience. Maybe your book is too personal and you just want to keep it as a keepsake, or share it with family. Maybe you want to garner a few sales, but don’t want to have to deal with the stress and worry of a literary agent, and could therefore work with an indie press. Or maybe you do think your work is the next Harry Potter, and should send it out to agents immediately (if you do think this, keep that thought to yourself!)

If you’re on the fence between indie publishing and traditional publishing, let me shed some light on why a literary agent might be the best scenario for you:

– Literary agents send manuscripts to small, independent publishers, anyway. Your chances of getting published there are greater WITH a literary agent than WITHOUT.

How do I know this?

Well, a few reasons: During my internship with Beacon, we receive A TON of manuscripts that are unsolicited and unagented. This is because we’re a small independent publisher, and most indie publishers allow writers to send in work even if it’s unagented (although most are starting to get away from this, and just want agented submissions).

While you can send a proposal to Beacon (and a query/MSS to other indie publishers out there), here’s the unfortunate truth: the chances of editors responding with a positive response to unagented submissions is almost never. At Beacon, we only publish 30-40 books a year, so the chances of an unagented submission actually getting published is 0.01%. 

I’m not making up these numbers either. These are true facts the editors have shared with me, and I know it myself: when I look at the inbox for submissions, it’s evident WHY agented submissions are looked at with priority over unagented ones (for a MYRIAD of reasons).

So in order to increase your chances from 0.01% to 5%, perfect your manuscript and be professional with your submission. Want to go from 5% to 50% (at least, with small, indie publishers)? Get an agent. Better yet, get an agent that’s right FOR YOU.

You can try submitting alone to indie publishers, but know that you have a greater chance to get published with a literary agent not only there, but also at the BIG HOUSES! Don’t limit yourself. Know what you can do, and know you can do it.


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