Why you need a literary agent to get published?
I bet if you’ve been thinking about pursuing writing as a career you’ve come across this term. A literary agent? Where can I get myself one of those? Why do I need an agent exactly? How do I charm the literary pants off of them? Do I need to? Can I just bring them cookies instead? (hint: might work)
Here’s what you need to need to know about literary agents and their influential position in the publishing process.
What does a literary agent do?
To cut a long story short, the job of an editor in a publishing house is to pitch for the books that they are excited about and more than often the books you learn to love as a reader have been through a meeting where nobody cared about them. The job of an agent is not that different. It is battling through the rejections and making your book proposal rise to the top of the pile.
Getting a literary agent on your side is half the battle because whatever it is the publisher is looking for in a book, the literary agent is looking for it as well.
But what does it take for a literary agent to notice you?
In the digital age, it is no surprise that a writer must have an online readership. It shows that you are platform savvy and you know how to market what it is that you are writing. For fiction and poetry, the best platforms are none other than Instagram. Despite being visually focused, Instagram is where you’ll see the most engagement in the niche of books, writing, poetry and fiction.
Agents will most likely look at the audience you have as proof that you have more than just a great book up your sleeve. You’ve got a marketing campaign and a target audience figured out. The audience does not necessarily have to be a large one, but it must be active, genuine and an engaged one. Because that is what converts into sales.
Building a platform
Instagram is a social media platform and it is popular among writers but having your blog and subscribers or an email list is much more powerful. A website is internet real estate. And subscribers means a tangible audience. Names and email addresses that are given to you in exchange for something you write that people are interested in reading.
A website is what it takes to never fail at marketing the book. So that it doesn’t end up in the bookstores collecting dust. It is not to say that writing a book and marketing is both entirely the author’s responsibility, but it does make you a lot better at your job if you’re comfortable marketing it.
How to impress a literary agent.
You certainly must impress them. It is not just your book they stand up for, it’s you.
What is impressing to a literary agent? The number of connections you have with publishers, authors, journalists, tastemakers, influencers and people in the literary industry. Launching a book is not a job for one.
As a writer, you’re bound for press and many agents are looking for people that have it in them to write something that gets attention. They need people with a knack for public speaking and charisma that gets their book the coverage it deserves.
Building a platform is especially about crunching numbers. An agent’s decision largely depends on whether the analytics are in your favor. An email list is what can help you grow your numbers and that will increase your chances of getting published. The genre you are writing, the traffic on your website, the number of clicks to a certain excerpt are all tangible ways of getting a publisher to decide in your favor.
Having said that, building a platform and readership of your own in the form of an email list is no small feat and requires a lot of effort. But it’s the #1 thing to focus on if you want to impress an agent and get published.
You might be wondering why I need a publisher and a literary agent if I am the one marketing on digital platforms and building email lists? Why don’t I just try self-publishing?
Comment below if you’d like me to write more about self-publishing and find more writing advice here.