Literary agents – friends or foes?

I have been subscribing to a lot of literary agents blogs recently, and reading them got me thinking about the interesting relation writers seem to have literary agents. With the advent of self-publishing, more and more writers are shunning literary agencies and publishing their novels, print or digital, on their own without any outside help.

However, it seems to me that more and more literary agents are opening their inner sanctum to writers. They are offering advice through blogs, giving suggestions, cold data and hard statistics. Nathan Bransford was perhaps the first to start this approach (he is now a published author but still gives good information on writing and publishing), and but now many others are connecting with published and unpublished writers and building an agent platform.

If you are an aspiring writer, I would really advice you to read everything on Nathan’s blog, and watch this interview with Rachelle Gardner who is a literary agent with WordServe Literary Group. She has a wonderful agent blog roll that gives links to other agents who blog.

A few important tips I picked up from her blog as well as others I read over the last week:

1)      Writing is a personal endeavor, but publishing is a business and every aspiring writer has to understand that if he/she hopes to get published.

2)      You might be getting rejected because your work is not good enough yet or simply because you are writing something which doesn’t have an appropriate fit, word count, genre, etc.

3)      No writer can hope to survive without social media, but fiction writers don’t need a platform as much as non-fiction writers do.

4)      Your priorities as a writer are different from the priorities of a publishing house or an agent. An agent will always do work connecting to existing clients first and will look at incoming queries in their spare time. Same with publishing houses.

In today’s world, this means that a writer has to be savvier than before. We have to understand the publishing business, use of social media, etc as well as develop our craft of writing. On the other hand, we have more options due to self-publishing or the rise of digital publishing. I published my novella The Black Orb with a digital publisher Uncial Press because no big print publishing house is going to take a chance on a fantasy novella, but digital publishing doesn’t place so much emphasis on word count. I have already sold another fantasy novella, and hope to finish a series soon that will have the appropriate word count to be accepted by a big publishing house.

As writers our future is in our own hands, but it pays to have literary agents and publishers who are willing to share their experience and knowledge to guide us to the path that is most suitable for our needs.

Have you had a good/bad experience with a literary agent? Do you feel you need to have a literary agent before submitting your manuscript to a publishing house?

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