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Advice for writers

Literary Agents: Essential Gatekeepers or Optional Allies?

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Do I Need a Literary Agent to Get Published?

Embarking on the journey to publication is an exhilarating yet daunting endeavor for aspiring authors. One question that often looms large in our minds, however, is whether securing representation is essential for navigating the labyrinth of the publishing world. Do I need a literary agent to get published? If so, why?

As someone deeply entrenched in the industry, I’ve grappled with this question and witnessed its significance in shaping authors’ literary careers — it’s a tough one! In this post, we’ll delve into the role of literary agents, exploring the nuances of their involvement in the publishing process and examining whether aspiring authors truly need representation to achieve their publishing goals.

The Role of Literary Agents

Literary agents serve as invaluable intermediaries between authors and publishers, advocating for their clients’ interests and negotiating favorable deals. They possess keen insights into the publishing landscape, leveraging their industry connections to secure book deals and advance authors’ careers.

Do I Need a Literary Agent to Get Published?

The answer to this question largely depends on your publishing goals, manuscript, and personal preferences. While securing a literary agent can offer numerous benefits, it’s not an absolute requirement for getting published.

Many authors have successfully navigated the publishing landscape independently or with the assistance of publishers like Atmosphere Press, who accept unagented submissions and offer comprehensive publishing solutions tailored to authors’ needs.

Pros and Cons of Securing Literary Representation


Industry Expertise: Literary agents possess insider knowledge of the publishing industry, offering invaluable guidance and strategic advice.

Negotiation Skills: Agents negotiate on behalf of authors, securing favorable book deals, advance payments, and royalty rates.

Access to Publishers: Agents have established relationships with editors and publishers, increasing authors’ chances of securing book deals with reputable publishing houses.

Career Development: Agents provide long-term career support, helping authors navigate various aspects of their literary journey, from manuscript development to marketing and promotion.


Agency Fees: Literary agents typically earn a commission (usually 15%) on authors’ book deals, which can reduce authors’ overall earnings.

Selection Process: Securing literary representation can be competitive, with agents receiving numerous queries and manuscripts daily. Not all authors may secure representation.

Loss of Control: Some authors may feel that working with a literary agent diminishes their creative control over their manuscript and publishing decisions.

Why Consider Securing Literary Representation?

While not all authors may require a literary agent, there are compelling reasons to consider securing representation:

Market Access: Literary agents have access to publishing networks and can connect authors with reputable publishers, expanding their reach and readership.

Professional Guidance: Agents offer expert guidance on manuscript development, positioning, and marketability, enhancing authors’ chances of success in the competitive publishing landscape.

Advocacy and Support: Agents advocate for authors’ interests and provide ongoing support throughout their publishing journey, from contract negotiations to marketing and promotion.

Exploring Alternatives: Publishing Without a Literary Agent

While literary agents offer valuable expertise and connections, many authors opt to navigate the publishing landscape independently. If you choose to forgo securing literary representation, there are several steps you can take to pursue publication on your own terms.

Manuscript Preparation

Before diving into the publishing process, ensure that your manuscript is polished and market-ready. Seek feedback from beta readers, critique partners, or professional editors to refine your work and address any lingering concerns.

Researching Publishers

Take the time to research publishers that align with your manuscript’s genre, tone, and target audience. Look for publishers like Atmosphere Press that offer transparent publishing packages and prioritize author empowerment.

Submission Guidelines

Familiarize yourself with each publisher’s submission guidelines and requirements. Tailor your submission materials, including query letters, synopses, and sample chapters, to meet their specific criteria.

Building Your Platform

In today’s digital age, building an author platform is essential for reaching readers and promoting your work. Establish a presence on social media, author websites, and literary communities to connect with your audience and showcase your writing.

Navigating Contracts and Royalties

Educate yourself on the intricacies of publishing contracts and royalty structures. Seek legal advice if necessary to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation for your work.

Seeking Professional Assistance

Even without a literary agent, authors can benefit from professional services such as editing, cover design, and marketing assistance. Invest in these areas to ensure that your book meets industry standards and resonates with readers.

Networking and Collaboration

Forge relationships with fellow authors, editors, and industry professionals to expand your network and glean insights into the publishing process. Collaboration and community support can be invaluable resources on your publishing journey.

Empowering Your Publishing Journey

In the ever-changing landscape of publishing, the decision to secure literary representation is a deeply personal one. While literary agents offer valuable expertise and industry connections, they are not the sole pathway to publication. Authors have the freedom to explore alternative publishing options, such as partnering with publishers like Atmosphere Press, who offer innovative solutions and unwavering support.

Ultimately, the key lies in understanding your publishing goals, evaluating your manuscript’s marketability, and choosing the pathway that aligns with your aspirations and values. Whether you choose to pursue literary representation or forge your own path, remember that your voice matters, and your story deserves to be shared with the world!

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Erin K. Larson-Burnett, Production Manager at Atmosphere Press (submit your manuscript here!), is a born-and-raised Southerner currently living in Katy, Texas, with her husband and their small domestic zoo. She is an avid ink drinker who lives and breathes books—during the day, she works remotely with authors around the world, honing and perfecting books published through Atmosphere Press. By night, she crafts her own stories…or at least tries to. The Bear & the Rose is her debut novel.

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Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.