What Should an Author Expect from an Agent?



Mismanaged (or mismatched) expectations are a fundamental cause of problems in the author-agent relationship. Authors can  often avoid many problems—before and after signing with a literary agent—by establishing realistic expectations about the author-agent relationship.

Step 1: Know What Agents Do … and Do Not Do.

A literary agent can wear many different “hats” and fill many roles in an author’s world. Some of the common ones include:

– Line editing client manuscripts (essentially, doing the job a private editor might do).

– Pitching manuscripts to publishers, and negotiating contract offers.

– Consulting with authors about new ideas, series development.

– Discussing short term and/or long-term plans for the author’s writing career.

– Marketing advice (but not usually helping with the marketing itself).

– Helping promote the author’s work on the agent’s social media feeds.

– Acting as an intermediary between the author and publisher, allowing the author to be the “good cop” in the relationship.

– Selling foreign, translation, and other subsidiary rights, either directly or through sub-agents.

Not all agents fill all of these roles. Some prefer to send clients to outside editors for manuscript help. Some agents don’t have active social media feeds. (For example, my agent monitors social media to ensure her clients are active there, but doesn’t engage social media on her own.)

All agents should review the client’s manuscript, pitch and negotiate deals with publishers, and act as an intermediary between the author and his or her editor on some level (some do more of this, and some do less). Beyond that, agents’ preferences vary. They may do some of these things, or all of them, or even additional things not listed here.

Step 2: Know What You Want YOUR Agent To Do

Consider the list above, and other business-related tasks you want your agent to do for you. Do you want an editorial agent? A contract specialist? Someone who’s active on social media?

Beware the temptation to say “I want it all” without more thought. Think about how you want to run your publishing business (remember: a writing career is a business) and how an agent fits into that business plan.

See the originating article HERE for further discussions including:

Step 3: Find an Agent Who Matches Your Expectations

Step 4: There is No Magical Ring That Rules the Publishing World—Which Means Your Agent Doesn’t Have One, Either.

It isn’t necessarily the agent’s fault if your book won’t sell.

Ultimately, managing expectations in publishing works a little like herding cats or nailing Jell-o to a tree:

What do you expect your agent to do for you? Was there anything on the “agent job” list that you hadn’t considered before?


8 thoughts on “What Should an Author Expect from an Agent?

  1. Don’t be in such a steaming hurry to get into print! Take your time to explore other avenues of publishing.

    Given that these days, the average publishing contract is heavily slanted in favour the publishing houses, seeking an agent is pointless, unless you are a masochist, or a complete idiot who loves to pour money down the drain.

    Don’t believe me? Then do a bit of research first by keeping up with what’s happening within the world of traditional publishing. Check out how many best selling authors are now self-publishing. The number is steadily increasing!

    Take a look at this article by the leading American author Thomas Hauser to begin with: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-hauser/publishers-are-as-bad_b_5587407.html



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