Do I Need an Agent?

The “Your Questions Answered” Series


I would love to hear more advice about finding an agent or if we really need one.

I’m planning to teach a Zoom course on this topic through ACFW on September 18. Here is their link: ACFW conference.

If you are planning to attend, I’d love to see you there. The conference offers, for a reasonable cost, many excellent classes and chances to connect with editors and agents.

As for my class in particular, here is the course description:

With many publishing options available in today’s market, the author’s path from publishing that first book to becoming an established author may not seem as obvious as in the past. Authors need a friend in the industry to navigate this market. That friend is your literary agent. Find out more about why you need an agent, how to get an agent, and what to expect once you sign with an agent. This workshop will lean heavily toward a Q&A format, so be ready with your most burning question! 

In the meantime, briefly:

  1. If you want to break into a traditional publishing house, working with an agent is instrumental.
  2. If you are already working with a traditional publisher and would like career management, as well as someone to take care of the type of work you don’t want to do so you can have time to write, an agent is a tremendous help.
  3. An agent guides your career and identifies pitfalls in contracts. We handle all those sensitive negotiations so you don’t have to.
  4. Agents know about opportunities most writers don’t see and can let you in on those.
  5. Once you decide on working with an agent, investigate agents by visiting their websites and getting recommendations from your friends. Often we’ll pay close attention to a client’s suggestion. Following blogs like ours also helps you get to know us better.

For the entire series, click here: “Your Questions Answered.”

21 Responses to Do I Need an Agent?

  1. Avatar
    Glenda August 27, 2020 at 5:27 am #

    Hi, Tamela-

    What a relief for this aspiring author to know that literary agents are friends who guide authors on the “not so obvious path” to publishing.

    I’m so grateful for this website. 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. August 27, 2020 at 5:33 am #

    Tamela, I think of having a literary agent as being like hiring a real estate agent. You are the professional who knows a lot of information that I simply don’t have access to. How many times do we see folks trying to sell their own home and it isn’t until they get a professional involved that the house finally sells? Same thing, I would argue.

    • Avatar
      Linda Riggs Mayfield August 27, 2020 at 6:21 am #

      The big difference between hiring a real estate agent and hiring a literary agent is that real estate agents don’t decline a request to be hired, but literary agents say “No, thanks” more often than they say “Yes.” Realtors don’t require that the homeowner and property already be well known before they will represent the seller, but many agents require that a writer have a “substantial” platform before they will accept him/her as a client, regardless of how much they like the book.

  3. Avatar
    Wallace Eddy Briggs August 27, 2020 at 5:45 am #

    My solo attempts to find an agent to find a publisher for my children’s stories has involved a lot of effort without any results.
    My latest book “The Amazing Adventures of Jimmy Crikey” was ‘self published’ on Amazon with professional guidance.
    It has gathered 7/8 highly rated reviews including one from Kirkus. It has been widely promoted on social media, mainly FB and Amazon.
    Results to date: negligible sales.
    I am certain that a knowledgeful Agent would of halved the effort and doubled my amateurish exposure to the market.
    For my next story I will again put out a hundred or so requests for representation by an Agency as I believe they are the doorkeepers to the publishers

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 27, 2020 at 5:53 am #

    “Do I need an agent?”
    is like “Do I need a brain?”
    I really hate to say it,
    but the question is insane.
    Most houses will not even glance
    at work unrepresented;
    angentless, I lose my chance
    to do what I’d intended,
    to write unto wide audience
    the love I have for Christ,
    and so it should be obvious
    that free time be sacrificed
    to run the agent-hunting gauntlet
    armed with book and bribes of chocolate.

  5. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka August 27, 2020 at 8:13 am #

    There are so many good reasons to work with an agent. Among others that you listed, agents have relationships with publishers that open doors for the works they represent. What I think would be interesting to know is what you, as an agent, look for in potential clients.

  6. Avatar
    Kristen Joy Wilks August 27, 2020 at 8:13 am #

    Thanks, Tamela. With so many great opportunities to meet editors at conferences, it is good to remember all of the other things that agents do besides finding a publisher. I would love to read another post about contract negotiation, actually! So interesting.

  7. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson August 27, 2020 at 8:35 am #

    Having an agent offers peace of mind to the writer. I’m thankful to have a wonderful agent.

  8. Avatar
    Melony Teague August 27, 2020 at 8:41 am #

    Thank you for this. Love the partnership this creates between author and agent.

  9. Avatar
    Claudia J Caporale August 27, 2020 at 8:57 am #

    Having a good agent seems integral to aid author’s in decision making and for the success of their novel.
    You and your agency offer trust-worthy advise and I appreciate that.

  10. Avatar
    Daphne Woodall August 27, 2020 at 10:32 am #

    Attending writing conferences like ACFW are a great way to get to know agents and learn the service they provide. And I believe it’s important to seek out reputable agents that you would feel comfortable working with and that goes both ways. Practice prayer and patience in the process. As always I enjoy the creative response of Andrew. ?

  11. Avatar
    Sam Sterk, Ph.D. August 27, 2020 at 11:05 am #

    Dear Tamala and/or Steve Laube:

    I’m not a Christian individual but I am a published author. I have read Steve Laube’s writings about how to write a non-fiction proposal which I found extremely helpful. I’m seeking literary representation. I have a non-fiction manuscript, ready to go, Called SAMMY’S JOURNEY.

    Not yet ten year old Israeli Sammy’s home life is highly stressful. As a direct result, he suffers life-threatening chronic asthma with numerous previous hospitalizations. Previous care proven unsuccessful, a treatment program Sammy now seeks is based upon the concepts of a ‘parentectomy,’ a complete separation of the child (Sammy) from his family without face-to-face contact. Accepted to this facility in Denver, Colorado he leaves his family and friends behind and flies unaccompanied. Many challenges await this youngster, i.e. learning English, attending an American School, making new friends and seeing a counselor to help him overcome abuse, trauma and feelings of abandonment.
    This is a true story of this author’s life, one that evolved into becoming a professional Psychoanlayst and being a Sport Psychologist. Incidentally, The author resides in Scottsdale, Arizona
    Please let me know if this might be a good fit.
    I appreciate your time.
    Thank you
    Sam Sterk, Ph.D., CMPC # 177
    Tel: 480-861-6718

  12. Avatar
    Megan Schaulis August 27, 2020 at 11:39 am #

    Hi Tamela,
    Regarding ACFW, I read the list of participating agents and none are seeking YA, my genre. How would that work for me if I attend? Of course, I’d still benefit from the workshops, but would I do any agent appointments? Could I receive some general feedback even if the agent isn’t looking for my type of work?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray August 27, 2020 at 12:16 pm #

      I’d go for agents who have a track record in YA, even if they aren’t looking for YA at the moment.

  13. Avatar
    Claire O'Sulllivan August 27, 2020 at 11:50 am #

    I agree but I also say, ‘depends.’

    With an agent one certainly “gets right” (sez me with caveats on that one) in with many of the larger publishers such as Zondervan.

    Sometimes a smaller publishing house will accept unsolicited manuscripts. While that’s great make certain to go over their terms with a fine-tooth comb for both agents/publishing houses. Do the math. Are you getting 10 cents on a book deal for each Kindle copy? When they say 1/2 of the royalties you get again figure out the math.

    If’n you Noah guy i.e. an attorney, have him take a look.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray August 27, 2020 at 12:17 pm #

      Claire, that’s a good idea, although I’d try to find an attorney who knows publishing since it’s a unique field.

  14. Avatar
    Nancy S Kyme August 28, 2020 at 6:19 am #

    Any advice for someone who is already convinced she needs an agent and is trying to find one, but her project keeps getting rejected by agents? Beta readers are encouraging self-publishing. There is interest from a production company. But, I’m at a stalemate without an agent. So, what’s next? Look inward? done. Make changes to query? done. Listen to beta readers? done. Tweak finished manuscript? done. Get used to rejection? done. Seek past connections? done. Keep platform alive? done, Keep searching for an agent? done. Write a poem, and wait patiently at home? done.

  15. Avatar
    OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU August 29, 2020 at 2:06 pm #

    I just thank God that I found the Steve Laube Agency and have through this blog met Steve, Tamela and Bob non – fictionally,so to speak. It is my prayer that one of them will represent me one day by God’s grace if He wills.
    Thanks for lovely encouraging post, Tamela. It is great to know that agents will do all that you said for the author but I think the first step that is important and crucial is the acceptance of the author’s book by the agent! Or has someone said above to get a representation is key.
    Thanks again Tamela and God bless you.


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