Do Authors Need Agents?

I’ve seen several posts in blogland recently on this topic. Last week, Rachelle Gardner posted Literary Agents: Not Quite Dinosaurs. I thought I’d throw my two cents into the discussion.


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image courtesy of Ambor/


Most of the discussion seems to stem from the increase in self-publishing or the belief that authors can work with publishers directly.



Over the years of my writing career and my experience with various types of agents, I’ve reached the following conclusions.


My agent needs to be my business partner and advisor. When we discuss proposals and story ideas, I appreciate open and honest feedback on the merits of each idea, on which publishers might be open, how to frame the proposal, and even whether the concept might work better self-published. When my agent is more concerned with my career than just my sales, we’ve reached a level of relationship that is awesome.


I need my agent to handle the details, especially in the area of contracts. Agents bring a level of expertise it would take me too
long to acquire. When I was considering taking on a ghostwriting project, the president of my agency stepped in to handle the contract. He was able to include clauses that gave me better protection—things I would never have thought of—and more money than I thought possible.


Businessman with Cell Phone JumpingWith an agent, I can focus on the writing process with the publisher and have someone with clout backing me up. The clout comes from the experience, skills and knowledge of the industry agents have acquired over the years.


No matter which direction my writing career takes, I would not want to be on the path without a good agent.


How about you? Do you think agents are still valuable in the changing world of publishing?

11 Responses to Do Authors Need Agents?

  1. Christina Lusk April 17, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Thank you, Henry. This was just what I needed to read today!

  2. DiAnn Mills April 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Absolutely Henry! Every writer needs a business partner, and that means an agent who loves the writer’s work. I could go on and on, but you’ve done a fabulous job. A quality agent is your best friend in the industry, and it is teamwork.

  3. Deborah Dee Harper April 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm #


    My agent is invaluable to me and I honestly believe his expertise equals a good twenty years of “hard knock” experience I would accrue trying to go it alone. Some authors do it quite successfully and I’m happy for them, but I still believe having an agent between the author and publisher not only gives more credibility to the author (after all, the agent thought his/her work was good enough to represent)and also allows both the author and publisher a buffer when it comes time to work out the details. Great post, Henry!


  4. Tina Boone April 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Good points. And yes, I do feel having an agent is helpful. A good, solid business partnership can lead to longevity in the publishing world. As a writer, I am working to keep up with the craft and become a better storyteller. But I hope to work along side an agent someday for many of the reasons you mentioned here.

  5. Leigh Ann April 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more!

    I’m so glad I had an agent who knew the ropes when it came time to negotiate a contract with my publishing house. He negotiated things I never would have thought of.

    And he truly is more concerned with my career than making a buck. He proved that when we had a lengthy discussion about a possible book I’ll co-write with my husband. He gave us advice and ideas of what would sell best even though we told him we’ll most likely self-publish.

    So, not just having an agent, but the RIGHT agent, is important. Make sure the agent you sign with is reputable and legitimate.

    But, not everyone needs an agent. It depends on what an author’s goals are. While agents are necessary in the traditional publishing world, they aren’t as necessary for self-publishing. Those who are wanting to self-publish should spend more time researching editors and designers for the cover!

  6. Henry April 17, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Thank you, DiAnn. This another of the hundreds of things I’ve learned from you.

  7. Henry April 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Thank you, Tina. I appreciate your comment.

  8. Henry April 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Deborah, I like your point on how an agent gives credibility to an author.

  9. Henry April 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Thanks, Christina. I’m glad I could be of some help.

  10. Marney McNall May 2, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    I totally agree. That’s why I’m looking for one!

  11. Henry May 5, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    Thank you, Marney.

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