Do I need a literary agent?

A common question for all new writers – and the answer, almost always, is yes. But let’s start by reviewing what agents are there to do. They have several main roles:

  • selecting saleable manuscripts from all those submitted. Bear in mind that well under 1% of manuscripts are strong enough to sell.
  • working with the author to get the manuscript in perfect condition to sell. That can mean extensive editorial work, quite likely lasting over a period of months.
  • identifying the right editors at the right publishing houses for your book. That means that the agent needs to have excellent contacts and to keep those contacts bang up to date. It also means understanding the current market for fiction and non-fiction and making sure that your book is in tune with that market.
  • conducting an auction. There’s no single way to sell a book. Your agent needs to choose the right way, then sell it professionally and with drive and conviction.
  • negotiating a contract. Publishing contracts are long and technical. Additionally, with the advent of ebooks, those contracts are changing fast and key terms are constantly moving. So you do need an expert on your side.
  • making foreign sales, and handling film and TV rights. Again, that’s a complex business involving expertise and strong contacts. Not a game for newbies.
  • guiding your career. Longer term, a really good agent should be nudging your career in the right directions and keeping you away from wrong turnings. Writing is a heck of an insecure business, so a good agent can make a massive amount of difference.

All that might make you think that you HAVE to have an agent under all circumstances – but remember that agents make their fees on sales they make. (Typically they take a 15% commission. You can get more info on literary agent’s fees here.) Because agents work for money not for love, they simply won’t have an interest in representing you if there is no realistic prospect of them making any money. So you need to be realistic about whether your book is likely to get an agent or not.

You DO need an agent if:

  • you are writing a novel
  • you are writing a mainstream non-fiction manuscript (the sort of thing that might be sold at the front of a shop, or feature on a bestseller list)
  • you are writing fiction for children
  • you are writing a ‘how to’ type book in a major category (eg: health or diet)

You DO NOT need an agent if:

  • you are intending to self-publish
  • you are writing poetry
  • you are writing one-off short stories
  • you are writing journalism
  • you are writing specialist non-fiction (eg: “how to train your horse”)

In all these cases, there simply won’t be enough money to interest an agent and you should simply approach the appropriate publishers directly. There are a couple of intermediate categories too. You MIGHT WANT an agent if:

  • you are writing children’s picture books. I’d probably recommend having an agent to start with, but you could go either way.
  • you are writing a themed collection of short stories. Such collections are tough to sell, but not impossible. A really good collection will attract an agent. Anything less than wonderful certainly won’t.

And, as ever, don’t forget that if you want feedback, advice and help with literary agents, then that’s what the Writers’ Workshop is here to supply. More info here.

Meantime, very best of luck, and remember to sign up for our newsletter for free, handy guides on how to write a novel and how to get a literary agent.

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  • jackie williams

    I have written my book lies and death under the name of jackie rawlings and it has been published. It is now on sale and has got 3 very good reviews already on amazon. I am doing a book signing and I have been in touch with the local media who sound interested but I need an agent who knows where to go from here. please can you help me.



  • Harry

    Hi Jackie, An agent is there to sell manuscripts to publishers. If you’ve already published your manuscript, then there’s not a lot an agent can do. It should really be the publisher’s job to promote your work to retailers – but of course very few self-pub companies do a meaningful job on that front. Really, if you want to succeed, you need to do as follows. (A) write a wonderful book. (B) get a literary agent to take you on. (C) Let the agent sell your stuff to publishers. If you have a problem with step (B), that’s almost certainly because you haven’t yet done a good enough job on Step (A) – in which case, you should send us over your manuscript and get advice directly on how to improve your work. We’d be happy to help.

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  • Annie Jude

    Hello, I’m a thirteen and am really interested in writing novels. I’ve wrote a few novels before but haven’t done anything with them. I haven’t really tried because like I said, I’m quite young. I do think my stories have potential. I have a story that I’ve been writing and I would like to know if there’s any point in getting an agent (because if it’s not good enough, I don’t want to spend a lot of money getting an agent).

    I could send you a sample chapter if you would like? I think my idea is far from cliché, I think my descriptions are on point and I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with my grammar. Also, I’m not silly about all of this, I’m quite serious.

    Like I said before, I don’t want to spend money on an agent and get nowhere so could I just have someone read over the first chapter and tell me whether there is any point in it? If this is possible, please get back to me!

    Thank you.

  • Harry

    Agents don’t cost money – see our advices pages for more info. But realistically, if you’re thirteen, there’s no chance that your work is yet ready for publication. That doesn’t mean you should give up: it means you should carry on developing your style and your skills. The more you write, the more you’ll learn. Good luck!

  • Annie Jude

    Thanks. So are you saying there’s no point in even getting an agent or even trying for publication as of yet?

  • Harry

    You’re not ready for commercial publication, no. And that means agents won’t be interested either. But there’ll be loads of outlets for children & young adults. Talk to your school and see what they can come up with. There’s more than one way to get published.

  • I am a first time writer sitting in Cambodia with an autobiographic manuscript ready for publishing, I think.
    However, this manuscript is only twenty thousand words long, and as I understand it the standard is more like fifty thousand words upwards. For this reason I am also considering ebook publishing.
    Where do I go from here? I can easily write another thirty thousand words or more, but it would be a different book altogether and not necessarily a better one. I have gone through a lot of effort to keep it short and dynamic because my main audience is young people in their teens and twenties, a group which is mostly ignored by “serious” writers although I think they deserve better.
    Any advise would be highly appreciated, thank you in advance.

  • Tessa – Louise Haines

    Hey, I’m fifteen, and truth is I’ve wanted to be a novelist since the age of about nine. I’m really keen on writing creatively, and I dabble into poetry and song writing as well as lengthy novels. I’ve attended the ‘Young Novelist’ course, which is run by Beth Webb, the author of the ‘Star Dancer’ series and she said I have a lot of potential- I just need to be more confident in my work. Obviously I don’t expect to be famous by next year, I just want to comment here whether or not should I consider sending my work off to an agency? I haven’t finished the current novel I’m working on, and I know it must be finished first (Beth Webb explained about publishing, how it works etc) I just want to know whether you believe it’s too early for me? I’d appreciate some feedback.

  • Harry

    It’s highly unlikely that your work is yet strong enough to sell commercially. If you get there in your early twenties, that would be good going, so no need to set yourself unrealistic targets. On the other hand, if you want to send your stuff off to agents, then why not? The worst that’ll happen is that they say no …

  • Tessa – Louise Haines

    Thanks for the feedback.
    The novel I’m currently working on is probably going to take a while anyway! The plot is rather elaborate, and I’m working on the structure etc, by the time I’m finished I’ll probably be around twenty, haha!

  • Tessa – Louise Haines

    Quick question regarding the presentation of my writing. Does the first paragraph in a chapter need to be indented too?

  • Once I have tried to send my book to one of the publishers overseas because I live in Myanmar. I first publish this book in my country, I self published it because I have read several success stories of self published authors in magazines. I envied them. But this time I want to publish the book in international edition. So, I sent the book via post. They received it, and they replied that when the time comes, they will let me know about it. I waited for 3 months, finally they replied me with the answer. They told me they liked it, but due to financial issue, they needed to pay initial production cost which they said, it was finite amount. If I agreed, they would send the contract, first. Actually, I did not have any experiences in this kind. Also, I couldn’t find any advices from others. Apart from that, I am still pursuing my education, so I couldn’t afford it. Finally, they said when I am in financially suitable, I can send my book again. So, I wonder whethere it is the regular routine the publishers carrying out or what, because I do not have any publishing experience with overseas publishers. If you have any suggestions to this issue, please what kind of process I should follow next time I send my manuscript to them. During the time I have self published four books so far.

  • Annabel

    I’m fourteen and have written a 90,000 word novel which I have drafted and rewritten and drafted and rewritten etc. etc. and I finally think I’m ready to maybe do something more with it. I think the story and the words themselves are good enough to get somewhere, as do the (not many) people I’ve allowed to see it. Is it possible for a fourteen year old to get a book published successfully? Would a literary agent be put off by my age?

  • Harry

    Hi Annabel, Short answer: if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. But – longer answer – I have to say that I’d be astounded if you genuinely were good enough. Zadie Smith is a bit of a genius, but she was twenty-something when she was published – and that really is a lower limit, realistically speaking.

    But there’s no reason why you need to stop everything and just wait ten years. In the meantime, you can:

    A) Send stuff out to agents and see what happens. Don’t mention your age: no need to say anything to raise a question in their minds.
    B) Self-publish via Kindle etc – no reason why not! It’s free to do.
    C) Develop your skills. We run courses, our Festival of Writing, offer feedback etc. We have in the past offered some of these things to older teenagers – not 14s, admittedly – but there may be something that really calls you. If so, discuss it with your parents and get them to talk to us. If we can help – and if it’s on the understanding that publication is not a likely near-term outcome – then we’d be delighted to do so.

  • claire anderson

    How do you go about finding an agent?

  • Bethany

    I’m trying to write a novel, I have a great an idea that I really want to get down on paper.
    I have a problem, once I get going I can write for quite a while but I find it very difficult to get started,
    do you think you could give me tips on how to start my stories and make the reader want to continue.

    Thank You

  • Harry

    You probably want to take one of our courses: either the Creative Writing Flying Start or the How to Write a Novel course. That’ll give you the tools you need to write a book and give you the inspiration and encouragement too. More info here.

  • Bethany

    Thank you very much, I will do so.

  • Alexandra

    I’m in the process of writing my second book. My first was self-published, but for my second and any future books, I feel that it will be better if I go through traditional publishing.
    I’m an ultra endurance runner specialised in solo endurance challenges. I am also a professional motivational speaker and offer programmes and workshops to executives, sports people and students, based on my experiences as a runner.
    My book is non-fiction, and highlights the philosophies and tools I have learned through my success in my running career, and shows how these can be applied in the work environment, as well as in any area of one’s life.
    My question is whether I need an agent or not? I assume I do, but after reading your article and some of your replies, I’m not certain.
    I’d appreciate your opinion. Thanks!

  • Harry

    Definitely better off with an agent, yes. You might well want to get an editorial overview from us too. Your book sounds like the sort of thing that could well sell if presented right. Info on getting feedback from us is here.

  • Alexandra

    Thanks Harry – I will indeed consider getting an editorial overview from you once it’s finished.

  • Elaine

    I’ve just finished the second draft of a ‘misery memoir’ on surviving severe postnatal illness. I’m now sat here with my 75,000 words and wondering how to go about publishing and what to do next. From what I’ve read it doesn’t seem that I need an agent. Would you agree? I have a little more work to do in selecting illustrations and there is a discrete chunk of additional material I’m thinking of adding. On top of which I am hoping that a connection in the medical community will write an epilogue for me. I have blasted through the writing ‘from the heart’ part, and now I fear I am in danger of stalling. Ideally I wish to market whilst experiences are fresher in my mind.
    Please can you help?
    Many thanks

  • Harry

    Hi Elaine, You don’t necessarily HAVE to have an agent for something like this, but one would be strongly recommended and would certainly increase your chances of success. On illustrations: hmm, this kind of book almost never carries illustrations, unless you have something that works well in B/W and without glossy pages. If I were you, I would seek an agent and if that fails come to us for more detailed advice. But best of luck, whatever you choose to do.

  • Rebecca

    Hi Harry, I am really glad that I came across your blog post, but it has left me a little confused – I have been working on a collection of poetry (not ‘standard’ poetry, think more ‘children’s’ poems, but with a dark/ humerus twist which I envisage being marketed for 14/15yrs plus, and adults who enjoy that sort of humor) which I would love to pursue getting published in a single book, with illustrations.

    You say that a literary agent is not required for poetry, so what would be my next step? I definitely wish to go down the commercial publishing route rather than self publish.

    Thanks in advance,

  • Harry

    Hi Rebecca – go into a bookshop and look for poetry marketed at 14-15 year olds. I’m guessing that you’re going to find that difficult – that there basically isn’t a market there. In which case, a literary agent has nothing to offer, because there isn’t a natural route to market. If you can locate a niche publisher that does have an interest in the kind of stuff you are writing, then it’s almost certainly fine to approach them direct. Best of luck!

  • Jenny

    I have just started writing my 1st novel- do i get an agent now or aftwr i have finished writing it??

    Many thanks!

  • Harry

    You need to write it, complete it, edit it, polish it, stand back from it, edit it again – consider getting editorial advice on it – then maybe one or two more reworkings – then go get an agent. If you try to rush the process, you’ll get nowhere at all! So take your time, and enjoy the process.

  • Grace


    I’m thirteen and in the process of writing my first novel that I have been planning for about a year. In English at school my level is 8c (GCSE standard), and my English teacher says I have great potential (my predicted GCSE grade fo English is A*). Once I have written my novel, edited it, given it to one of my friends for constructive criticism and edited/ re-drafted it again, will there be any possibility of an agency taking me on? I know that it’s completely unlikely to happen at such a raw age, but it would be nice to know where I stand!

    Thank you.

  • Harry

    Hi Grace – if you genuinely write a saleable book at your age, an agency would be thrilled to take you on. But be aware that it’s all but certain you don’t yet have the maturity to do this. Zadie Smith is quite a good writer, but it took her till her early 20s to get published, and that was considered remarkably young. It took me till I was 30!

  • Grace

    Thank you very much, Harry! I’ll continue with my novel and see what happens.

  • Mariana

    How can I be sure my material won’t be stolen?

  • Harry

    I’m not aware of any agent ever “stealing” any unpublished manuscript. It just doesn’t work like that.

  • Annie Gil

    Hi there! So I’ve got a couple of questions: How polished should a manuscript be before we approach agencies? And I’ve been checking some of the agencies websites and only a few of them seem to accept queries/manuscripts from people outside of the UK. I live in Spain, and I’m still a student here, do you think that will put them off? And one last thing; how do agents feel about online sharing sites? I’m on and I am a little bit worried that having my first two books there will put them off. Thanks!

  • Harry

    In answer to your various questions …

    How polished? Very polished is the answer. You can’t get a manuscript too good. Truth is, almost everyone sends their MS way before it’s ready, so it’s little wonder that agents reject so much. (That’s also why we our exceptional feedback services are so popular 🙂 )

    Queries from outside the UK. Actually, very few agents would have a problem with you living outside the UK. If you were a US citizen based in the US, there’s be a natural assumption that a US agent would be more appropriate, but apart from that few will be worried.

    Online sites: Don’t know the one you mention, but assuming you have the capacity to remove your work (ie: protect your copyright) it shouldn’t be an issue. And no need to mention it in your covering letter anyway.

  • 1137moiz

    Hi, this site’s been very helpful. I’ve written a book related to cricket history /tactics /analysis roughly 400 pages, and I’ve just polished off the manuscript. From your description, I’m not clear if I should hire an agent? I don’t expect it to be a bestseller but as a former sports blogger on several news agency sites, I do expect it to be better than a good many cricket books, if that doesn’t sound strange, and I am mildly confident. Shall I hire an agent or just go straight to the publishers?

  • Harry

    Best to get an agent – you’ll get a better deal that way.

  • Ethan Rose

    Hi Harry,

    Is it worth approaching an agent if your manuscript isn’t finished yet?
    I have four chapters so far.

    Many thanks.

  • Harry

    If it’s fiction, then no: it needs to be finished, polished & edited to a state of near-perfection. If you need input on whether the MS is heading in the right direction, then we can provide that service – it certainly isn’t an agent’s job.

    If it’s subject-led non-fiction (ie: not narrative non-fiction) then three chapters + an intro will normally suffice. See info elsewhere on this site for non-fic proposals. Hope this helps!

  • Tony Crewe

    Do I need a literary agent if I want to publish a book of humorous children’s poetry?

  • Marc Kilmurray

    Hi Harry,

    I had a little read though a few of these articles and found a great deal of quality information. I am however at a loss when it comes to deciding if I will need to contact an agency or not. I am in the process of writing a short “How To” book on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. I estimate it will be in region of 8000-10,000 words in lengths with no shortage of illustrations and diagrams. Do you reckon I should approach an agency once it is finished or go straight to a publisher? And do you have any recommendations on any specific agency/publisher that is likely to deal with this kind of book? It will be very short and quite physically small too I imagine.

    Kind Regards,

  • Sophie

    Hi Harry,

    I’m only fifteen but I wrote a fifteen chapter novel when I was eleven and I gave a lot of people copies and they loved it- unless they lied so as not to hurt my feelings. Anyway I’m currently writing a novel, in the genre of teen fiction and I believe that me writing it as a teen is a good thing as many novels I read are unrelatable. I’m not very far in the novel but think if I keep going it could be good. Will anyone really take me serious as a fifteen year old? I’m sixteen in four months, if that helps.

  • Harry

    If the work is good enough, age doesn’t matter. But writing for the market does require some maturity. We’ve seen some promising work by teenagers in our time, but nothing that would yet be publishable commercially. Keep writing though! It’s all practice.

  • Harry

    Straight to a publisher – the cash involved won’t be enough to tempt an agent.

  • Harry

    Maybe, maybe not – but it’s a very tough sell, so your work needs to be amazing either way.

  • Angelika Schwarz

    Hi Harry! What an informative blog. Thanks for sharing!
    I’m an American residing in Germany.
    I’ve written an English novel, but to my dismay, I found out that German agents accept only German manuscripts. I don’t want to translate the book, because it’s meant for English speaking readers. The US is too far to realistically help market the book. Therefore, I think seeking an agent in London would be the best solution for me. Do I have a chance as an “outsider”, so to speak, to find an agent that will even bother to read my manuscript, or will I immediately end up in the slush pile because of my foreign address? I’m looking forward to your honest answer.
    Thank you so much.
    Greetings from Bavaria!

  • Harry

    It’s fine to seek British or American agents. No problem with your living overseas. Do bear in mind though that it’s the quality of manuscript which is everything – if in any doubt, do come to us for an authoritative and realistic critique.

  • Angelika Schwarz

    Thanks Harry.

  • Hello! This blog really is splendid, and full of useful information. If you don’t mind, I have two quick questions.
    I’ve written and self-published (through Lulu & Kindle) two novels which have sold well amongst friends and internet followers. I’d like to submit one of these books to an agent: do I mention that it has already been self-published in my cover letter?
    Secondly, I published these books under a pen-name (since that is how people on the internet know me, and the pseudonym is far more eye-catching and memorable than my real name). I imagine that it is only polite to use my real name when approaching agents, but is a pen-name something that should be mentioned early on?
    Thank you.

  • mike halpin

    I am a grandad and have written an adventure book and had it printed, its about the adventures of a teddy bear, all my 16 granchildren and their friends love it.How do I get an agent?

  • Paul

    I have written a crime thriller which is self published. I have attended at least 20 signings at Waterstone’s and feedback has been very positive. Can I get an agent to re publish it to improve on distribution?
    Also, do these agents act for those wishing to turn their books into film?

  • Harry

    To the first question – yes, if the book is good enough. Good feedback from some readers won’t be enough in itself to persuade an agent. The manuscript must really be of real quality. Only when self-pub sales number well into the thousands would a publisher be persuaded by sales alone, and by no means always even then.

    On the second question, then yes too … although the answer is a bit more complicated and depends on the particular project and the exact set-up within the relevant agency.

  • Viktorija Bramnika

    Sorry for interrupting, but how can you say that someone’s not ready when you haven’t read their work? There are exceptions everywhere and a lot of very famous classics have written their first masterpieces at a very young age.

  • Harry

    Fair enough. I’m ready to be proved wrong. Though actually few great writers produced great work at a young age. In their twenties, for sure. Younger than that? I can’t think of many examples.

  • Lucinda

    Hi my name is Lu. I’m 21 years of age an currently writing my first novel which is a fiction based on true events. I wanted to self publish it but reading up about self publishing has put me off a little bit . What advice can you give me about what steps I need to take to get my book published? Please let me know! Thank you (I have found your website really helpful so far)

  • Harry

    Check out this page:

    And all these resources:

    But best of all, come to us for editorial feedback on your manuscript, and you’ll get a really detailed, personalised view of where you stand and what you need to do next. More info on all that here.

  • Paul Gill

    I am currently writing a fiction novel and I’m really confident about its story, when it’s completed (possibly October this year) I want it out asap. If I were to self publish my novel, would I be able to hunt down an agent in the meantime for the same story? Don’t get me wrong, I have spent nearly two years planning and writing this story and as a result I don’t want to rush headlong into something that’s not right. I want the best for my novel and don’t want to corner myself by making a wrong decision.

  • Harry

    Hmm. If you want it out asap, then self-publishing is your only possible route. Trad publishing is never fast, and its standards are high – but still, in the UK and so far as fiction is concerned, trad publishing remains by far the likelier route to a long and stable career. Your best bet is (A) complete the novel, (B) take real time to edit and rewrite the novel, (C) get the feedback of a professional editor (such as we can provide) then (D) complete your rewrites and make a decision about your course of action then.

  • I want to find an agent to publish a Series of 16 books about the Spanish Language, culture, recipes, etc. I am a bit lost which agent I should submit my books because I cant find language or academic agents.
    Could you please help me and guide me which agents I should approach?
    Thank you!

  • Harry

    Agents don’t usually work with academic and educational publishers – you should submit direct.

  • What do you mean? Submit direct to publishers?

    Penguin Publishers said to me they don’t take anything directly and I should find an agent. Im a bit confuse.

    Can you please clarify what I should do?


  • Hi,

    I’ve just called Harper Collins publishers in London and said that they don’t take any job directly from authors and I should find and academic agent to publish y books.

    Do I should send emails to academic agents before I submit my work?

    Thank you

  • Harry

    You need an academic or educational publisher. There ARE no agents for such work. You need to approach them direct. Penguin and HarperCollins are not educational publishers so you are phoning the wrong people. If you sign up for you can find a full, searchable list of publishers

  • I did. That means I need to search in the for academic publishers.

    Its that correct?

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  • Genevieve

    I’m currently working on a book of photography, accompanying the prints with short non-fiction stories relating to the images, intended to be a large dip-in and out coffee-table sort of book. It’s along a particular theme but only in the sense of tying the book together, it should appeal to anyone (given that my photography is good enough) but there are certainly three distinct markets it would sell to. I know that I am capable of writing/editing to a commercial standard as I work in theatre and have several published script adaptations.

    I suppose this would come under the banner of an ‘art book’ and doesn’t seem to be covered in your, none-the-less very informative, article above. Should I be looking for an agent or should I submit the finished work directly to the appropriate publishers?

  • Genevieve

    I probably should say I ‘have experience’ writing/editing to a commercial standard, it’s obviously a different format in this case.

  • Harry

    Not absolutely sure – I think you could go either an agent route or direct to publishers. But those sort of books are a VERY hard sell right now. So, um, it would help quite a lot if you had had a couple of exhibitions at MOMA in the US, and Tate Modern in London. And maybe had a TV career … Best of luck, in any event!

  • Lizzy

    I have recently written 16 whimsical rhymes for children, some of which are long enough to make a picture story book from but I am a little bit lost as to what I should do now. I have sent some samples to a self publishing company who really enjoyed them and are offering to help get them published but I am not sure whether finding an agent would be a better option. One of the difficulties is finding how to have the stories illustrated so that they convey the emotions of the characters. Any suggestions for best route would be greatly appreciated.

  • Harry

    Avoid self-pub completely. It’s impossible to sell picture books by that route and the company in question is highly likely to be little more than a bunch of scammers. You can certainly seek an agent for them – use – but they will only take on your work if it is strong enough for publication (and that’s a small, small minority of overall submissions.) If you want proper editorial feedback on your work before you start trawling round agents then just submit your work to us (see details here) and get a proper review/critique.

  • Jayesh Mahtani


    I have just finished my sixth short story which are aimed at young children. Because I am aiming at another 15-20 short stories should I use an agent. My gut instinct says YES! The short stories are approx. 750-1000 words with maybe one or two illustrations. An author has already proof read and amended my work to an editorial standard. Not sure what to do next??

    Please help as I believe, like thousands of people out there I have found a niche in the market : )

  • Mike Berry

    Hi, My name is Mike Berry and I have previously self-published two sci-fi novels and one novella on KDP. For a while I did pretty well at this: my first novel Xenoform reached the top 2000 in overall rankings for UK kindle sales. However, in my opinion it is now harder than it was for KDP authors, and I would like to pursue the traditional route of finding an agent for my new work. I’m writing a dark fantasy for people of around 11+ years. Excuse the long build-up, but I do have a couple of relevant questions:

    1. Do you think my existing self-pub work (which is a little sweary) will count against me in my quest to write for kids? I’m hoping my past success might be of help, but I’m really not too sure. Maybe I should use a pen-name? And…

    2. My new work is likely to be a series three books long. I’ve reached the second self-edit of the first book … but do you think I should finish all three before submitting the first to agents? Or is it okay merely to have a guideline of where the series is going?

    Many thanks in advance, and great website, by the way!

  • Harry

    Answer to (1) is, definitely not, it’ll very much help you. Answer to (2) is no, don’t finish the series. Get book #1 in shape then start the hunt. Good luck!

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  • Samara Collins

    Hi Harry

    I’ve written a children’s fictional book about bereavement (ie the loss of a sibling). A children’s bereavement writer has taken a shine to it and written the Foreward. I was eager to get some prints for for friends and people in the community who were asking for them so I had some illustrations done and had some prints made, which I sold for charity.

    I’d now like to have the book published properly as if like to see it available more widely (I hope it’s good enough). Should I find an agent? What is my best approach please?

    Secondly I’m in the process of writing a fictional children’s book and am wondering if I should complete the book before submitting to agent or should I send in a few chapters? I’m not sure if the book should be a novel or stripped down to a few short stories (a series of books).

    Thank you so much for your time. I’ll value your guidance.

    Best wishes

  • Lisa Gervais

    Hello, I have recently written a children’s book that I believe is worth having someone take a look at, I think with a bit of help it could become a series, can you point me in the right direction at this point, I would truly appreciate advice. Thank you so much.

  • Steve Schofield

    Hi, I have written a series of comedy shorts for late evening tv.
    They are ready to be produced.
    The scripts and idea are novel.
    Nothing like this original idea being broadcast by any tv company.
    I have been told I need an agent.
    please help. what do I do?
    Many thanks,
    Steve Schofield

  • I have written my first Erotica book called “Black for Last”/published paperback on Createspace and currently selling at Waterstones, Amazon, Smashwords etc.
    At the moment I am on my second book, Sequel to the above. Again an Erotica fiction novel.
    I am seeking to take a different approach to this one with regards to promotion.
    Is there any chance of having a literary agent interested in promoting my second book?

  • Harry

    No. An agent can’t sell #2 in a series. They have to sell #1. Obviously, you could pull that off Amazon &c, but you’d probably need to demonstrate some dexent sales stats before anyone would be interested. (And also, self-pub is quite likely a better route for erotica. So why go trad?)

  • I’ve got an odd, and slightly long-winded question.

    I self-published my first novel on Amazon five weeks ago. So far, both the sales and feedback have been way beyond my expectations (and from what I gather, much better than most books self-published by debut authors). I’m now 15,000 words into the follow-up and starting to think that the first novel isn’t really scratching the surface of its potential (or I could just be delusional – that shouldn’t be discounted).

    Trying to find the time to write, self-promote, and run a business is proving to be a real challenge and I’m starting to see why so many authors dream of offloading much of the promotion to a publisher.

    So my question – should/could I pitch my FIRST novel to agents or have I already blown my chances by self-publishing the first book?

    Any advice or pointers would be hugely appreciated. TIA.

  • Alison

    Hello, I wonder if you can help. I’ve read through everything and there’s some really useful info here, so I know already that I need to work on my MS and get it really polished, edited and refined, and presentable.

    I am writing the first in a series of children’s books based on real characters in a real place, which happens to be a museum and therefore run by a charitable trust. My dream is to find a local artist to illustrate them, and for the books to be sold in the museum gift shop (as well as elsewhere, hopefully!) in order for some of the profit to go to the charity.

    Is it viable? Should we (as in, the charity) consider self-pub? Of course these are all big “if” questions, assuming the book is good enough to capture kids’ imagination (I plan on having it test-read by several willing victims).

    Or am I just daydreaming..?

  • Harry

    You can’t make money selling through only one outlet – it needs to be nationwide and probably (with illustrated stuff) worldwide. Mostly, that’ll mean the trad route (ie: agents, publishers, etc), just because self-publishing illustrated work is hard when people can’t handle the goods before buying. Hope that makes sense, even if it’s not quite what you want to hear!

  • Hi Harry,
    Do I need an agent. I have had 2 books published by a small publishing company. The first book sold around 15000 copies and has 235 5star rating on Amazon. It was high in the best selling charts . That was last year, this year they launch the sequel and hit number 17 hotest neew releases and in one week recieved 24 5 star reviews with amazing feedback. I have written the 3rd in the trilogy and have not handed it to the publishers because they were not very good. I have also written another book which will be edited after the 3rd one. I am stuck because my readers are saying self publish because I have a huge following and other authors are suggesting I get an agent. Help!!!!
    Kind regards
    Kerry Barnes

  • Harry

    It’s a tough call. If the majority of your sales are online, I’d probably self-publish – BUT
    1) you need to set up your mailing list NOW if you haven’t already done so.
    2) you need to do it right. (See our recent post on self-publishing on KDP. That’s your template – just follow it. (And if it’s helpful, do link to that post from your website, pretty please — that kind of thing really helps us.)
    3) Make sure you can bring out books with some momentum: a six-month gap between books is good.
    4) Don’t totally knock your current publisher. If the book sold 15K copies, that indicates there was a decent cover, decent blurb, decent metadata &c. Also, if your current pub did some decent online promotion for you, consider carefully before you step aside.
    5) agents don’t know the land of self-pub very well and can’t profit from it easily. And those 15K sales aren’t huge in terms of conventional publishing, so it’s not just a gimme that a big publisher would take you on. And they CERTAINLY wouldn’t take on the last of the trilogy. So yes, you might want an agent down the road, but for now self-publish #3 then take stock.

    Super well done, and very good luck!

  • Lilly Finney

    A lot of the responses that are being posted break my heart. The young thirteen and fifteen year olds posting about their dreams and seeking advice should not be shot down. I was chosen as a winner of a contest for poetry at the age of twelve. This contest was between all the students in my school. Then, at the age of 16 I wrote my first novel for nanowrimo and had the chance to publish it then. The only reason I didn’t was because I was determined to make it better. Now that I am exploring publishing it, I find sites like this where people judge others by their youth instead of their work, it’s sickening and I am certainly not taking advice from you. You should give people a chance and read some of their work instead of cutting their wings before they even get the chance to fly.

  • Harry

    No one judges youth; everyone will look at the manuscript. But in more than ten years of running this business, I think the youngest person we’ve got properly published was 21, or thereabouts. Younger than that? It’s just not likely that people have the maturity or talent. In which case, is the most helpful thing to do to suggest, yes, this dream of yours is just a matter of persistence and knocking on enough doors? Or to say, great, you’re doing a wonderful thing, but just realise this journey may take some time . . .?

  • A.T.

    Hello, I hope that all is well. I have a supereb book/movie/tv show idea that I haven’t really formed into a novel but the story is so amazing that I was wondering if I could sell the idea rather than go through the stages of fully writing the book. is that at all possible ?

  • Harry

    Absolutely not. An idea is a nothing; the execution is everything. Good ideas are two a penny. Good novels, good scripts? Those things are precious.

  • Rachel

    Hi, I’m fifteen years old and I’ve been interested in writing for a while now. I’ve written my own novel and I am currently editing my piece. I have self-published my book before on wattpad and I have had great feedback from hundereds of people. I know there are high standards and there aren’t many teenaged writes, but I’d like to know where I stand and how much of a chance I have to publish my book at such a raw age,

    Many thanks

  • Harry

    If your book is good enough, then you’re old enough! Truth is there are VERY few teenage writers who get a bookk deal while still in their teens . . . but most or all authors who are now professional wrote plenty during their teenage years, so whatever happens to this book, you are unquestionably learning the skills that will one day propel you into print. Good luck!

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