Agented or Unagented?

Once you’ve completed your book, you have to submit it somewhere.  You have two choices.  Submit it to a literary agent, who will attempt to sell your book to publishers, or submit directly to publishers yourself.  


If you’ve ever sold a home, you probably had to decide whether to sell it yourself or hire a real estate agent to sell it for you.  The decision of whether to sign with a literary agent is kind of like that!  You can put a sign in your yard that says, “For Sale By Owner,” and negotiate the sale, contract, inspections, etc. yourself – and keep all the profit.  OR you can hire an agent to do all that work for you, utilize their network of buyers and sellers – and pay them a percentage of your profit.  


  • Many of the big publishers only accept submissions from agents.  
  • Agents know editors and publishing houses and the types of books they are looking for.  
  • An agent will negotiate contracts and help you understand your rights and responsibilities once you sell a book.
  • Some agents are very editorial and will help you edit your manuscripts before you submit them.
  • Most agents will sign an author for their career – not just a single book.  So once you get an agent you have someone to help you sell your future books.  (Note: Your agent will NOT try to sell EVERYTHING you write, so don’t expect that.)


  • Most agents get about 15% of whatever royalties you earn on your book.
  • Getting an agent is just about as hard as selling your book directly to a publisher.  There are a LOT of agents out there and it takes a LOT of research to find the right one.
  • Because of this, going with an agent will likely add a couple years onto an already long publishing journey.
  • Just like working with a real estate agent, sometimes personalities conflict.  Finding the right agent is super important and may take trial and error.
  • Having an agent does NOT guarantee your book will sell.


The major difference between literary agents and real estate agents is that most of the time, any real estate agent will jump at the chance to list and sell your home.  Even if it’s a run-down fixer-upper – they have clients looking for those types of properties, so they know they will still make money.  Literary agents, on the other hand, are highly selective.  They definitely won’t agree to sell your “fixer-upper” manuscript!  So before a literary agent will sign you, they need to fall in love with your work.


  • You get to keep 100% of any royalty payments you earn from your book.
  • You can submit the manuscripts YOU feel the most strongly about, without getting approval or support from a third party.
  • You can be selective about which publishers you choose to submit to.
  • You save time and can start getting your manuscript in front of editors sooner. 


  • You cannot submit your book to the biggest publishers.
  • You’ll have to spend a lot of time researching publishers that accept unagented submissions – their submission requirements, guidelines, etc.
  • You’ll also want to spend time researching specific editors at each publishing house to know which ones to target.
  • Even with extensive research, you don’t have the personal connections in the publishing world that an agent might.
  • If you are offered a contract, you will need to get a lawyer to look at it for you, and then you’ll need to negotiate any changes yourself.

Ready to get an agent? I can help! Click HERE to check out my step-by-step guide to querying. Or click HERE to book a personalized session and I’ll walk you through the process!

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