Are literary agents the holy grail for a budding author?

My last blog enthused about a meeting I had at the end of April with Nottingham best selling author, Darren Young. During this meeting, we talked about the highs and lows of getting our books out there. Despite the huge differences in our chosen genres, the similarities in our journeys were unmistakable.


In particular we focused on the quest to try to get a literary agent; the holy grail for budding authors. Literary agents appear to be the gatekeepers to the industry.


So, after reading a bit of advice, I decided to be selective with the literary agents I approached. I had mixed responses from them. The vast majority who took the time to respond had positive feedback to give though the overwhelming theme was, “it’s lovely but not for us.”


Working through my copy of “The Children’s Writers and Artists Yearbook” I crossed out those agents I didn’t feel would suit my needs. I then tailored my letters and emails to the first batch of 6 agents and waited. Few of the agents had contact numbers but one based in Lincolnshire did, so I took the opportunity to probe her for help. She was lovely with how she gave her advice, however the usual, ‘I have enough clients and I’m not taking anymore on at the moment’ stock answer came from her lips. Others were equally helpful with advice too, but the offers to take on the story were thin on the ground to say the least. 


In the literary world, the genre of children’s fiction and in particular, picture books is notoriously difficult to get ‘discovered’ in. I have always known this but my experiences have offered some clarity. 


I have come to the cynical conclusion that the whole game is one of money and making profit. With the market dominated by established authors or celebrities taking a pop at writing, it seems that literary agents don’t want to risk a novice. Generally, agents are the gatekeepers to the industry, meaning most publishers are out of reach. And agents only want an assured profit maker. For this reason it is hard to break into becoming an author. 


Talking to Darren, who incidentally didn’t get a literary agent for his first book, I felt reassured. Despite my difficulties in getting an agent, I have channelled my energies into my book anyway. Those who have liked the book, have supported it. That for me is rewarding.


So would I say getting a literary agent is the holy-grail? Yes, and no. While having one who is willing to fight your corner for your story is undoubtedly a huge positive, getting one is another matter. On the other hand, although it is darn hard work, it is possible to get your work out there without one. Although I must profess I am not the world’s expert on becoming an author, I am willing to discuss my pearls of wisdom with those exploring their options and willing to listen.


So in my next blog, I will share the next stages of getting my book out there…


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