Can You Get a Book Deal Without an Agent?

Getting a book deal is a massive opportunity for any writer, especially just starting their career. To get a book deal, is it necessary to have an agent?

You can’t usually get a book deal without an agent if you go the traditional publishing route. Getting a book deal means agreeing to and signing a contract with an agent or publisher. You can usually only publish a book without a book deal if you opt out of the traditional route and self-publish. 

Let’s take a deeper look at how authors get book deals and how they can go about publishing without one if a traditional book deal doesn’t suit them.

How To Get a Book Deal

A book deal is established when publishers approach an author and offer to buy their book from them under certain conditions

For example, they might give the author an advance before the book is published and then pay them royalties after the book starts selling. Sometimes an author is even paid a one-time fixed fee. 

Getting an agent in this situation is pretty much non-negotiable. Publishers most likely will not even consider you if you don’t have a contact in the publishing industry.

What a Book Deal Looks Like

A book deal isn’t a case of meeting an agent, signing a contract, and cashing in. It can be a lengthy process, especially if you’re starting from scratch.

Let’s say you’ve found a literary agent. They will assess how good your book is, how profitable it is, what the market for the book is like, and whether or not you have built up a sufficient following for your upcoming book. 

These factors determine the “value of your work,” and based on this, an agent will come up with a number for an advance.

An advance is basically an estimated percentage of what an agent thinks your book will earn, and it’s a financial investment. You can make more than this, sometimes much more, if your book sells well, but that remains to be seen once it’s released.

The industry standard is around 10% of what it took to make the book, as the amount paid to make the book will influence its selling price. Sometimes this advance is broken up into segments according to benchmarks you reach in the writing and preparation process. 

After a book is released and begins to sell, the agent or publisher you work with will decide the frequency at which you receive royalties. For example, some publishers choose specific months to pay royalties, which doesn’t come into immediate effect. 

Some royalties are paid months after the statement is initially made. 

Finding an Agent To Publish Your Book

An agent is also invaluable in connecting you with editors, marketing teams, designers, and printers to get your book from your laptop onto the shelves.

To find an agent, you have to write what’s known as a query letter or a pitch. You send this to a prospective agent so they can get an idea of who you are and why they should invest in you. You’ll also give them a detailed breakdown of your book. 

Ensure that whatever agent or publisher you approach, you know what their required guidelines are and that you follow them. Only around 10% of manuscripts make it in front of an agent or publisher, so deviating from basic guidelines is one way to ensure your book will not be among them.

An author needs to find an agent they can trust and someone whose opinion they value. 

This can be a struggle, but you can start searching with The DIrectory of Literary Agents’ list of agents looking for new writers in 2022-2023. 

What an Agent Can Do For You

Think of yourself and your agent as a symbiotic duo. You focus on the creative aspects of your book, the agent works on the business side, and you both benefit from your arrangement. 

An agent puts you into contact with publishers and negotiates publishing contracts, reviews manuscripts, or puts you in touch with an editor. They help you market your work and guide the course of your career.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Working With an Agent

Working with a literary agent has several advantages, including:

  • You have an outside perspective to help you improve your work.
  • You have more time to work on the quality of your book without worrying about budgets and advertising.

As with everything, there are disadvantages to employing the services of an agent, including: 

  • Finding the right agent can take quite a significant amount of time. 
  • The agent must show interest and enthusiasm in the author’s work and genuinely desire to see them grow and succeed as creators. 
  • They also need to be reputable and have good connections to help further the author’s career. 
  • Hiring a literary agent or the services of a publisher can be costly. Publishing is a considerable investment, as most money from book sales will go to an agent, publishing house, or printer.

However, hiring a literary agent is an excellent option for someone having trouble navigating the corporate side of publishing. After all, a book’s success depends on good marketing and community engagement, which isn’t everyone’s strong suit. 

Some of the most significant factors for a successful marketing strategy are consistency, building relationships, and trying out different social media platforms to find the one that works best for your target audience. 

Do You Need An Agent To Self-Publish?

If you decide to publish through a traditional route, you must seek an agent or a publishing house. If you self-publish, you can simply print and publish your book or even publish it as an ebook online. 

You don’t need an agent to self-publish. However, if you self-publish, you can still employ an editor and a marketing team to help refine your book and get the word out about it. The difference is that you don’t have to, as the lengths you go to round off and publish depend entirely on you.

Izzard Ink is a reputable marketing agency that focuses on promoting books before and after publishing. Give their website a look if you are considering an external marketing agency to help with your release. 

This vast amount of freedom also brings a lot of responsibility. You, as the author, are wholly responsible for growing an audience, advertising your book, making sure your book has been edited to perfection, and so on.

Nonetheless, there are several advantages to self-publishing as well. If you are dedicated, consistent, and goal-oriented, this freedom is more of a pro than a con.

Additionally, successfully self-published authors profit much more from sales than traditionally published ones, ensuring their book sells well. For example, authors who self-publish on Kindle get around 70% of profits amassed through book sales. 

Final Thoughts

Most people must successfully work with an agent to publish a book through a traditional route, which allows you to gain connections in the publishing industry and assistance in different aspects of publishing, which you otherwise would not have had.

For those not interested in the traditional route, self-publishing doesn’t require you to work with an agent.