In Defense of Literary Agents


The rise of self-publishing and smaller independent presses has left many writers questioning the value of literary agents and their fifteen percent commissions. The collaborative nature of publishing depends on these middlemen though, warns Bethanne Patrick at Beyond the Margins:

…agents today do more than simply harvest a commission (if indeed they ever did only that). Agents work with their clients to come up with ideas, develop writing from book-proposal elements to entire manuscripts, conduct business negotiations, and manage writers’ careers. An agent, especially one who has had a long and successful career dealing with traditional publishers, may or may not be comfortable with one of the new breed of imprints. But you as author won’t know how far your agent might stretch until you ask.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →