I’ve been getting a lot of messages from people confused about what a literary agent is. An agent is someone who represents you as a writer and who will approach publishers for you on your behalf. They take a cut of any sales you make as does the publisher. You will sign a contract and be bound by that into the future so be sure you sign with one you are fully confident in and whom you have a rapport with. Agents get literally hundreds of submissions every month so it’s a tough way to go. Being good isn’t good enough I’ve found. You have to have something really different, especially if you’re looking at top London agencies. They may take on between 2-10 new writers per year. Low odds I’m afraid! From their point of view they can only take writers and novels they truly believe they can sell to a publisher and if they have any niggling doubts over yours then they simply won’t represent you. If you get a rejection that’s encouraging about your ability and your manuscript however, try to see this as a positive rejection because they took the time to give you real feedback and they most often don’t respond at all or you get a one liner. They will only take the time to give you proper advice if they think you have something.
A publicist is someone primarily used by people who self-publish. You pay them a fee to get you publicity. It really is as simple as that. A publicist will represent all kinds of people, not just writers. They are a brilliant idea if you are intending to self publish and actually want to sell lots of books.
I have toyed with the idea in the past when I was unsure of which way to go and did actually spend some time talking to a publicist but eventually decided it wasn’t for me.
I hope that clears it up. x