, ,

“Ask an Editor” is a forum wherein SCBWI members submit questions that are answered as part of our quarterly Kite Tales blog.

Hello Christine – Does traditional publication require an agent? Thanks.

—Jay, Glendale

Hello Jay – Traditional publication often happens via an agent, but an agent is not required.

Writers who seek traditional publication typically query literary agents. Once they secure an agent’s representation, that agent will submit the writer’s manuscript to publishers.

However, some publishers will connect directly with authors. For example, I pitched my children’s nonfiction picture book idea on a Twitter pitch event called #PitMad. The children’s editor at a midsize publisher contacted me and my book was published without an agent.

A key reason for acquiring an agent is that they can reach large publishing houses that do not accept unagented submissions. An agent may provide editing feedback on your manuscript. Once a publisher is interested, the agent may help negotiate the contract’s terms, lobby for a higher advance, or provide feedback on subsidiary rights. Beyond legal support, authors may also benefit from an agent’s moral support. But, as with any relationship, sometimes it doesn’t work out, and you will need to part ways.

Agents don’t get paid until you do, which is why it’s hard to land one. But, once you connect with the right person and they sell your manuscript, an agent receives about fifteen percent.

SCBWI’s The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children, 2021, provides helpful information about agents in the section, “From Keyboard to Printed Page.” SCBWI members can download this book for free by logging in and clicking on the tab “Publications.” Or, a printed copy can be ordered for $6.25 plus shipping.

Other helpful places to read more about publishing with or without an agent include:


It depends on what you’re writing and your goals as a writer. If you’re set on being published by a big house, then securing a literary agent makes sense. However, there are many other publishers out there. Just as you should ensure the agent you’re querying is legitimate, also check the publishers you query. With agents, research the books they’ve sold and talk to authors they represent. With publishers, research the books they’ve published and talk to authors who have been published by them.

Whether you are reviewing the terms of an agent’s representation agreement or that of a publisher’s contract, consider hiring a reputable literary attorney to provide insight and advice.



To ask a question which may be answered in an upcoming Kite Tales, please follow this link and fill in the form. You must be logged in to your SCBWI account to access this feature: http://losangeles.scbwi.org/ask-an-editor/.

Answers by Christine Van Zandt, literary editor and writer, and owner of Write for Success Editing Services.

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.