What is it that you do?

What's a literary agent? What exactly is it that you do? Do I need one? Could I get a publishing deal without an agent?

These are just a few of the questions I get asked from authors and civilians, including my family. Good agents are a funny breed. They love books and they love authors. And they love matchmaking authors with publishers and make the author money in the process. But more than anything agents love their authors. A good agent is somebody who will fight for you and fiercely protect you, they will believe in you even when you don't believe in yourself. They will celebrate and champion you with the strength of a thousand voices to anybody who cares to listen and even to those who don't. Your agent should be your life coach, your sport coach, a midwife, a matchmaker, a priest, your biggest fan but also your harshest critic, your personal PR, publicist and marketing manager all in one, your contracts manager, your business manager and your royalty manager and many more things on top of that. Your relationship with your agent is possibly the most important one in your career. Make sure you get it right. Make sure you have an agent you trust and respect, and if possible, like. Make sure they know and understand you and your book and your ambition. Like an ex-boss once said: some authors want an agent, other, just an accessory. 

If you think all you need an agent for is to get you a book deal and that's all they do, you probably don't need one.