The Literary Agent

The role of the literary agent within an author’s career is exceedingly important, as many novel publishing houses will not even look at the work of a fledgling author unless it has been referred via an agent.

The Role of the Literary Agent

Simply put, the literary agent is the middleman between the author and the publisher. Their part to play in getting the author a publishing deal are often diverse, for no two agencies are alike. However, the basic expectations of the agent might be as follows:
  • To find the author the most suitable publisher
  • To negotiate the best deal for the author
  • To know the book market inside and out
  • To advise the author on the small print
  • To keep the records and the accounts up to date
  • To keep the author informed
  • To offer the author some support
The agent will take between 10 and 20 percent of the net profits of the book sales for their services, but it will often be worth it when one considers that a good agent will invest a lot of of time and effort upon their clients.
Getting Published Alone
Some authors might decide to go it alone in the form of self publishing or E publishing, but the work involved, such as negotiating contracts, keeping the books in order and understanding the jargon can be very time-consuming, and it might be wiser to save such time for the writing.

Getting a Novel Published

The giants of the publishing world will not even look at a manuscript unless it has representation. A good literary agency knows what publishers looks for in a novel and view the agent as the sifter of the slush pile. If the novel finds representation by an agent, this is seen as a seal of approval by the agent and the publisher is likely to consider the novel.

Difference Between a Literary Agent and a Publisher

The vital difference between a publisher and an agent is that a publisher deals with books; an agent works with the author, so it is important that there is a good relationship between the author and the agent. If there are any doubts, it might be wise to find an alternative agent. A good novel will always find an agent.

The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook published by A & C Black is an invaluable resource for writers. It contains a list of agents (and publishers) in the UK and overseas. Submission guidelines and contact details are contained.
Finding an Agent
Many literary agencies have departments dedicated to different aspects of the publishing world: films, plays, non-fiction, fiction and so on. Researching for the appropriate contact is important. Most agents require the first two to three chapters of the novel along with the author’s contact details, an SAE if return is required and sometimes a synopsis of the novel. The wait might be up to three months depending upon the workload. A novel redrafted to perfection along with an immaculate presentation is important when submitting it to a literary agent.
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© Rachel Shirley 2010