How to Choose a Literary Agent
What is a literary agent?
A literary agent is a professional that represents an author’s literary properties, including adult, young adult and children’s books in any genre. An agent sells your work to a publisher and then earns an agreed upon percentage of your royalties for that literary work. The percentage is usually 15% of everything the author earns on the deal.
- Small Agency: These tend to have a more friendly working relationship with their authors. They usually outsource foreign rights and film rights work to other agencies.
- Medium Agency: They offer a good mix of being friendly and offering foreign rights and film departments.
- Large Agency: You could get lost in the mix of the much bigger authors on their list, with the working relationship tending to be more impersonal. They usually have a big film rights department and foreign rights department.
Reasons to use an agent:
- An agent should have publishing contacts and shop the literary work around to various publishing houses to find the right editor.
- An agent should know how to negotiate a book deal or a publishing contract.
- An agent is a buffer between the author and the publisher.
Reasons to Not use an agent:
- Never use an agent that requires reading fees, agency fees, or sign-up fees.
Tips in looking for an agent:
- Look at The Writers Handbook, which lists the literary agents in the USA and the UK.
- Look at the Association of Authors’ Representatives website (http://aaronline.org) for legitimate agents.
- Look at the Australian Literary Agents’ Association if you live in Australia (http://austlitagentsassoc.com.au)
- Look at eBook Crossroads Literary Agents Listing (http://www.ebookcrossroads.com/agents.html).
- Look at the Preditors & Editors website for listings or agents and other representation (http://pred-ed.com).
- Look at Agent Query’s database of literary agents (http://www.agentquery.com).
- Look at literary magazines that have articles on how to get an agent.
- Join a genre organization and use the group’s links to lists of agents.
- Talk to published authors you meet about their agents.
- Find out which agents represent authors in your genre or a similar genre.
- Look in similar books to yours in a bookstore, look to see if the author has credited their agent on the acknowledgment page.
- Look at the agents’ websites to learn more about them.
- It is best to actually meet the agent in person, maybe at a conference. By doing this, you can get a better feel of whether you can work together.
Tips in contacting an agent:
- Know the correct spelling of the agent and agency name. Personalize your query letter to the agent.
- Attend a writers’ conference and have an appointment with an agent.
- Keep your query letter businesslike, professional, and brief.
- Understand the agent’s submission requirements and adhere to them.
© 2010 Starla Kaye