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Encyclopedia > Literary agent

A literary agent is an agent that represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers and film producers and assists in the sale and deal negotiation of the same. Literary agents most often represent novelists, screenwriters and major non-fiction writers. They are paid a fixed percentage (ten to twenty percent; fifteen percent is usual) of the proceeds of sales they negotiate on behalf of their clients. Image File history File links Question_book-3. ... Agency is an area of law dealing with a contractual or quasi-contractual relationship between at least two parties in which one, the principal, authorizes the other, the agent, to represent her or his legal interests and to perform legal acts that bind the principal. ... A writer is anyone who creates a written work, although the word more usually designates those who write creatively or professionally, or those who have written in many different forms. ... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... A theatrical producer is the person ultimately responsible for overseeing all aspects of mounting a theatrical production. ...

Authors often turn to agents for several reasons: (1.) Quite a few well-known, powerful, and lucrative publishing houses do not accept unagented submissions. (2.) A knowledgeable agent knows the market, and can be a source of valuable career advice and guidance. (3.) Being a publishable author doesn't automatically make you an expert on modern publishing contracts and practices, especially where television, film, or foreign rights are involved. Many authors prefer to have an agent handle such matters. (4.) The author's working relationship with his or her editor isn't muddied by disputes about royalty statements or late checks.

Literary agencies can range in size from a single agent who represents perhaps a dozen authors, to a substantial firm with senior partners, sub-agents, specialists in areas like foreign rights or licensed merchandise tie-ins, and clients numbering in the hundreds. Most agencies, especially the smaller ones, will specialize to some degree, representing authors who (for example) write science fiction, or mainstream thrillers and mysteries, or children's books, or highly topical nonfiction. Almost no agents will represent short stories or poetry.

Legitimate agents and agencies in the book world are not required to be members of the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR), but most are. To qualify for AAR membership agents must have sold a minimum number of books and pledge to abide by a Canon of Ethics. Effective professional agents often learn their trade while working for another agent, though some cross over to agenting after working as editors.

Legitimate agents do not charge reading fees, demand retainers, bill authors for operating expenses, or otherwise derive income from any source other than the sales they make on their clients' behalf. They also will not place their clients' work with a vanity press or subsidy press. Both these practices may indicate that the author is dealing with a scam agent. Traditionally representation agreements between agents and clients ware simply verbal; however, an increasing percentage of agents are offering written contracts to make the terms explicit. Another questionable practice consists of referring the author to a so-called "professional editor" or "book doctor" who is in collusion with the agent. The ensuing edit may or may not be appropriate, or of professional quality, and is almost always expensive. A vanity press or vanity publisher is a book printer which, while claiming to be a publisher, charges the writer a fee in return for publishing his or her books, or otherwise makes most of its money from the author rather than from the public. ...

A client typically establishes relationships with an agent through querying, although the two may meet at a writer's conference, through a contest, or in other ways. A query is an unsolicited proposal for representation, either for a finished work (fiction) or unfinished work (nonfiction). Various agents request different elements in a query packet, and most agencies list their specific sbmissions requirement on their Web site or in their listing in major directories. It typically begins with a query letter (1-2 pages) that explains the purpose of the work and any writing qualifications of the author. Sometimes a synopsis or outline are requested as part of the query. Often, the author sends five to ten pages of their work. Lastly, for paper queries, a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) must be included to receive a response.

If a written query is rejected (which happens to the vast majority of queriers), the response is sent in the SASE. Typically the rejection is a form letter; getting a rejection that isn't a form letter or has hand-written comments (especially a message to the effect of "query me for other projects") is typically taken as a very good, even if disappointing, sign.


Literary agents of the past

Gerald Drayson Adams (June 25, 1900 - August 23, 1988) was a film screenwriter. ... Roderick Thomas Berringer (Rod) Hall (1951-21 May 2004), literary agent who represented several successful British writers. ... Planet of Peril by Otis Adelbert Kline, Ace Books, 1963 Otis Adelbert Kline (1891-1946) was an adventure novelist and literary agent during the pulp era. ... Harold Ober (1881-1959) was the literary agent of F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. ... Lawrence Taylor Shaw (November 9, 1924–1985) was a Hugo Award-winning science fiction author and editor who usually published as Larry T. Shaw. ... Toni Strassman (c. ... Virginia Kidd was born in Pennsylvania, in the USA on June 2, 1921. ... Stephen Slesinger (December 25, 1901 – December 17, 1953), was an American radio/television/film producer, creator of comic-book characters, and a pioneer in the licensing of characters for children. ... John Hodgman in 2006 John Kellogg Hodgman[1] (born June 1971) is an American author and humorist who is best known for his personification of a PC in Apples Get a Mac advertising campaign and his correspondent work on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. ...

Further reading

  • Curtis, Richard (2003) How To Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published. ISBN 0-618-38041-8
  • Herman, Jeff (2005) Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 2006. ISBN 0-9772682-0-9.
  • Fisher, Jim (2004) Ten Percent of Nothing: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell. ISBN 0809325756
  • Glatzer, Jenna (2006) The Street Smart Writer. ISBN 0974934445
  • Williams, Sheri (2004) "An Agent's Point of View". ISBN 0974825255
  • Reiss, Fern (2007) "The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days". ISBN 1893290832

See also

Preditors and Editors (P&E) is a website started in 1997, managed by David (Dave) Kuzminski and hosted by Anotherealm, The Magazine of Speculative Fiction. ... “Publisher” redirects here. ... Guide to Literary Agents Guide to Literary Agents (GLA) is a book that compiles hundreds of listings for literary agents and script (screenplay) agents. ...

External links

  • Absolute Write's Bewares and Background Checks forum
  • Agent Query: Agent Query Agent Directory
  • Association of Authors' Representatives
  • Book Talk: Book Talk Agent Directory
  • Everyone Who's Anyone: US, UK and Canadian literary agents
  • LitMatch: A searchable database of agents with response times
  • Preditors and editors: A guide to literary scam artists
  • Writer Beware: A watchdog site that exposes scams directed at writers

  Results from FactBites:
Literary Agent FAQs: What is a Literary Agent and How Do I Find One? (1420 words)
With advice from 40 top agents and industry experts, this book is full of sample query letters, pitching techniques, tales of pitching woe and wonder, valuable lists of dos and don’ts, and revelations of the likes and dislikes of top agents in the field.
Agents have become an essential step on the climb to publication over the last ten to twenty years.
If your lucky enough to be considering more than one agent, and have made a decision to sign on with one, call or send notes to those you did not choose and let them know that your manuscript is out to an agency.
Literary Agency, Literary Agent, Literary Agents (407 words)
These literary agents can be expensive and time consuming, and can’t guarantee that they will find a publisher.
Often called a publishing agent, a literary agent will submit your manuscript to multiple publishers in hopes that one will buy your manuscript and publish your book.
Many literary agents work on a retainer or a fee-based arrangement with no guarantees of success for your project.
  More results at FactBites »



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