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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

About Literary Agents.

Rick Frishman posted this interesting take on literary agents.

Literary agents have emerged as the publishers' gatekeepers. They are middlemen (and women), go-betweens and facilitators. Approximately 80 percent of the books that publishing houses release were brought to them by agents. Most publishing houses give agented submissions more attention because editors have a high level of confidence in agented submissions. They know that it's not in an agent's interest to waste their time because they have ongoing business relationships with editors that they don't want to jeopardize.

"An agent is effectively a vendor. He or she usually has already worked on the proposal, which gives me quality control and a partner in the creation of the book," Jeremy Katz, super literary agent, says. "The author isn't really my partner until I buy the book, but I'm in business with the agent."

Publishers rely on agents to screen submissions for several reasons:

* Cost savings. Since agents read manuscripts and proposals, publishers don't have to hire more screeners.

* Selectivity. Literary agents usually have experience, know quality, and know what sells. They usually won't try to interest publishers in stuff that's weak, except when it's written by a big celebrity.

* Insider knowledge. Agents usually have a feel for the pulse of the industry.

They are adept at spotting trends and usually know what's hot. Agents are often great talent spotters, and the good ones know what particular publishing companies and/or editors want and like. On the flip side, publishers know that agents are commissioned salespeople and their livelihoods are directly tied to selling the books they pitch. Agents receive a commission, usually 15 percent, on whatever their writers receive. While publishers won't automatically sign every writer that agents recommend, they usually will read what their clients write. Legally, agents represent authors; they are their sales agents. When publishers pay authors for advances and royalties, they send checks to the agents, who deduct their fees and remit the balance to their clients. Since some agents tend to work with the same publishers or editors, they can become beholden to them. This can create delicate situations and agents must balance the interests of two, often conflicting, parties: authors and publishers. An agent's primary job is to represent the writer and protect his or her interests. Much of this involves the selling of the book and negotiating the contract and fees. The work of a good agent continues long after the ink on the contract is dry. A good agent monitors the publisher's actions, sees that they are keeping their bargains and putting forth their best efforts to promote and distribute their clients' books. They also are watchful for future opportunities and push for follow-up books, additional printing runs, added publicity, and other benefits. For most writers, getting a literary agent isn't easy. Agents don't make money unless they sell books, so they're selective about the clients they take on. Most agents simply can't afford to waste their time and energy on writers whose works won't sell. Increase your chances of getting an agent by understanding the process from the agent's perspective.

Note: Rick offers a list of literary agents he works with in his Million Dollar Rolodex.Get it at

Reprinted from "Rick Frishman's Author 101 Newsletter"Subscribe at and receive Rick's "Million Dollar Rolodex

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what I think about agents, and I'll tell you how to get one.

1 comment:

Dana Fredsti said...

The role of an agent certainly seems to have increased over the years - my sister has a really good agent who helped edit her book and did so in such a way she was happy to make the changes.

Great post and I look forward to the follow up!