Friday, 31 July 2009

Do I Need a Literary Agent?

Some authors decide to go it alone believing the commission that agents charge on the sales of the author’s book can be saved. But when one considers the amount of work a good literary agent invests into plugging an author’s book, this commission is well earned, and the author is more able to spend valuable time writing the book instead.

What the Literary Agent Does

This is why I would recommend using a literary agent. But perfecting, editing and polishing the work are essential, or the agent will delegate it to the slush pile.

A good literary agent must act on the author’s behalf and to the best interests of all around. This will include matters of:
  • Negotiating the best and most suitable commission for the author
  • To inform on all legal matters, particularly on the small print
  • To keep accurate records on all correspondence and accounts
  • To be there to advise on concerns and queries
  • To know the book market thoroughly as well as up to date changes
  • And perhaps most importantly, to have a good working relationship with the author
Finding the Best Literary Agent

Finding a good book agent is vital to the author’s writing career. Furthermore, most publishing giants will not look at unsolicited manuscripts unless it has been referred via a literary agent. In order to find the right agent, the author may practice the following:
  • Always keep an up to date version of the Artist and Illustrator’s Yearbook (AC Black) that lists reputable agents (as well as publishers).
  • With this invaluable resource, he author is able to ensure that the work submitted suits the portfolio of work the agent is willing take on. For instance, an agent that specialises in crime fiction is unlikely to take on a work of romantic fiction
  • If the author is unsure, finding a reliable recommendation is a good idea. An internet search will often reveal agents that have a bad reputation, but also those with good repute. From this, the author is able to make informed decisions.
Submitting Work to a Literary Agent

When sending a manuscript to an agent, the author must ensure the submission package is impeccable and contains everything the agent requests. This might be:
  • The first three chapters of the novel
  • The format is usually in Times New Roman with double line spaces, printed on one side
  • A covering letter with the author’s contact details
  • A synopsis of the novel
  • Return postage
Of course, the submission package must be clean, crisp and free of typos and grammatical errors. The author might seek the second opinion of a trusted party prior to sending the submission.

Guidance on Submitting a Novel to a Literary Agent

Further information on sending manuscripts to a literary agent, as well as publishers, and other matters of novel writing can be found on my website on how to write novels, that contains advice on creating characters, editing the novel and writing dialogue for novels.

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