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A literary agent is an
agent Agent may refer to: Espionage, investigation, and law *, spies or intelligence officers * Law of agency The law of agency is an area of commercial law Commercial law, also known as mercantile law or trade law, is the body of law that a ...
who represents
writer A writer is a person who uses writing, written words in different styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Writers produce different forms of literary art and creative writing such as novels, short stories, books, poetry, travelogues, plays ...

writer
s and their written works to
publisher Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the creation and distribution of printed works, such as book A ...

publisher
s,
theatrical producer A theatrical producer is a person who oversees all aspects of mounting a theatre Stagecraft, production. The producer is responsible for the overall financial and managerial functions of a production or venue, raises or provides financial backing, ...
s,
film producer A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working Independent film, independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinat ...
s, and
film studio A film studio (also known as movie studio or simply studio) is a major entertainment company or motion picture company that has its own privately owned studio A studio is an artist An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to cr ...
s, and assists in sale and deal negotiation. Literary agents most often represent
novelist A novelist is an author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question ...
s,
screenwriter A screenplay writer (also called screenwriter for short), scriptwriter or scenarist, is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays on which mass media, such as films, television programs and video games, are based. ...
s, and non-fiction writers. They are paid a fixed percentage (usually twenty percent on foreign sales and ten to fifteen percent for domestic sales) of the proceeds of sales they negotiate on behalf of their clients.


Advantages

Literary agents perform various services for authors. They connect the author's work with appropriate publishers, negotiate contracts, ensure royalty payments, and mediate problems between author and publisher. Agents can help new authors get public recognition. Agents also help publishing houses and others expedite the process of review, publication, and distribution of authors' works. Many well-known, powerful, and lucrative publishing houses (such as the
Big FiveBig Five may refer to: Animals * the Big five game, Big Five, large African wild animals said to be most difficult to hunt: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo * Big Five animals of the Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India: Ind ...
) are generally less open than smaller publishers to unrepresented submissions, at most times prohibiting unsolicited submissions. A knowledgeable agent knows the market, and can be a source of valuable career advice and guidance. Being a publishable author doesn't automatically make someone 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. This prevents straining the author's working relationship with the
editor Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosoph ...

editor
with disputes about royalty statements or late checks. An agent can also function as an adviser, showing an author the various aspects of how to make a living writing. Literary agents often transition from jobs in other aspects of the publishing industry. Though
self-publishing Self The self is an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness Consciousness, at its simplest, is or of internal and external existence. Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by ...
is becoming much more popular, literary agents still fulfill a useful role as gatekeepers to publishing houses.


Diversity

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 smaller ones, specialize to some degree. They may represent—for example—authors of science fiction, mainstream thrillers and mysteries, children's books, romance, or highly topical nonfiction. Very few agents 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 according to '' Writer's Market'' listings, many agents in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
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.


Cost

Legitimate agents do not charge reading or other upfront fees (e.g., retainers), or bill authors for most operating expenses. They also do not offer to place work with a vanity or subsidy press.


Querying

A client typically establishes a relationship with an agent through ''querying'', though the two may meet at a writers' conference, through a contest, or in other ways. A query is an unsolicited proposal for representation, either for a finished work or unfinished work. Various agents request different elements in a query packet, and most agencies list their specific submission requirement on their Website or in their listing in major directories. It typically begins with the author sending a query letter (1-2 pages) that explains the purpose of the work and any writing qualifications of the author. Some agencies want a synopsis or outline as part of the query. Often, the author sends the first three chapters (typically around 50 pages) of their work. For paper queries, the author must include a
self-addressed stamped envelope A self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), stamped self-addressed envelope (SSAE), or stamped addressed envelope (SAE) is an envelope with the sender's name and address on it, plus affixed paid postage stamp, postage, that is mailed to a company or ...
to receive a response, though email submissions are increasingly common. If an agency rejects a written query, they send the response—typically a form letter—in the self-addressed stamped envelope. A rejection that is not merely a form letter, or has hand-written comments (especially a message to the effect of "query me for other projects") is typically a good sign.


Notable agents

The first literary agents appeared around the year 1880 (
Publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the creation and distribution of printed works, such as book A ...
). *
Gerald Drayson Adams Gerald Drayson Adams (June 25, 1900 – August 23, 1988) was a former business executive and literary agent when he began writing for films in the 1940s. The Oxford University-educated Adams specialized in action/adventure and western films. His ...
*
Gillon Aitken Gillon Reid Aitken (29 March 1938 – 28 October 2016) was an English literary agent A literary agent is an law of agency, agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers, and film studios ...
*
Carmen Balcells
Carmen Balcells
*
Georges Borchardt Georges Borchardt is a literary agent in America; he has represented such figures as General Charles de Gaulle to Jane Fonda. Early life Born in Berlin in 1928, Borchardt was in France with his family when war broke out in 1939; his father died ...
* George T. Bye *
Barthold Fles Barthold "Bart" Fles (February 7, 1902 – December 19, 1989) was a Dutch-American literary agent, author, translation, translator, Literary editor, editor and publisher. Among his many clients were Elias Canetti, Raymond Loewy, Heinrich Mann, Jos ...
*
Giles Gordon Giles Alexander Esmé Gordon (23 May 1940 – 14 November 2003) was a Scottish literary agent A literary agent is an law of agency, agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers, an ...
*
Rod Hall Roderick Thomas Berringer (Rod) Hall (27 April 1951 – 21 May 2004) was a United Kingdom, British literary agent who represented several successful writers. Having worked for London agency A.P. Watt, he set up his own, the Rod Hall Agency , ...

Rod Hall
*
Kurt Hellmer Kurt Hellmer (26 December 1909 – 11 May 1975) was a literatus who, as a New York City, New York literary agent represented Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt, amongst others. Career A widely experienced director and playwright in Germany and A ...
* Morton L. Janklow *
Otis Adelbert Kline Otis Adelbert Kline (July 1, 1891 – October 24, 1946) born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, was a songwriter, an adventure novelist and literary agent during the pulp era. Much of his work first appeared in the magazine ''Weird Tales''. Kline was an am ...
*
Esperanza López Mateos
Esperanza López Mateos
*
Toni Mendez Toni Mendez (November 2, 1908 – March 9, 2003) was an American agent Agent may refer to: Espionage, investigation, and law *, spies or intelligence officers * Law of agency, laws involving a person authorized to act on behalf of anot ...
*
Harold Ober Harold Ober (1881–1959) was an American literary agent A literary agent is an law of agency, agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers, and film studios, and assists in sale and deal ...
*
Deborah Rogers Deborah Jane Coltman Rogers, Baroness Berkeley of Knighton (6 April 1938 – 30 April 2014) was a British literary agent, who founded her own agency in 1967. Biography Born at her parents' London home in Thurloe Square Thurloe Square is ...
* Larry Shaw * Toni Strassman *
Virginia Kidd Virginia Kidd (June 2, 1921 – January 11, 2003) was an American literary agent A literary agent is an law of agency, agent who represents writers and their written works to publishers, theatrical producers, film producers, and film studios, an ...
(1921–2003) *
Stephen Slesinger Stephen Slesinger (December 25, 1901 – December 17, 1953) was an American radio, television and film producer, creator of comic strip characters and the father of the licensing industry. From 1923 to 1953, he created, produced, published, develo ...
* H. N. Swanson *
Amanda Urban Amanda "Binky" Urban is an American literary agent and partner at ICM Partners. Urban started at ICM as a literary agent, worked as Co-Director of the ICM Literary Department in New York, and had been Managing Director of ICM Books in London from 2 ...
* Ed Victor * Andrew Wylie


See also

* Writer's Market * List of UK literary agencies


References


Further reading

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


External links


AgentQuery
Another searchable database of literary agents


10 Editing checklists
Checklist for authors {{Authority control Literary agents, Occupations in literature Entertainment occupations Talent and literary agencies,