I am a firm believer in having a literary agent. After all, I am just a writer in the publishing world. Yes, I am also a businessperson, but I am not a businessperson in the middle of the publishing world. A literary agent, on the other hand, is exactly that. He knows who is looking for your type of book, when to pitch it, and how to craft a pitch that will get you that big advance. After the sale, the agent will also handle contract negotiations, contract advice to you, and will even be the person who collects your checks. After he receives your check, he deducts his well-earned percentage and sends you your share of the advance and later the royalties.
An agent is a very valuable person to have on your side. And he is on your side. He is there to get you the best deal possible. The deal will not only benefit you, but it benefits him in a larger payment. The percentage he makes from you is what he works for. That being said, you should never pay a fee up-front, a reader’s fee or any other fee. It is unethical. Any copying fees are a deduction for their business, and no one should be paid to find themselves new work. Writer’s don’t get paid to find their next assignment, why should your agent? Your agent gets paid when you get paid after the sale of the book.
To find a reputable agent, I suggest you look to the Association of Authors’ Representatives http://www.aar-online.org/mc/page.do. The member agents have to agree to a code of ethics in order to become, and remain, a member, and none of them charge reading fees. You can also look in Jeff Herman’s “Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents,” or Writer’s Digest’s “Guide To Literary Agents.” In each of these books you will find addresses of agents, what they are looking for complete with a Q&A of each telling readers how the agent prefers your submission. As any good writer knows, the way you submit is half the battle sometimes. Agents and editors receive thousand of unsolicited submissions each week. Only a fraction of those submission will be even considered for representation, so they weed their pile by dumping those that have been submitted incorrectly. An incorrect submission includes sending an entire manuscript, sending a cover letter with no synopsis, typing in a font that is too small or embellished or on colored paper … the list goes on. Read the market books to get an idea of the format.
Are you shopping for an agent?
Feel free to comment with any questions or experiences you may have.
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