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Literary agents represent authors and their manuscripts to publishing houses.

Their job is to help get the manuscript in front of a publishing house and negotiate contracts with the publisher, on behalf of the author.

Although the agent is engaged by the author, the agent's effectiveness depends on maintaining good relationships with publishers, large and small. The best agents will have personal relationships with editors at multiple publishing companies, and be in a position to be able to call an editor, introduce a new manuscript, and have the editor listen attentively.

Literary agents will also be sufficiently familiar with each publishing house to match a particular manuscript with the right publisher or publishers.

Literary agents don't take on every author who wants to be represented because, like the publishing houses they deal with, they are generally not paid upfront. Instead, they are paid a fee of between ten and twenty percent of sales that they negotiate on behalf of the writers they represent.

At one time, authors would typically send their manuscripts directly to the publishing companies in the hope of receiving an offer. Today, however, most traditional publishing houses won't accept unsolicited manuscripts sent in from an author, but they will accept them from literary agents who they have a relationship with.

Literary agents help their clients get contracts. As mentioned above, agents have contacts within the publishing houses, and they know how to negotiate publishing contracts. In addition to handling book contracts, agents can help authors get speaking arrangements and organize licensing deals.

Most agents will review their client's manuscript and offer editing suggestions. The most successful agents will ensure that manuscripts are in order before they are submitted to the publishing houses.

When it comes time to submit the manuscript to a publishing house, the literary agent will assist the author with query letters, book proposals, sample chapters, and marketing plans as part of the larger pitch for the publisher to accept the manuscript. Agents will also be familiar with the submission guidelines and formats expected by a particular publisher, and this might vary according to the genre or type of manuscript that is being submitted.

Although it is possible to successfully bring a book to market without a literary agent, they have the contacts and relationships that can increase an author's chances of having his manuscript seen and being signed to a book deal.

Some of the smaller publishing houses will accept manuscripts from authors, but an agent enables the author to focus on writing. The business side of publishing can be convoluted, particularly for a new author. Agents can handle the complicated stuff while protecting the client's interests in negotiating terms relating to royalties and rights, as well as publicity and promotion.

Because agents typically work on commission, they have a stake in their client's careers.

Like publishing houses, not all literary agents are alike. Unfortunately, the most experienced and successful agents might already have their hands full representing published authors and are likely to have high standards for taking on new clients.

Talented new authors should be able to find a literary agent, however. Some agents charge high reading fees in order to consider taking on a new client, but these are likely to prove unreliable. Given that it can be difficult to determine whether a particular agent is legitimate or reliable, it is not uncommon for a new author to feel cheated or underrepresented in their first book deal. Trust is an important factor, and it's possible for mistakes to be made. Literary agents are not required to maintain a membership in the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA), the chances of finding a reputable agent are higher if you confirm that they are a member of the AALA.

As literary agents will take up to fifteen percent, or more, in commissions on your published work, which includes royalties from book sales, e-books, audiobooks, and film rights (higher for foreign sales), this will be taken from the author's profits. To keep a greater share of the profits, some authors opt for self-publishing instead.

As compared to self-publishing, the use of a literary agent is likely to increase the amount of time that it takes between a completed manuscript and a book being available for sale. Submitting your manuscript to an agent takes time. In many cases, this is time well spent, but it needs to be considered.

Literary agents most often represent novelists, screenwriters, and non-fiction writers.

Literary agents might be employed by an agency of several agents representing multiple authors, or an agent might work by himself, and represent only a few clients.



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