Top literary agents are the path to a major publisher. This article explains what makes top agents so special. It also shows you how to find them and get their attention.
If you want to get a book contract with a major publisher, along with decent promotion and/or publicity, it all starts with understanding one simple fact…
A good literary agent isn’t good enough.
Read the article below to discover what top literary agents are really about. This article is part of a 7-part series to help you find The Best Literary Agent.
* * *
Top Literary Agents – Introduction
This is one of the most important insider secrets that
I can share with you. If you don’t get your book
or book idea in front of top literary agents,
your book probably won’t be published.
Or (if it is), it probably won’t be
Like marriage, the author/agent relationship
has long-lasting consequences that will
drastically alter your life.
Okay, maybe it’s not that extreme.
But you do have to think very carefully
about who you want… and what you want.
I’ve met thousands of authors at writers’ conferences,
and most of them have one thing in common:
Unfortunately, there’s just
no other way to say it.
They’re pretty much willing to “jump into bed”
with any literary agency that offers representation.
Top literary agents be damned.
It’s a huge mistake.
Just because you meet someone who’s available
doesn’t mean the two of you are compatible.
It simply means you might be.
Now, I understand that you might be tempted…
to exchange vows with the first eligible agent
that bats his or her eyelashes at you.
After all, you need agency representation
to get your book in front of publishers.
But I want you to be careful.
Be selective, and…
Take your time.
Let me tell you why this is so important…
* * *
Top Literary Agents – A Profile
- Top literary agents can help you find the perfect title/subtitle for your book, turn your book into a series or brand, decide which book you should pitch first, edit your book and/or book proposal, build your author platform, identify your competition and differentiate you, get you more publicity, and help build a business around your book (with multiple streams of income).
- Top literary agents work full-time, have many years of experience, and treat their profession as serious business (they aren’t part-time agents with second jobs to make ends meet and they don’t think of agenting as a hobby).
- Top literary agents live in New York City or make frequent trips to meet face-to-face with publishers (and other industry insiders) in NYC… at their offices and high-profile publishing events like Book Expo America (BEA) as well as one or more international trade shows like the London or Frankfurt Book Fair.
- Top literary agents are well-read so they can recognize marketable books and quickly put them in context for publishers. Top literary agents are also well-bred (have a good education and have been mentored by at least one successful agent). Top literary agents are also intimate with the individual preferences, strengths, and weaknesses of publishing houses (allowing them to present you and your book to the perfect editors and imprints).
- Top literary agents have instant access to senior publishing executives (including publishers themselves) with the most powerful and influential publishing houses (with the broadest distribution and the most highly-skilled staff: editorial, creative, sales, marketing, publicity, licensing, etc.). This is partly due to a the stellar reputation of top literary agents, and the projects that they’ve successfully sold to publishers in the past; and it’s partly due to the fact that top literary agents are both charismatic and diplomatic, excellent listeners, and succinct in their communication. In other words, top literary agents are highly skilled at “making friends and influencing people.”
- Top literary agents can get their phone calls and emails to publishers returned promptly, pitch your book face-to-face (possibly with you there), submit your work to many publishers simultaneously, and hold an auction (resulting in more money, more publicity, and your deal getting done a lot faster).
- Top literary agents are highly skilled negotiators with lots of contract experience so they can get you better terms: multi-book deals, larger advances; higher royalty rates; gross instead of net; bonuses for any awards or special recognition that your book might garner; a promotional budget commitment including marketing and author touring; hardcover and paperback editions when applicable; an earlier publication date (a few months instead of 18 months or longer); extra free author copies of your book(s); a generous discount on additional author-purchased copies; retain important subsidiary rights like film/stage/tv/radio rights, calendar rights, etc.
- Top literary agents have the ability to navigate any challenges that come up during the pre-publication, publication, or post-publication process without losing their cool or damaging relationships: i.e. editors that are difficult, fired, laid-off, or decide to retire; bad book cover designers; your book being cut from the publisher’s list before it’s even published; bad reviews or publicity; poor book sales; changes in the industry or marketplace; etc.
- Top literary agents are reputable members of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR), or they meet the minimum qualifications to join. In other words, top literary agents have been agents for at least two years, sold at least 10 books during an 18-month period, have two (2) active members of the AAR willing to endorse or “sponsor” them, and they’re willing to abide by the Literary Agents’ Association Canon of Ethics.
- Top literary agents know exactly what you need to hear (as an author, and as an individual) to stay motivated and productive so you meet your deadlines and keep producing work that pleases both your publisher and your raving fans.
* * *
Top Literary Agents – Don’t Settle
Now you might be thinking:
Literary agents like that don’t exist.
Oh, but they do…
The checklist you just read is
the “top literary agents” profile that
I created for myself as a literary agent.
* * *
I know a lot of other top literary agents
that fit that same description.
It might sound silly or seem like a lot to ask
(the idealistic fantasy of a hopeless romantic),
but why not make submitting your book
to top literary agents your new goal?
Because getting into a relationship
with the wrong literary agent…
Can be just as devastating
as getting into the wrong
If you don’t get top literary agents interested, your book
might go unpublished for several years (or forever).
But that’s not the only thing that might happen.
You might end up with your book getting published
by a bad publisher. And you might end up with a bad book
contract (one that could cost you hundreds of thousands
of dollars – or more – and prevent you from selling
future books to other publishers).
Or, if you do eventually get out of your relationship
with the bad publisher, and you are able to shop additional
books to other houses, you might not get a deal…
because the bad publisher didn’t sell enough copies
of your first books.
* * *
Hold Out for Top Literary Agents
I’ve never met an author that wanted
to hear these things, but they’re
You must think about the consequences
when you’re choosing someone to
represent you and your work.
It might not be romantic,
but it’s reality.
Don’t be desperate.
Don’t be so eager to find someone,
that you’ll accept almost any
offer for representation.
You’re the one that’s
going to get hurt.
Finding Mr. or Mrs. Right
isn’t always easy.
But it is possible.
In fact, it happens every day.
Hold on (and hold out) for top literary agents…
so you can have everything you’ve been
dreaming of all these years:
A major publisher.
A major book deal.
More raving fans than
you know what to do with.
You (and your books)
are worth it.
If you’re actively seeking a literary agent (or talking to literary agencies interested in your work), and you want to avoid choosing someone who might do you more harm than good (or you simply want to get top literary agents interested), click here to see the different ways that you can have me 1-on-1 as your Book Marketing Coach.
Click here to read the next article in this 7-part series,
and learn about Bad Literary Agents.